Stop Being So Nice in Market Research. Sincerely, the Friendliness Effect

Consumer suggestions and feedback are essential to brand success. In many cases, it is through customer feedback that significant issues with products and services are effectively resolved. For many brands, though, they fail to take into account the Friendliness Effect when performing market research to obtain feedback.

It all boils down to bias. Unfortunately, market researchers and marketing professionals acting as market researchers are often bias without intentionally meaning to be. For brands conducting market research through surveys, focus groups, and customer interviews, biases present a major hurdle. Without any training or know-how in market research, it is too easy to inject bias into the market research process and alter the outcomes (without knowing it).

This blog post will explain the Friendliness Effect, including what it is and how to avoid it when performing market research. It will also cover how biases of other sorts can impede brand success.

Stop Being So Nice in Market Research. Sincerely, the Friendliness Effect

It's okay to be nice. Just don't be too nice where it begins to impact responses and injects bias into your market research. Take that... Mom.

It's a Two-Sided Coin

Before we dive into what the Friendliness Effect is, you must understand that market research is a two-sided coin when it comes to bias. Biases are going to appear on both sides: (a) those offering the suggestions (your customers) and (b) those conducting the interviews (receiving the suggestions from customers). The astute market researcher understands both as well as how to reduce or eliminate bias in the process.

What is the Friendliness Effect?

The friendliness effect is a form of bias caused by market research participants overly agreeing to concepts and ideas presented to them at the time of the market research. This is caused by both respondents or interviewers being overly friendly during interviews impacting the outcomes and feedback from the market research.

When performing market research, taking into account the Friendliness Effect is of the utmost importance because it impacts the ability to generate honest, truthful, and reliable feedback. While it is impossible to eliminate your personal biases or those of your customers (these are often subliminal), you can follow tips and tricks to mitigate bias.

You must first be able to recognize such biases, however, in order to account for them.

The number one way to pinpoint a bias is to look at how a question is positioned.

Is the question biased in itself? When it comes to scripting questions, it is important for the market research to take a neutral stance and not steer the respondent down a path. This is why it is critical to randomize and rotate sequence of questions and even answer categories.

Also important to understand is that biases develop in many forms. In addition to the Friendliness Effect, other biases to be on the lookout for include:

● Confirmation bias
● Framing bias
● False-Consensus Bias

How does the Friendliness Effect Impact Market Research?

One of the most challenging aspects of the Friendliness Effect is that the bias is formed because you are too friendly as the moderator or interviewer. You, of course, want to be civil and polite when conducting interviews and focus groups to gather feedback, but being too pleasant can blur the suggestions provided by customers.

If customers get to a point where they are merely providing feedback based on what they think you want to hear, this is the Friendliness Effect in full force. Obviously not something you want as a market research company or sponsoring client.

Much of the time, customers will give such feedback because they are fond of the person conducting the interview. They respect the person's opinion and therefore provide feedback they know will make the person happy. For genuine market research, the Friendliness Effect can be detrimental.

For example, if a new product development company mentions they have spent the last 12 months of their life building this new-age kitchen utensil and they ask you whether you will use it. Saying “no” will likely hurt their feelings. In this case, the respondent may overstate their usage of a needless product to not harm the feelings of the moderator or new product development team watching.

It is also possible for the Friendliness Effect to take place because the customer is bored with the survey questions. Therefore, they rattle off an answer they believe will suit the person giving the interview or hosting the survey.

In instances like this, customers tend to provide the most positive response possible in hopes it will speed up the process of the survey or interview. This is commonly referred to as least effort. The customer gives the answer that requires the least effort.

No matter the trigger for the Friendliness Effect, it can tarnish the results of your market research. The poor quality data gathered will not give your organization the true picture and answers to your core objectives.

How to Avoid the Friendliness Effect?

One of the easiest ways to avoid the Friendliness Effect is to avoid conducting surveys or interviews in person. Using online surveys is a great way to do this because it removes the face-to-face or over-the-phone bias.

If you must conduct in-person customer feedback collection, it is best to let a trained facilitator or moderator handle the process. This moderator should clearly outline he or she is in no way connected with the product or service design and development. By stating this, those providing feedback are more apt to provide their honest, unbiased answers.

When conducting online surveys, keep in mind fatigue can lead to the least effort bias. Keep your surveys reasonably short to avoid survey fatigue. In addition, position questions so that they are quick and brief.

Additionally, think about allowing survey takers to skip through non-critical questions (i.e. open-ends) rather than mandating they provide an answer. It is better to have a question skipped rather than forcing the customer to answer which may promote poor data quality.

Contact Our Team

Drive Research is a market research company located in Syracuse, NY. Our team of market researchers and moderators are well-trained on best-practices in market research and understands how to eliminate bias in the process.

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