Market research, now in portaloos

Market research always does its best to enter every facet of our lives, but Christchurch mobile feedback start up company Texsys has taken it to a whole new level, asking Christchurch residents what they think of the recovery effort—while they’re on the dunny. They’ve done so by developing a software that allows multiple question surveys to be systematically completed via text message.

For the last three weeks Texsys, which had previously only dabbled in mobile customer feedback, has been working with the council to engage residents in a very personalised setting to get their views and opinions about the recovery effort. Posters have been placed on the inside of portaloo doors detailing how Cantab’s can get their views across to the council.

Managing director of Texsys, Adam Hutchinson, says it’s part of Kiwi nature to not complain face to face.

“We made a text version of a customer feedback system about three years ago so people didn’t have to complain face to face.”

Hutchinson says a perfect example of this behaviour is when Kiwis eat out at restaurants but may have complaints about bad food or service.

“For some reason it’s in our culture that we don’t want to complain or cause a fuss in person, but then we’ll go home and complain to our family and friends.”

The idea to grow into surveying as opposed to feedback came when Hutchinson was walking around Christchurch and saw the queues outside the portaloos. Originally the posters were put up without the councils permission so were taken down. Not a problem for Hutchinson, who had a good chat with council and got them on board in the end.

Residents visiting a portaloo were asked to initiate the survey by sending a keyword text, triggering the first question. Following a text response, sequential questions are sent until the survey is completed.

The three texts ask each respondent whether they’re concerned about the future of Christchurch, how they rate the recovery effort so far, and their vision for the future of the city.

Over 200 posters have been put up over the past three weeks, and just over 150 people have responded with their views.

On how the city should be rebuilt, comments included:

  • Low rise wooden/earthquake proof buildings
  • Open and inviting, spacious, lots of greenery and playgrounds
  • Inner city living or university and new city attractions and art
  • Making Christchurch a leading city with amazing architecture, new ways of being sustainable, and something that has never been done before
  • Thinking green with parks and green spaces business parks bordering the town and taking more of a sustainable living approach

Lincoln University’s head of department, Charley Lamb, acknowledges traditional surveying is presented with difficulties.

“Surveying is getting harder and harder using conventional methods such as phone interviews, face to face and mail surveys because people are time poor, therefore any technology such as this enabling greater functionality also enables efficiency,” says Lamb.

As for Hutchinson, he says future surveying projects will include a demo survey that uncovers mobile phone habits on planes, and what percentage of people turn their phone on before the pilot says it’s ok to do so. He also has an idea to find out how many people pretend to text in social situations, which, through perhaps not overly useful, should at least prove interesting in a quirky sense.







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