Qualtrics: Lowering the Barriers to Great Research

I love business ideas that challenge false choices. Companies like Wal-Mart and Dell become industry titans in part by tackling the false choice between offering products of low-cost and products of high-quality. Companies such Ikea and Target dispel the notion that the best product designers can't produce for the masses. The notion that a beer can't both taste great and be less filling... well, you get the point.

Qualtrics, a company which describes itself as "a market leader in Internet-based, electronic survey creation, analysis and distribution" has developed a survey tool sophisticated enough for a Ph.D and simple enough to use for an intern. Great research capability is now accessible to anyone who wants to reach out and get it (and buy it of course!).

Lowering the barriers of entry to create great research is one of the many promises of the Qualtrics research suite.

I interviewed Ryan Smith, Director at Qualtrics several weeks ago about their research suite, his view of the survey tools marketplace, and the use of data in organizational decision-making. Here's an edited summary of our discussion:

What’s your view of the survey tool market?

Ryan: There are two sides of the spectrum. The get-in and get-out low-cost solutions and then the high-end tools.

Qualtrics addresses the high-end, supporting the most demanding customers. Low-end tools limit research capability and data-collection. Sophisticated users in academic and research institutions will not use a tool that has limitations.

Though Qualtrics can address both ends of the market by serving those who require depth of functionality and those who need something easy to use.

We aim to lower the barriers to entry to great research with the ability to scale-up to meet the needs of the most demanding researchers. For example, one research university has 1,500 users and has required no training.

Many have jumped off the low-end solutions to Qualtrics and won’t go back to the lower end tools. They've discovered that there is tremendous value in research done well and the decision making it supports.

Describe your market and your customer base.

Ryan: While we work with most of the leading universities in the US, the majority of Qualtrics customers are corporate, comprising 15-20% of the Fortune 500. Qualtrics has about 30,000 active users. Within the corporate segment, internal functions using the research suite are Human Resources, Marketing, and all the way through the organization up to the Boards of Directors.

To what degree can you help with survey and content development?

Ryan: The number one problem people have with survey development is the answer portion. Most people don’t have an issue coming up with logical questions. It’s offering the answers that causes hesitation.

Qualtrics provides a library of questions complete with different types of responses. For those who license Qualtrics for their organization, you can even build an internal knowledge-base, so that when people transition into new roles or move around the organization the history and knowledge-base stays intact and ready to build upon.

Professional services is available to help develop the survey, it’s metrics, flow, and overall design.

One of the biggest impacts that Qualtrics has is to improve survey response rates: from the way the survey is presented, the way it flows, and is supported by the software itself and through the consultative support Qualtrics provides.

What’s your view of decision making capability within organizations today?

Ryan: You need to use data to make decisions, if not you’re using opinions. As one CEO says, “If you’ve got data, we’ll use data, if you’ve opinions, we’ll use mine!”

Leading companies such as Google and Microsoft use data, not just stats, to help make every decision.

Qualtrics helps companies bridge the all-important gap, to understand not only “what” but “why” something happens.

One example: an NBA team surveyed game attendees to determine how they experienced noise levels in the arena. By using Qualtrics, they were able to tie responses to where the fans sat in the arena. They discovered not only that the arena is too loud but alos where it's too loud.

Overall, huge opportunity exists as the research use within organizations is still sporadic. Qualtrics has a vision where data capture is embedded in processes and across Web sites and always available, and all management sees is the data.

Do you see research developing as a core capability and essential skill for all organizations?

Ryan: Yes, in order to compete, you've got to do research. Otherwise, you're just throwing mud at the wall. In areas of product development and innovation, people think they know, but their too close to their own products. At Qualtrics, we use our own tool to test new ideas with existing customers. We learn every time we send a survey something new and valuable.

Ryan let me know that they've got plans to further support Human Resources professionals with new modules and resources, joining dedicated measurement tools in the HR space such as Improved Experience and other leading feedback management tools like Beeliner Surveys.

Labels: ,