Have you ever caught yourself telling a white lie? If you have, it probably wasn’t during a situation where you felt anonymous. Let’s face it, anonymity fosters honesty and candor. A quick scan of any Internet message board or review site could tell you that. When people aren’t tied to their identity or forced to come face-to-face and deal with the reaction of another person, the truth comes out.
Think back to that white lie. It most likely dealt with an in-person interaction or a situation where your honesty could have reflected negatively on you or the person you were communicating with. Maybe your friends have you over for dinner, but they aren’t the best cooks. They ask you what you think of their lasagna. It’s not an enviable position. You have two options you can either:
- Tell them the lasagna wasn’t good
- Tell a little lie to make them feel good.
Most people would choose option B, and it’s a completely reasonable response. You don’t want to potentially hurt their feelings, but it doesn’t really help their cooking. Your friends could go on making sub-par lasagna for decades due to the lack of honesty in your response. While bad lasagna isn’t the worst thing in the world, biased feedback can be the kiss of death for a business or organization—especially when it comes to collecting employee and customer feedback.
Businesses are constantly sifting though data to make sure their company is the best it can be. If that information is wrong it can really throw a wrench in the works so it’s important to identify a trustworthy process to get feedback.
A common misconception is that people will be more honest if they are in a face-to-face interaction but the reality is that more often it will introduce some sort of bias. For example an anonymous web survey asking employees to rate varies aspects of their job will have widely different results than an in-person discussion on the same subject. If employees don’t feel comfortable critiquing their workplace due to fear of repercussions a company will have a hard time discerning their employees’ level of engagement or what they can do to improve productivity. This can lead to a higher rate of churn; inadequate feedback methods can also lead to a high level of customer churn. Hotels for instance will often ask guests if they enjoyed their stay, many won’t be bold enough to say the truth face-to-face. The hotel then misses out on things they could be improving and risks deterring future customers. Hotels aren’t the only industry that makes this mistake.
The man on the street style interview is popular at trade shows and other large events but they bring with them a natural bias perhaps best exemplified in a segment from Jimmy Kimmel Live called Lie Witness News.
Why are these people lying? For a few reasons! First of all they are put on the spot and recorded. That automatically raises the stakes by quite a bit. Some will feel pressure to answer a certain way and others just might not be comfortable giving negative feedback face to face. That’s why this style of sampling is so potentially harmful. It yields less actionable data and it's hard to fix a problem without knowing what it is.
Accurate information is essential to move forward. Make sure you don’t get left in the dust. Start getting quality feedback and check out a free demo of our web survey tool today.