As only a market researcher is apt to do, I’ve been spending a lot time lately thinking about open ends. After hours of deliberation and many conversations with colleagues and clients alike, I’ve come to the conclusion that they’ve gotten a bad rap. I might even go as far to suggest they’re perceived as the misfit toy of quantitative research—often undervalued, frequently underappreciated and almost always underutilized. Clients demand that they’re included in their research to provide a forum for consumer commentary, yet I hear time and time again that they do nothing with the thousands of verbatims they collect. All that rich qualitative feedback, those potentially business altering ideas, are put away in a virtual file cabinet and forgotten about.
Or, worse yet, it’s become standard practice to flatten open ends down into a code frame—essentially smooshing all that consumer language and input into a singular word or phrase. An analyst will sometimes peruse the file, looking for a quote or two to support a quant finding and that’s it.
As someone who loves qualitative feedback and sees its value, it always been discouraging that we haven’t been able to get more from this quant sized-qualitative exercise. Recently, however, the conversation may be beginning to change.
With survey lengths continuing to push the boundaries of what a respondent will tolerate and research budgets constricting, there finally seems to be a dialogue about how to get more insight from fewer questions. Finally a chance for the open end to do some heavy lifting!
I was at a conference a month or so ago and spoke with a research peer about their approach that built upon the idea that all you need is a well-designed open-ended question to answer a business problem. We couldn’t agree more.
After 10 years of focusing on the one-on-one, we at iModerate have entered the text analytics space and are harnessing the untapped power of the open end via our (iM)merge approach. (iM)merge is our methodology that takes advantage of all the brilliant thinking our partners at Luminoso have put into their text analytics tool, coupled with our extensive expertise in consumer behavior and language. While we can tap into data sources ranging from ratings & reviews to call center output, our primary focus to date has been the open end. We can take verbatims from a tracking survey or recruit a target audience to answer a single or multiple open ends.
With a carefully crafted question or two, we’ve been able to answer big business questions (see how we helped Reliant Energy cut call center costs) and have informed entire conference presentations (check out Brand Wars: Nike vs. Under Armour, which we presented at the Quirks show in February).
Finally, the open end can get the respect it deserves!