The last couple of lectures in our Marketing Research and Strategy class, we have been taking a closer look at quantitative research. More in particular, the types of surveys and how they are set up. One of the differences between surveys, discussed by McQuarrie (2016), who is a professor at Santa Clara University, is that some surveys are set up to describe customer characteristics and behaviors, while other describe a customer’s stance toward the brand, or positive and negative experiences with product ownership. Describing customer characteristics and behaviors is referred to as descriptive surveys. When describing a customer’s stance toward the brand, or positive and negative experiences with product ownership, then we’re talking about evaluative surveys. McQuarrie (2016) states that the purpose of descriptive surveys is limited compared to evaluative surveys, because they have a greater claim on your research dollar. He says that it is more important to know if the customer’s satisfaction is dropping or that dissatisfaction is pared to a particular action on the company’s part. Also, a company will want to know if its brand is fading in customer perceptions or if a competitor’s brand is gaining strength. What I think McQuarrie means with this is that he thinks it is more important to find out first why something is happening, before finding out how customers are feeling towards the product or service. He says that it is more important to find out the direct cause of why something is happening first, before continuing to find out the underlying reasons.
As a student at WVWC, I’ve taken course evaluation surveys at the end of every semester. These surveys are a prime example of an evaluative survey, because through these surveys professors try to find out if what they are doing is directly helping students. These surveys are set up in two different sections. The first section of the survey looks at how the student perceived the course. These questions are looking for more information about if the course objectives were met, if the professor presented the material across well, etc.
On the other hand, the second section of the survey looks more at the individual professor and their performance in teaching the course. Here the questions are looking more at if students felt comfortable asking questions, if assignments were returned within reasonable time, if students received the full attention of the professor when asking questions, etc.
Comparing my personal experience of taking surveys with the description of descriptive and evaluative surveys given by McQuarrie, we can take two different perspectives. First, we can look at it from the student’s perspective. Students might value a survey like the course evaluations as unimportant. One of the reasons for this is that they are completing a survey for a course that they will most likely never have to take again (as long as the don’t fail the class). Another reason is that there isn’t an incentive for students to complete this survey. In the short run, they are not getting anything out of it. The only way taking the survey will help the student is if he or she has that same professor again for another course throughout his or her college/university career.
On the other hand, we can look at it from the marketer conducting the survey (the college or university in the case of course evaluations). In their case, the course evaluations are extremely important. Based on these surveys, they try to increase the quality of the professors teaching the specific courses, which would result in a higher quality of education for the college or the university. Considering that students take these surveys truthfully, the college or university and its professors will make important decisions for the future of that course and the education of future students.