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What is a baseline survey and when should I use it?

Posted by Ethan Hawkes on Jan 10, 2017 8:59:24 AM
Ethan Hawkes
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We'll be honest, baseline surveys are sometimes called baseline studies and are used by the scientific research community mostly for monitoring environmental changes. They are a huge part of the process known as the Monitoring, Learning and Evaluating method.

Anytime a scientific researcher wants to do a study to see how children react to sugar or how damming a river will affect the environment, a baseline study is used. Researchers have to accurately monitor the changes of the before and after to try and find the cause and effect.

Scientists are pretty smart, so why not apply their methods to your business? If you want to create big changes in your restaurant or retail store, you have to know how effective those changes are. You don't want to waste your time and money making changes that aren't effective.

Baseline surveys are what they sound like, they're ways to establish the baseline that all other metrics are compared to. Before any changes are made, a survey should be run to see what customers think.

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For example, let's say you're a movie theater who wants to see if the investment in fancy, reclined seating will boost customer satisfaction. Before anything you should run a survey to see if customers are even willing to pay extra for reclined seating. We've mentioned over and over in this blog how surveys can minimize risk on major investments in your business. 


First off, you want to find out your base customer satisfaction level which will be used as a baseline. Create a customer survey to find this out. For maximum efficiency in the case of the theater, conduct this survey at the same time as trying to find out if customers like reclined seating.

A baseline survey doesn't have to be one long single survey, it can be mixed into other surveys as well.  What you're looking for is statistics to compare and contrast after the changes. Not all of these can be found in a customer satisfaction survey and you'll need other stats such a revenue to get a complete picture of the effect of the changes that have been made.

Here's an example of a good baseline for a movie theater:

  • Net Promoter Score
  • Normal ticket sales and revenue
  • Concession sales and revenue
  • Employee satisfaction
  • Demographic data (age, gender, occupation, income)
  • Customer's perception of value

The survey should be adjusted as needed depending on the industry your business is in. 

Regardless of the method of collecting this data, one large survey or many smaller ones, this data needs to be collected again after the changes are made to the establishment. Compare the baseline survey with the data from the new survey and draw conclusions from there.

Maybe customer satisfaction has gone up because of the new seats, but employees hate having to clean the new fancy seats since they are particularly fond of having popcorn stuck in them. Similar to studying ecology, one change that can ripple out and affect everyone in the environment (your business) in a different way.

Every change in data is now the new baseline since this is what customers think of your movie theater now. Keep in mind, although this plan is detailed a quick read 600-word blog post, it's going to take a long time to create the baseline and even longer to see the results of the changes. 

Keep your baseline survey up to date, but make sure to save the past ones as a way to compare future surveys. You can't measure progress if you have no way of knowing the past!

Want to get started with your first baseline survey? Talk to us for a demo of our survey software!

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Topics: Survey Strategies

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