Friday, October 1, 2010

Drop the Use of Rating Scales and Use MaxDiff Now

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I admit when I take a survey and am faced with a rating scale I will intentionally give a less than perfect score. It's very common for me to give a restaurant 4 1/2 out of 5 even though my dining experience was delicious. Why? Because I always feel there is always room improvement and nothing is truly perfect. Then again this is MY personality. One of my friends, who shall remain nameless, is the total opposite of me - an "all or nothing" person . It's got to be 10/10 or she's going to rate her experience in the gutter. We are a ratings scale's worse nightmare (customer bias) and there's no way you can control this....unless you use MaxDiff.

Michaela Mora, founder of Relevant Insights, wrote an amazing article called, "Making the Case for MaxDiff" which made MaxDiff easy to understand. According to this article, "MaxDiff is a superior technique for the research of preferences or importance. " It is an approach for obtaining preference/importance scores for multiple items (brand preferences, brand images, product features, advertising claims, etc.) that do not need to be similar to each other. Click here to review article from Relevant Insights:

MaxDiff Benefits include:

  • Strong discrimination power

  • It is a simple task for the respondent

  • Allows to test a larger number of items

  • Eliminates scaling bias

  • Allows for diversity, which is necessary in international studies

  • Provides ratio data and a measure of magnitude

In a sense this forces my friend and me to choose what we like the most and what we like the least without having to add or subtract a half point due to customer bias. People young and old can easily participate in a MaxDiff research study. To get started using SurveyAnalytics' MaxDiff tool you will need to:

1) Put together a list of features/attributes you would like to present to your respondents.

2) Specify number of features the respondent will see at one time.

3) Analyze your results. The advanced reporting tools from SurveyAnalytics makes it easy for researchers with only minimal exposure to statistics to conduct sophisticated research for the scaling of multiple items. The trade-off techniques used in MaxDiff/Web are robust and easy to apply. The resulting item scores are also easy to interpret, as they can be placed on a 0 to 100 point common scale and sum to 100. Anytime a trade-off analysis question is being asked the respondent is going to take a bit of time to think about it. And even though you will get a most/least preference data, you will still need to dig deeper with other question types to find out why certain features are preferred over others. So that is why this title says "Drop the Use" and not "Stop the Use." Rating scale, constant Sum, and ranking question types can still be useful in gathering data. Combine it with a MaxDiff analysis tool and you will provide your company with richer results to analyze.

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About the Authors: Esther LaVielle is a Senior Account Manager at QuestionPro and Survey Analytics, which was started in 2002 in Seattle and is now one of the fastest growing private companies in the US. Prior to her adventure at QuestionPro she spent 3 years as a Qualitative Project Manager at the Gilmore Research Group.

"Making a Case for MaxDiff" Author, Micheala Mora

Michaela is a market research professional with 15 years of international hands-on experience in industries such as internet subscription services, entertainment, online personals , offline and online retailing, automotive, travel, consumer packaged goods, and consulting services. Michaela has conducted more than 300 studies including new product concept testing, market segmentation, customer satisfaction, A&U, pricing research, copy testing and Web site usability. Michaela holds a MS in Marketing Research from The University of Texas at Arlington, a MS in Marketing, Advertising and PR from Stockholm University, and a BS in Psychology from Havana University. She also received the Professional Researcher Certification at the Expert Level, issued by the Marketing Research Association (MRA). She is fluent in English, Spanish and Swedish. For more information on Relevant Insights go to
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