Would You Like To Take A Survey?

My kids turned me on to the “Animaniacs” cartoon show recently.

My favorite episode occurred in a shopping mall, where the characters were pursued by a running gag, middle-aged biddies asking, “Would you like to take a survey?” Without waiting for an answer they’d launch into more questions. “Do you like George Wendt? Do you like beans? Would you like to see a movie of George Wendt eating beans?”

I was reminded of this last week when I took a call from Jody Dodson, executive vice president for marketing and research at cPulse Inc., which launches today. To be blunt, they’re bringing the biddies to the web.

Gartner Group has taken a majority stake in cPulse. The founders and FreeRide Media Inc. still hold a piece. Their technology lets you do random surveys of web site visitors, and (best of all) it’s free to any site with at least 25,000 clicks per month.

The surveys appear on user screens as pop-ups, with your site’s trade dress, and get reactions to your site’s appearance, speed, ease of navigation, freshness of content and customer support.

You’ll pay to get more questions answered and more answers delivered to you. But even the free offer is cool, because the random sampling yields results you can project on your larger user base, Dodson explained. The alternative most used today, focus groups or panels, may deliver insights but can’t be reliably projected against your total user base.

To make sure that your visitors want to take a survey, of course, you’re going to want to provide an incentive. Cash is good, but the default offered by cPulse is (of course) some FreeRide points. (FreeRide is a shopping incentive program we profiled the week after Internet World.)

You can get the big five questions answered free, but if you’re willing to pay, you can get up to 20 questions answered, Dobson said, like ease of ordering, the variety of product on your shelves, security, and the perceived privacy of your data. “Our business model strips away client names, and rolls those responses against all other sites,” he said.

Dobson explained why you might want to pay. “Say you’re in online books, and know you’re a six” on a scale of one-to-ten, when people are asked about customer service. “If I know that in the past two months I’ve gone from 4 to 6 I have more value, and if I know I’ve gone from 4 to 6 but the competition is at 8 I’ve got an even better picture.” The competitive data will also be sold as benchmarks to member sites and through syndication.

Dodson said cPulse had lined up some big-name clients, like GTE, Ziff-Davis, MP3.com and Blockbuster, even before the Gartner deal was completed, but the new relationship will make sales even easier. “The name gives us an enormous amount of credibility,” he said.

There are a handful of Internet survey companies, so cPulse will be focused solely on satisfaction measurements. Dobson also plans to regularly publish highlights of the data, but he wasn’t certain when we talked what measurements might be most useful to the press and the industry. How can we give him the insight he needs on this? Would you like to take a survey?

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