Monday, February 1, 2010

Questionnaires by Aukje de Vries

At least once a week I receive a questionnaire. It seems as if every agency - both for profit and not for profit - wants its relations to evaluate its products, services or whatever with a questionnaire. The senders always assure us: it will only take two minutes to fill it out! What a lousy questionnaire that must be.

I have noticed over time there is a pattern in my annoyance.

Questionnaires ask questions about topics about which I have no opinion. If it is an electronic questionnaire I have to answer these questions and make a choice out of several possibilities or else I cannot go to the next question. The choices I make in these cases do not represent my opinion.

A second possibility is that the questions relate to items about which I do have an opinion, but what I really think is quite often not among the proposed answers. It occurs only too often that here too I am forced to give an answer, which is not really what I think.

A third annoyance is that quite often there are other factors that have a decisive influence on my opinion about the product or service that are not in the questionnaire at all. Sometimes there is a space for remarks, but I have the impression they are seldom recorded, because the answers are dealt with electronically.

The sender, using my response, may believe that he deals with a true judgment but what he has got, has little to do with it.

Still companies and organizations use such responses as the basis for important decisions.

Conclusion: it is a nuisance to receive and fill out such questionnaires and the answers don’t provide the sender with valid information.

Some time ago I decided to boycott all questionnaires as a matter of principle and to inform senders about my objections. Sometimes I get a nice reaction, especially when I also give a more detailed opinion about the product or service, but more often I hear nothing.

Just recently I received a questionnaire (a real simple one, too simple as a matter of fact) from a European organisation, which receives a subsidy from the European Commission (EC). The EC requires the recipients of subsidies to provide certain data. I realized that not answering the questionnaire would work against this organisation, and because I like the organisation I let go of my principles and gave positive answers about issues that didn’t apply to me.

I wrote an accompanying message stating my objections with a copy to all others who received the questionnaire and I got a lot of positive replies.
The organisation will inform the EC of our objections to questionnaires (but it is doubtful whether the EC will listen).

I believe it is time to stop the hype that such poorly designed questionnaires, providing decision makers with faulty information, are necessary for the management of any self-respecting agency! They are a waste of time and money.

P.S. I was trained as sociologist so I don’t object to good questionnaires, used wisely!

Question: Do you believe that we should take action against the abundance of poorly designed questionnaires?

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