Research is one of the most powerful tools that any entrepreneur has in their arsenal. It allows you to know what your customers think about your business and products, to identify your strengths are, uncover areas that you need to improve on, among many other things; it gives you information that you need to make more sound decisions.
As an entrepreneur and and emerging disruptor in research in the country today, Kirsten Lee Hill, PHD, believes that the key to doing your research right and getting quality information that you can use for your business is asking quality questions.
“Put simply, research is creating an intentional plan to answer a question you have, and then putting it into action,” she explains. “The key to good research is asking good questions, and crafting good questions is both an art and a science. To create a good question, you have to get specific about what it is you want to know.”
To better illustrate how entrepreneurs can get better information by asking specific questions, Dr. Kirsten cited the classic example of asking clients if they are satisfied with a product or service.
She says, “Personally, it is my least favorite question, and one that I never ask. To me, that question is a waste of space (and my clients’ goodwill). Big, vague words like “satisfaction” are not helpful in evaluating my work or making decisions.”
“To create a good question, you have to get specific about what it is you want to know. Instead of asking if someone is “satisfied” or if they “liked” your product/service, choose an area(s) of feedback that would provide meaningful information. If you’re selling a new shirt and people say they hate it, that’s not helpful. Instead, ask specific questions about the color, fit, and fabric so that you can take action on the feedback. I always recommend that people ask closed-ended questions (e.g., multiple choice, check all that apply, rating scale) rather than open-ended ones (write/type your response) ones. It’s easier and quicker for clients/customers to respond when you provide them with choices and those responses are much easier to analyze.”
Ultimately, she says, the goal is to get your hands on information that you can use to take your business to the next level. In addition to being specific, another thing that business owners need to learn is how to put discipline into what they communicate–including knowing HOW to ask questions.
“I think we often assume that people understand exactly what we are asking or WE think a question makes perfect sense but other people find it really confusing. If you only do one thing to improve your questions – sit down with someone and ask them to read the question aloud and tell you what they think it means. I’m consistently amazed by how much I learn through that simple process. ”
Dr. Kirsten Lee Hill earned her PhD from the University of Pennsylvania. She is a researcher, the owner of her own boutique consulting firm, and a podcaster. She uses research and evaluation as a means to help socially conscious organizations and individuals create more impact. To know more about her, you may visit www.kirstenleehill.com or follow @klh.consulting on Instagram.