Website versus traditional survey comments: Do they tell the same story?

Randall Brandt and Michael House
Maritz, USA

Introduction

Like it or not, social media are pervasive and companies simply cannot ignore them. Today, a plethora of general and industry-specific websites make it possible for consumers to read what other consumers have to say about everything from hotels to hospitals, restaurants to repair services, and caterers to car dealerships. These same sites also make it possible for consumers to share their own experiences, often in the form of ratings and open-ended comments very similar to those captured via traditional service quality or customer satisfaction surveys.

Some argue that as the number and accessibility of such websites increase, traditional survey research will be increasingly unnecessary, because the type of data typically furnished by surveys will be public and essentially "there for the taking." Others respond by saying that, while website data are cheap and accessible, they also are not as representative or projectable as traditional surveys, and therefore should be treated as a supplement to, rather than a substitute for, such surveys.