Growth June 19, 2020

People hate surveys, but like being interviewed

Mark Mossberg @offlinemark

Instead of posting a link to a survey in a Facebook group with potential customers, post that you're doing a research project and would love to interview some people that do [whatever your target market does].

Here's my theory: People don't like filling out surveys because it feels cold, and impersonal. On the other hand, answering questions being asked by a human interviewer, even if they are the same questions, makes them feel important because of the personal touch. Someone else is taking time from their day to ask the questions, so it's more reciprocal.

This is an example of the classic "do things that don't scale" advice.

Here was the message I posted in a large Facebook group:

Yo! If you listen to riddim mixes (or really any kind), I would love to interview you for a research project I'm doing on EDM & DJ culture. Would just be a few questions via messenger about your listening habits and what matters to you as a listener.

Please like or comment if you want to participate and watch out for a dm from me! Peace✌️

It's been about 8 hours, and I have 12 people that volunteered to be interviewed. I conducted 5 interviews in the first few hours. I highly doubt I'd have had that engagement rate with a survey link.

  1. 5

    "Survey" implies that they're just a data point, a number that will be crunched alongside with everyone else. Nobody likes to feel insignificant like that.

    "Interview" implies that they're important, and their views are important. However, calling it an interview might be misleading as interviews are usually published to a mass audience, not used for internal research.

  2. 2

    This is awesome, Mark! I'm in the midst of conducting interviews myself and they're a really powerful tool. Part of what can make surveys impersonal are the types of questions being asked; they're not always relevant or questions that yield great insights.

    Interviews are great because people give much more information and you are able to follow up with new questions based on their conversation. So I tend to go into lines of inquiry that I wouldn't have thought of in a survey. Both methods have their place, but interviews can help you get to more of the "why" effectively.

    Would definitely recommend folks read books like Just Enough Research to better understand different user research methods and which to employ when.

    Thanks for sharing!

    1. 1

      Thanks for the book recommendation! Good luck with your interviews :)

  3. 1

    Hey @offlinemark, I like your post very much, because it describes a problem I work at for a long time now.

    "People don't like filling out surveys because it feels cold and impersonal."

    And this is the point. "Interviews" are much better because every time you will automatically create a personal experience with the attendee, even if the questions are the same.

    The one thing that I would say is bad about interviews is that it is not scalable, unlike surveys.

    If you're eager to try out a solution living between surveys and interviews, I would be thrilled to show you the solution I created for this. It is a conversational survey tool called BotReach. Check out the landing page here -> https://botreach.co

    If you want to try it out, I happily give you free access to the new beta.

  4. 1

    I will play devils advocate here in defense of surveys:

    a) might be MUCH less hustle if you somehow convince people to actually fill it.
    b) the data you get is more structured - easier to compare different answers
    c) easier to spot continuously appearing answers
    d) creating a survey REALLY forces you to think deeply about your questions, because usually you shouldn't ask more than 4-5 and you want to extract maximum value from them
    e) you can just leave survey for a long time in visible place and continuously get new answers without extra effort

    Overall I believe that both interviews and surveys have their place and I do both.

    Interviews will give you a lot of inspiration, bring you novel ideas and make you consider angles you did not think about before. You will get to know your users deeply.

    Surveys will give you more structured, almost quantitative data and hence give you higher confidence you are going in a proper direction. You will get a broad overview of your userbase. :)

    1. 1

      Thanks! Do you have any tips for convincing people to actually fill it?

      What I meant to express is that I wrote a survey, but just asked each question one by one in the interview. Requires some data entry, but gets many of the same benefits like b,c,d that you mentioned.

  5. 1

    Thanks for providing your message. I've been asking for interviews as well, but my message lacked such a superb CTA.

  6. 1

    Interviews and survey are two different methods which each have their place in the research process. Interviews will usually be the ones that will give you more insights and a-ha effects. This is really helpful when your at an early stage of exploration and the results will steer you in different directions. Surveys however can be used to showcase your product alternatives (developed from previous interview outcomes) to a bigger audience. The aim here is quantity and validation. However, really depends on our product if you need a big scale validation.

  7. 1

    I recommend you wait few days OR go to a different group and try dropping the survey link and just see what happens. Would be good to hear the results.

    1. 1

      Good point, that would be a great test.

  8. 1

    100% I've found that people love speaking about the thing they're passionate about, and you actually end up getting more data from them, especially in a customer discovery interview. One thing I'm always mindful of is confirmation bias – am I just trying to get them to agree with something I already think is true?

    The Mom Test by Rob Fitzpatrick is such a good book for avoiding that. It's been in my arsenal/treasure trove/under my bed for years.

    Side note: Your project looks cool!

    1. 2

      Yeah! the mom test has been my Bible for this haha. thanks!

  9. 1

    100%. I do this myself, I never fill any survey but ask me to jump on a call to interview and I say yes without thinking

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