The Manhattan Project--2016 A to Z Theme

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Thursday, April 19, 2012


questions & answersquestions & answers (Photo credit: thewhitestdogalive)

The Question Professionals:

       When's the last time you answered the phone to be greeted by some pesky soul doing some kind of a survey or a poll?  Annoying isn't it?  They keep asking all these picky questions with the nuanced multiple choice answers.  What do you do?  Hang up on them?  Give them a strong piece of your mind that doesn't have anything to do with the information they are asking about?  Bark at them in an angry tone telling them not to call your number any more?

         Next time you might want give pause before expressing your displeasure.  The voice on the other end most likely belongs to a college student, a single mother, a retiree, or some other person who's just trying to pick up a paycheck to pay the bills.  They don't mean to bother you--they're just doing their job.

          Believe me, I know something about this having worked for a marketing research firm in Richmond, Virginia for a few years.   I've spent plenty of time on the phone taking some abuse, but mostly talking with wonderful people who were more than willing to cooperate.   I've even done the in person surveys in shopping malls, banks, and other sites.

         But what's with all the questions anyway?  Some folks can get mighty distrustful about some stranger asking what are sometimes rather personal questions?   What are these questions all about and who wants to know?

          Marketing research is a big business and companies and organizations spend a lot of money to get information from their customers and potential clients.   The data they receive from this research can help them to improve the way they operate, test new products, compare themselves to competitors, or provide many other types of information that might make them better.

          The real point of all the questions is to determine what the public thinks about something.  Initially the questions need to be very specific, but in longer surveys the same questions may be asked in different ways in order to understand the nuances of public opinion.   The wording of a question might be objective in order to get a true answer or the wording can be manipulative in order to skew the results.   There are many types of surveys and many motives for administering surveys.

Do-It-Yourself Marketing Research:

         For your own marketing efforts you probably won't ever need to resort to hiring a marketing research firm, but you can observe what they do, study up on the techniques they use, and formulate your own marketing strategy.      

          Asking questions is one of the best ways to find out what people think.  Ask questions.  And when you get answers listen to them and take note.  Marketing research companies charge big money to ask questions and then analyze the results of the answers.  Until you have the big money to spend make up your own surveys.  Your results may not have the same scientific accuracy as what a professional company might produce, but you can get some pretty good ideas about your business approach and the effectiveness of it.

          Questions stimulate conversation and help build relationships.  This is a good reason why you should consider using questions in your blog posts if you aren't doing so already.  Get the reader involved in what you are doing instead of spouting off from your soapbox and just expecting them to return daily to hear what you're going to say next.

        Sharing your platform by setting up a dialog allows your readers, your customers, or your public to have a personal stake in what you are doing.    What is meaningful to you will become more meaningful to them if they are a part of it.  

         Questions can open up doors as well as windows of possibilities.  A good question is worth a thousand answers.  It's up to you to listen and determine what those answers mean.

Q is for Questions:

One blogger who is not afraid to ask questions is Guilie at Quiet Laughter.   During the A to Z Challenge, she's been covering some interesting topics that encourage more questions.      

Another blogger who's blog is all about questions is Jen at Questions Unasked and Unanswered.   Check to see what question she's asking today and if she doesn't have one then you can ask her your own question.

        Do you like to ask questions?   Do you answer telephone surveys?   Have you ever done telephone survey or solicitation work?

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  1. A good choice of word Lee, I have a few questions I would like to ask a certain follower but as yet have not found the right words or the right way to approach him/her.

    I do get annoyed at the sales for energy such as gas and electricity, I get the same person perhaps four or fives times in a day.


  2. Massive props to you Lee for pointing out that these people on the other end of the line are just people who are trying to do a job. Amazingly it's something that doesn't always cross my mind so it's awesome to get a reminder next time one of those kinds of people call up to not lose my temper like I feel like doing at times. Great post mate.

  3. I would have to say your theme is been the most useful and I don't know anyone will question that. Seriously I have missed a few days, but you should put all your post into a ebook and add some design/art/graphics... which I am available for... well you get the idea!

    Nice post, making it happen...Quite Well!
    Jeremy [Retro-Zombie]
    A to Z Co-Host
    My New Book:
    Retro-Zombie: Art and Words

  4. Now I feel really guilty, because I am one of those people who say 'no thank you' and hang up the phone. I always feel it is an invasion of my privacy, but now that you have put a face to the other end I suppose it is different.
    Thanks for enlightening me.

  5. Do you like to ask questions? Do you answer telephone surveys? Have you ever done telephone survey or solicitation work?

    I love questions. Especially when it comes to interpreting a text. One must ask all the questions possible to understand a passage as the original author intended it to be understood.

    I do not answer telephone surveys.

    I have never done telephone surveys but I have done phone solicitation. I do not like to do it one bit.

  6. Yep, I did similar work when I was a student. I remember people being polite overall but then again, this was way back when we weren't getting bombarded with as much stuff as we are now. :)

  7. I usually try to answer the phone surveys when I have time. I don't know if this is mean or not, because I've never done this sort of work, but I usually try to get the marketing people off script. If they're doing I survey, I let them do it, but if they're selling me something, I find it fun to try to get them to just talk to me about what they're doing, without all the jargon on their script. If you call my mom as a telemarketer, she'll tell you all about Jesus :-) Good advice here, Lee. I agree with Jeremy about putting these posts together.
    Tina @ Life is Good
    Co-Host of the April A to Z Challenge
    Twitter: @AprilA2Z #atozchallenge

  8. I used to be one of those telephone survey people. It didn't last long because it turned out I hated to ask questions more than I hated to answer them.

  9. I tend to engage with blogs that ask questions after a discussion. It does include the visitor when they're asked their opinions.

    One thing about this A to Z, besides meeting a lot of new people, is discovering how many intelligent bloggers are out there with so much information to share on topics I'm not versed in. It's been a wonderful experience. I've learned so much.

  10. Yvonne -- Here in L.A. I've never had anyone call about energy sales other than to install solar panels. If you have questions for other bloggers, just ask--I think most of them are more than willing to answer.

    Yeamie -- I think a lot of people who have never done the job don't make the connection to the person on the other end of the line.

    Jeremy -- Okay, now I'm thinking.

    C.M.-- At least you say 'No Thank You". Some people get really nasty. Just remember some of the people making those calls are very nice folks.

    Gregg-- I don't like phone solicitation either, but there have been a few times in my life that it was something I had to turn to. Our shows were promoted through telephone solicitations and there were times when I had to step in and get on the horn.

    Madeline -- Actually where I am I now get less calls these days since the "Do not Call" list came into effect. I'm on it.

    Tina -- I'm similar to you on this. I like to talk to the people if I'm not busy. Likewise when I was doing the surveys I kind of liked it when I got diverted from the survey and actually received some useful information from people.

    MJ -- I'd rather ask questions than try to sell something that people aren't looking for.

    C.Lee -- I agree. There have been some pretty amazing blog posts in this year's Challenge.


  11. Oh no! My Q post today is a survey on reading and writing. I hope no one is annoyed... :)

    Everyone is doing such a great job with the A to Z this year! I can't believe there is only a week and half left. It's going by fast!

  12. I try to answer survey questions when I have the time. I understand that people want what is best for others, and that these surveys help with that. If I don't have time, I generally don't answer the phone :)

  13. Arlee this is food for thought. I never answer those phone surveys, but I do the online ones. Great points.
    - Maurice Mitchell
    The Geek Twins | Film Sketchr
    @thegeektwins | @mauricem1972

  14. i have done that kind of work and i mostly hated it---i don't like to take surveys, over the phone--and although i think you make some wonderful points--to be honest, i don't like to ask questions on my blogs, because i feel it can divert people from saying something they might have had in mind--sorta leading them--interesting post

  15. I recently read a neat book, Academy 7, where the academy's motto is "Question. Commit. Strive." Imagine a school that encourages questioning instead of forcing us to regurgitate selected answers. I loved this post about questions - I love the art of questioning. Visiting A-Z blogger and old follower long overdue for a visit.

  16. Laura -- I don't think anyone will be annoyed with your survey. I quite enjoyed it.

    Tasha -- Caller ID can be a great help when the surveying organization provide an obvious identity.

    Maurice -- I participate in the phone surveys about 70% of the time, especially the political ones or the ones about issues. It's a time to express myself knowing I won't be getting into an argument.

    Lynn -- I found that when I leave a question on my blog my comments increase significantly. When I don't have a question I get more of the "Nice Post" type of comments if I do get any. I prefer when a blogger leaves a question. I may answer it or I may not, but at least it leaves an opening for comment if I can't think of something on my own.

    Margo -- Questioning should be one of the biggest parts of an education. Students can better pursue lines of interest. Glad to have you stop in.


  17. I answer the questions if I have time. If I don't, I tell them that politely. If they continue to push, I hand the phone over to my 10 year old chatty-Kathy! She soon gets rid of them. It used to be even better when the kids were very little (4, 5, 7) because any of them would talk to the person on the phone and it would always be a load of drivel.
    Rhia from Five Minute Piece for Inspiration (about #776 on A to Z list).

  18. What I dislike most is that these telemarketers call during mealtime. We've contacted some organizations (like banks) to ask they stop phoning - we're simply not interested in changing our accounts. But they seem to disrespect our request. So I hang up. I don't say anything rude if I do talk to the poor wee person on the other end but if they ask "how am I doing?" I give them an honest answer. "I'm upset with the invasion of my privacy and peace, particularly in the middle of a meditation or sleep or meals, etc.

  19. The last three paragraphs on asking questions and sharing the platform are a great follow-up to yesterday's advice. Thanks.

  20. I always ask questions at the end of my post. If I were just making statements, no one else would get involved in the conversation. (And that's no fun.)
    With caller ID, I usually just don't pick up the phone!

  21. I am two letters behind, hopefully I will be able to write today. May be I can post two on Saturday or even Sunday to catch up.

  22. I try to do it for the reason you stated lee, because they're doing their job and because I hate being impolite. If I don't have the time, I'll just tell them and give them the option to call back.

  23. Rhia -- I don't have anyone to hand the phone over to in my house. My wife won't talk to these callers. Maybe if my grandkids are here sometime I can hand the phone to them.

    Feather -- I understand how you feel and I think you handle it diplomatically. Let's face it--sadly we are just phone numbers and names without faces to these corporations.

    Kelly -- Thanks. I've been trying to maintain a sense of continuity.

    Alex -- You're good with the questions and your results are proof that the questions work.

    Munir -- Take your time and don't stress. There are others who are further behind than you and some who have given up completely. Please don't give up.

    Jen -- That's good. If I don't want to talk to them I politely say so and don't give them any options about calling back, but sometimes they do anyway.


  24. Wow, Lee--great post! I worked in telemarketing waaaay back when, and although it was relatively easy because the people we called weren't strictly "cold calls" (i.e., they knew who we were and they loved hearing from us--until they realized we actually had something to sell, haha), I did get my share of rejection. While the experience made me learn how to not take rejection personally, it was still hard.

    There's one bit I took away from me, specifically regarding questions that sound like an invasion of privacy when asked by a stranger. If you (the caller) explain *why* you need to know these things, instead of just launching into an interrogation, the listener is much more likely to respond positively. As a consumer, I note that I respond better when a salesperson explains why he/she needs to ask these questions, and I notice I get annoyed when they don't.

    Great post, and thanks for the lovely mention :) I'm so glad you've enjoyed my random musings!

  25. I always feel sorry for the people making those calls. I don't answer unknown numbers though so I never talk to them :)

  26. I love to answer surveys and I love to ask questions but I would never want to be a survey taker as I don't think I could stand the rejection.

    You're right about questions being the best way to get to know someone. People love to talk about themselves. Most people.

  27. In my line of work questions are a daily focus of the job...both asking (a lot) and answering (yeah, a lot too). The only way to get to the bottom of an issue to ask the right questions. I don't like or participate in phone solicitation...two words: answering machine! BTW I like both Guilie and Jen's blog and found them during the challenge!

  28. Hey Lee,
    And right on time, indeed, right on "Q", your shy and humble friend, Gary, has arrived to leave you a highly cherished comment.
    I like to ask questions. Oh yes I do. Like what is your secret to being so gosh darn awesome, Lee? And I usually end up answering telephone surveys by asking them survey questions back. Such as, "so how long have you been doing telephone surveys?"
    And without Question, my Quest to continue to fascinate folks with my musings on Quotidian topics, will, no doubt bring some Queries....
    Have fun and seriously, keep up the good work and your continuance of bring further awareness of the alphabark, sorry, alphabet...

  29. I'm polite as possible to the question professionals but if I don't have time and they don't take "no" for an answer, I have hung up on them. I feel bad because I know they're trying to make a living but it's somewhat intrusive, especially at 8 or 9 at night.

  30. I'ver never done solicitation work, but I have answered the surveys. One time, I was listening to NPR and they were talking about the survey I'd done. So surprised!

    I'm glad you gave a reminder to think about the people on the phones.

  31. Question: Just from a few things you have mentioned in your previous blogs, have you ever thought about writing a book about your growing up years in a family of performers?

  32. Good to see you are still doing the A to Z challenge!

  33. Guillie-- Rejection can toughen us up because most of us will get some rejection in our lives. Explanations are good especially when there is cause for suspicion.

    Jemi -- My wife is the same way. I can't stand to let the phone ring and not answer it.

    Jen -- Rejection becomes part of the job but it's difficult not to take it personally sometimes. I love "being nosy" as my wife calls it because I like to know about people and see what I have in common with people I don't know.

    Chuck -- The right questions are important so there aren't misunderstandings.

    Gary -- I'm the same way! I love asking the surveyor or solicitor questions. One thing I usually ask first is where they're calling from. Then I start asking about where they are. If they've lied about where they are calling from they usually hang up on me when I start grilling them too much. I've gotten into some interesting conversations with some of those callers.

    JA -- For some of them all you can do is hang up and they're probably used to it since they're so obnoxious.

    Theresa -- I like doing the surveys that seem kind of relevant.

    Loverofwords -- I have considered a memoir which is the reason why I started a memoir blog.

    Fifi -- Good to see you stopping in to check on us. April is not the same without your tours of Paris.


  34. Now I feel terrible for the way I've treated these people. It's not their fault I know, but calling very early in the morning, or late at night is what I have an issue with.

  35. Questions are fine for obtaining marketing info if people want to participate. Personally I hate unsolicited phone calls or surveyors knocking on my front door to answer questions. I find it annoying and intrusive. I think it's fine in a public setting or at some event that one has expressed an interest in attending. Other than that, I'm on the Do-Not-Disturb list.


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