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Paid Survey Leads to Bulletin Board Focus Group

April 26th, 2007

My adventure through the world of paid surveys continues with my recent participation in an online focus group. Last week, I took another one of those market research surveys that was supposed to be only five minutes long. The stated topic was “Banking”. After navigating through a few screener questions, I managed to get invited to a focus group about “banking problems and solutions”.

On Monday I received an email from the moderator who was hosting the online focus group through a research company called Itracks. The company also followed up with a phone call as a reminder. The email detailed the dates for participation and provided us with login information so that we could access the bulletin board page. After our session is completed, we are supposed to be getting a $60 honorarium.

Throughout most of yesterday and today, I have been going through the series of questions that are posted on the focus group’s discussion board and posting answers and follow-up replies as needed. Although this has proven to be more time-consuming than the typical paid survey, the experience actually has been somewhat enjoyable.

Most of the questions have been about interactions between businesses (or more specifically their service representatives) and their customers. We are being asked to provide examples of companies that have given us particularly good or poor customer service in the past. For examples of poor service, we are sometimes asked follow-up questions about what the company could have done to correct the problem or what they might be able to do in the future to regain the trust of the customer.

Other questions involved scenarios where something happened to cause a “service error” for the customer, but the event that caused the problem was outside of the company’s control (such as bad weather causing airline flights to be delayed). They asked us things like what would be an appropriate response for the company to make, should they accept blame or not, should they offer some kind of compensation to please the customer, etc. We were also asked some related hypothetical questions about what our response as a customer might be if the company did X, Y, or Z as a way of attempting to resolve a problem with their customer service.

In the later sections of the discussion board, there were some questions relating specifically to banking problems and resolutions. They asked us about ways that banks could eliminate or reduce problems with providing desired services or with customer relations in general. We discussed our preferences for different kinds of banking, such as online banking, visiting a physical branch office, or providing service and problem resolutions over the phone. They also asked us for suggestions about how we might redesign banks in order to provide better service and resolve problems better for the customers.

So far, this has been an interesting little exercise because it has allowed me to give my honest opinions on some of these topics and also read the responses from other participants. The online focus group discussion is still ongoing and will continue through most of the day tomorrow. After logging in later tonight, I can see that there are already several new posts that have been made by people who are joining the group late and there are also some more follow-up questions from the moderator.

There have been some pretty good “customer service error” stories that have been posted already, so after I complete my login session tomorrow, I will continue this topic and keep you posted on any further developments.

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