"When in doubt, collect more data."
That could easily be the guiding principle of business in the year 2015. Collecting data is easy and storing it is cheap. You never know what insights might be gained from just a bit more data.
But like any simple idea, reality turns out to be more complicated. Not all data is useful, and while storing data is cheap, the tools and expertise to find those hidden insights turn out to be fairly expensive. And, as companies occasionally discover to their regret, data can be a liability as well as an asset.
I see this attitude in the customer experience world, too. Often it's a lot easier to just do more customer tracking or conduct more surveys than take action. There's a lot of data collection for the sake of data collection going on.
To be effective, customer surveys should have an underlying purpose. For example: to answer a specific question (i.e. "How many customers call us after logging in to the website?"), or to support a specific business activity (such as coaching employees, or tracking customers' satisfaction with their purchases).
Often, however, I see surveys designed backwards. Rather than starting with the goal of the survey, people will begin by thinking of all the things they might possibly find interesting and add all of them to the survey.
The result is usually a mess: a long survey where most questions are never really used for anything. This tends to drive the response rate down and make it harder to take action based on customer feedback.
So before you collect more data--whether that's enlarging a survey sample or adding more questions--take a few minutes to ask yourself:
- Is the new data likely to tell me something I don't already know?
- Do I know what I'm going to use the additional data for?
- When I consider all the costs of collecting additional data, including reduced survey response, customer goodwill, and the effort to analyze the results, is it worth the expected benefit?
If you can answer Yes to all three questions, not only is the data probably worth collecting but you've also got a good start on taking action based on the results. But if you answered No, it may be that you're collecting data for the sake of collecting data.