Thursday, June 26, 2008

Proof of the difference between survey results and truth

CNN.com had an article about the recent results of JD Powers' survey of recent car purchases, and which cars consumers liked the most. Here's what they had to say about the VW Passat, the winner of the mid-sized car category:



Huh? "The Passat's drivetrain was a particular high point among owners..."

They should have followed that statement with "... which proves that our survey is so poorly constructed that the results are completely meaningless."

Now, I freely admit that no one would describe me as a car wonk. I don't spend weekends rebuilding carburetors or swapping engines out of 1968 VW bugs. I've made it 39 years without ever changing the oil in my car myself. But c'mon... how many people, when asked how much they like their new mid-sized car, will respond, "Oh, I love the drivetrain! It's flipping sweet! Wanna see it?"

My guess is JD Powers asked people to rate their cars along a standard set of dimensions, but didn't ask what dimensions actually mattered to them.

3 comments:

Dr. Pete said...

I remember reading about some early marketing studies in a class once where car manufacturers asked people what they wanted in a car and found out that they wanted a car that would do 200MPH, get 100MPG, have every amenity, hold 20 people, and cost $50. The next survey was multiple choice :)

Terry Bleizeffer said...

Sounds good, I'd like one of those cars too!

=)

I've also read something about how people will SAY they choose cars based on facts... mpg, seating, amenities, etc... but that we actually choose cars almost exclusively based on appearance/emotion. People will even jump categories (like deciding they need a mid-sized car and driving home in a truck because they loved the way the truck looked).

Good surveys are HARD.

Samantha LeVan said...

It shows the difference between user research and market research. While market research can be wildly useful, really having an understanding of what the customer both needs and wants requires a little help from a trusty user experience professional.