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From paper to mobile survey apps, the history of collecting data

Posted by Ethan Hawkes on Dec 6, 2016 9:59:24 AM
Ethan Hawkes
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Can you imagine collecting paper surveys, writing down the results manually and then trying to draw conclusions from it? That's how surveys were collected back in the day and sometimes even still today! That sounds completely miserable.

Luckily, technology came around and put a stop to manual, mindless labor, but it took a while. It's interesting how long it took for technology to catch up with the demand.

The path to this technology started with Herman Hollerith in 1880. He invented the punch card to easily shift through massive amounts of information and in turn revolutionized the United States census process. It is still in use by some places, to keep track of employee's working hours.

It wouldn't be until about 100 years later that tools to measure customer satisfaction started to look like what it is today. In the 1970s the need to have a satisfied customer was important, but it required the use of expensive focus groups (still useful today!), printing paper questionnaires and data punching. Computers were around, but they were extraordinarily expensive.

But businesses didn't care too much about customers' thought and were more focused on the logistical parts of business. "How can we ship this product faster and cheaper?" not the seemingly obvious questions like, "Do customers even like this product?" and "Are they planning to purchase from us again?"

In the 1980s, the differences between brands started to blur together. Technology allowed for newer companies to match their larger and more established competition in terms of speed and quality. Brands began trying to figure out ways to try and separate themselves from the pack. This is when customer service began becoming important.

Once companies realized this, they started investing time and research into how to better collect data on their customers. Big market research companies began to emerge, who specialized in processing paper data with scanning technology.

Distribution and collection was still expensive, but data processing had started lowering in price.

In the early '90s data collection starting becoming easier with automated phone calls taking survey results using a touch tone phone's keypad. Near the end of the '90s, the internet began taking form in email and web-based customer focused studies.

Email and web-based surveys are of course the standard today, but they have begun to show their flaws. These services can become expensive for businesses and most customers find the experience of measuring their satisfaction and unsatisfactory one.

Every business ties profits directly to customer satisfaction (as they should) so lengthier and more frequent surveys are prevalent. The problem comes with overwhelming customers.

Businesses have turned to methods of collecting feedback to stop bothering customers. Listening in to customer chatter on social media and turning to mobile apps perfectly align for the mobile age.

Customers already have a piece of technology they check periodically with them all the time, why not use it to see how they feel unobtrusively? Seems like a win-win for both the customer and the business.

Customer satisfaction will only get better as time goes on, but it's hard to guess know what will be the new standard.

Try the lastest in mobile survey app technology by starting a trial with SurveyMe.

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Topics: Business & Marketing

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