What’s Behind Inconsistency in Survey Responses

By: Edna Dretzka

In a study conducted by Greenwald & Associates, caregivers were asked the amount of care that they provided per week to a loved one.  A larger than expected group of respondents selected “constant care,” or 24-hour caregiving, as their response.  In call-back interviews with several of these respondents, it became clear that the definition of caretaking to them didn’t start and stop with hands-on care.  It included the time that they were “on-call,” the time that they sat down and worried about their loved one, and the time that they anticipated incidents before they even happened.  This important distinction allowed Greenwald to get at the underlying cost of caregiving: the emotional and physical toll that it takes on the caregivers.

I’m an anthropologist.  I’ve been trained to ask questions and listen to the undercurrents of a conversation, to look for the asymmetries between words and action.  While a survey can tell us what people think they think, an in-person interview, a focus group, or another qualitative observation method can help us truly understand the “why” behind our survey results.

So, let’s play a game.  When is the last time that you gave an answer to a survey at your doctor’s office and perhaps over or understated a condition?  Or maybe you know someone on Medicaid who voted for someone who is working today to dismantle the Medicaid program.  When was the last time your survey results revealed inconsistencies?  These are actions and responses that deserve a second look. 

We have logged literally hundreds of hours of interviews, conversations, observations of organizations’ frontlines, their broker/agent partners, clients, and end consumers.  We stand alongside our clients and help them dig deeper to better understand how their clients consume, feel about, and depend on their products and services.  We find the asymmetries between what they say they want, and what they actually use.  We help translate those asymmetries into actionable insights for your firm to use.

When does qualitative research makes sense?

  • Exploration – Have you ever had a gut feeling about something? Sometimes you just need to know more.   Qualitative research can help you understand.
  • Perception – When you look at the results of a large client satisfaction survey, are you ever left with lingering questions? Qualitative interviews and follow-up can give you a better idea of consumer’s motivations underlying their purchasing and referencing decisions.
  • Application – When your quantitative research tells you something, but you don’t know what to do next – how to apply those learnings…
  • Clarification – Talking straight to the purchasers to learn what they really want, not just what they think they want

We at Greenwald & Associates would love to talk with you about these issues and see if there is a way that we can help.

Careers Greenwald & Associates