During a week of laryngitis, Eve Lenkowsky reflects on how frustrating it is to lose your voice—and how market research can be a powerful cure for millions of people worldwide.
Wouldn’t you bet my luck that the week the weather turns beautiful and everybody is ready to go outside and shout, that I should lose my voice! Since Saturday, I have been croaking, whispering, and wheezing at anybody who can stand being within earshot of my raspy voice. Luckily, I have people who care for me and who patiently crane an ear to hear what I am saying. But after a while, whether I’m trying to communicate with a loved one or a stranger, I wind up screaming but my words barely come out. Eventually, when you keep on yelling but nobody hears, you give up on trying to get someone to listen. It becomes very frustrating, and sometimes disheartening, when your voice is lost.
I think that it is times like these that make me appreciate being a market researcher the most. That’s because I spend most of my time listening to the voices of other people who might otherwise go unheard. Whether it’s a construction worker or a printer, a doctor or a lawyer, business owner or a scientist—these are the people whose voices really have something to say. They are the end-users, the experts, the consumers and people closest to the products and services that our clients provide. They have a vantage point that our clients can only guess at. Sometimes it’s good feedback, sometimes it’s negative—all of it is important.
I listen to people’s opinions and requests for improvement in many ways. Sometimes I have the pleasure of speaking with respondents on the phone, either asking them a specific list of questions or having an in-depth discussion to focus on subjects with which they have the most experience. Sometimes, we’ll do focus groups with a bunch of people saying what they think and commenting on each others’ views in a conversation. Other times, I’ll read through comments that hundreds of people type into online surveys when we ask them open-ended questions. Market researchers call these people’s comment quotes ‘verbatims,’ because the person literally tells us his or her point of view—verbatim.
Have you ever taken a survey that asks you to answer a question by typing in a comment? Or given some of your time to answer a survey over the phone? Well, rest assured, your voice will be heard! There’s going to be a market researcher out there like me who reads through all of your complaints, compliments, and suggestions, and then communicates your key points directly to the person who has the power to make things better.
Market research creates an open dialog that allows consumers to communicate back to the businesses that sell and advertise to them. Consumers are bombarded every day with messages from companies, and market research is one of the key ways that they can speak out and bring about change. Think of it as activism that is actively sought by companies, that benefits everybody.
So basically, my job lets me be the voice of thousands of people every year, sharing their opinions with our clients so they can make their products and services better. I can’t ask for anything more—and this week, with this sore throat, I mean that literally!