They Didn't Ask Me (dr_phil_physics) wrote,
They Didn't Ask Me
dr_phil_physics

An Enjoyable Survey

I am not the telemarketers best friend. Or surveyors. I recall answering a cold telephone survey ONCE. It was one of the summers I was in college, I was home alone in Greensboro, and I answered the phone in the back bedroom. It was a survey about hamburgers. I liked hamburgers, and as a college student, I had eaten many from multiple chains. Oh yes, I had an opinion. It was a polite and enjoyable conversation. I vaguely recalled that the caller was in Jacksonville. Why would I remember that? Because Amtrak had a Jacksonville reservations call center then, too.

Anyway, after completing the "less than five minute" survey, the nice young man asked if I wanted to continue with another fifteen minutes of questions. I had time, sure. I was able to figure out that this was a survey for Burger King, but it wasn't a push poll. The questionnaire covered a wide range of brands and products, details about them, too.

That was it -- the only time I ever answered a cold call telephone survey in fifty-five years.

Paper and web surveys get an answer solely on a combination of whim and my desire to help. Pretty much ends up being professional and academic surveys. And after the last long year plus, I've tried to answer Spectrum's hospital and departmental surveys.

Remember that one in forever ratio of answering cold surveys? I got an email from Northwestern saying that I would be getting an invite to participate in a survey. Advance warning, where you can check the Internet origins of the sender, is a key to success.
Dear Dr. Kaldon:

The office of Global Marketing at Northwestern University has commissioned a comprehensive research study to gain insights on your views and opinions about the overall image and identity of Northwestern University. As part of this study, an online survey is being conducted with alumni such as yourself. This email is a follow-up from Mary Baglivo’s email on August 14 announcing the project and serves as the official invitation for you to participate.

SimpsonScarborough, a higher education market research firm, was hired by the University to conduct this research. To show our appreciation for your participation, completing the survey will qualify you for a chance to win a $500 Amazon.com gift card.
A chance at a prize is a good investment for anyone running a contest, er, survey. If you want any chance of returns. Me? I'd help Northwestern anyway, but wouldn't hurt to score a $500 Amazon gift card. (evil-grin)

I have to say, that this SimpsonScarborough was a good investment by Northwestern -- I hope they get good information they can use. The web survey was clean and offered multiple types of questions. Scales of 1-10 or Strongly agree to Strongly disagree, radio buttons, checklists, select texts in a statement, plus free text. By not having it all the same, the questions were more interesting, more targeted and required more interaction by the user. Although not truly terrible, most surveys are dull, poorly formatted or little more than what I could cobble up with Survey Monkey. Fine for light stuff. Not what I want to see on a professional survey.

Eventually there was a free text question about what I thought the university could do to improve itself and alumni involvement. Or some such thing. I gave this one some thought and remembered to copy my answer:
That's the money question, isn't it? From my POV as an alum -- I give every year, I read and am enthralled with the NU and WCAS magazines, and am constantly stunned by those students at NU who excel both as students but in athletes in so many sports that I hear about! (And not just football or men's basketball.) I would like to see NU target fund drives for specific departments, only a couple a year, for stretch goals they currently can't meet and publicize them across the whole alumni net. It might be Math, Women's Studies, the Africana collection one year, and Chemical Engineering, Foreign Languages and Performance Arts the next. Something on too [top] of the usual fund drives that can touch graduates in those majors, but inspire wider support. Something that the alumni magazines can show results in, saying You Made This Happen. Too often we get pleas for general funds, which are important, but I'd like to see the departments proposing "shovel ready" stretch projects on a rotating basis.
We'll see what Northwestern does with this survey. I figure I can't be the only NU alum who might give a thoughtful answer.

Of course the last few minutes of this survey became an adventure. Despite the most forecast for Allendale which had cloudy skies and a less than 20% chance of rain from 1-6pm, it's been rumbling for the past hour. And with one such rumble, the power glitched -- right after the shutdown of the generator's weekly self test. The survey wouldn't update, so I toggled the Kindle's WiFi, figuring the DSL was resetting. And the coding was clean. Refreshing the page got it right where I'd been, with a Welcome Back message at the top. Of course the end was made exciting because the power glitches had caused our old APC uninterruptible power supply strip to cry foul. It's battery needs replacing -- has been for maybe eight, ten years? (sad-grin) -- and it has an alarm which lets us know about once a day. Usually the beeping stops after a minute. But in a quick power glitch it can get confused and shriek its power out warning continuously, until you hit the reset. That didn't happen for some minutes, but I was able to reach that far back and touch the reset with far less trouble than I was expecting. (high-five-grin)

Worth the time to do and worth the time to talk about here. August is a good time to do this, too. Which is not lost on this academic.

Dr. Phil
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