It seems as though everyone is surveying their customers nowadays. Fast food companies, auto manufacturers, networking groups, and any other business or service related organization seems to want your opinion about your experience with them. And they have a variety of ways of trying to get you to participate. Phone numbers or websites on a receipt, printed surveys handed out at meetings, and e-mail surveys as well are becoming more and more common. Some businesses even try to entice you to take their survey by offering a free item the next time you visit.But to equate these surveys with actual market research can lead your business to some wrong conclusions, and eventually have a negative impact on your bottom line. Even more “sophisticated” surveying tools such as SuveyMonkey™ or SurveyGizmo™ should not be confused with valid market intelligence.It’s important to remember that surveys are simply a form of data collection. The type of survey utilized can dramatically impact the quality of the results you receive. Let’s take that phone number on the back of the restaurant receipt from last night’s dinner. Your server probably mentioned that if you take the survey, you’ll get some sort of free gift (dessert, drink, etc.). As Shapard Research’s CEO, Bill Shapard, often remarks, “Virtually the only people who take these surveys are people angry about their service or related to the server.”The very fact that the people taking the survey have a bias (positive or negative) ensures the results you gain are not statistically viable. Taking such results and using them to make decisions on everything from employee training, product offerings, customer service, and pricing can lead you to very wrong conclusions. And those wrong conclusions can cost your business money.This is why it is so essential to utilize the services of a market research firm when trying to utilize the opinions, preferences, or insights from current or prospective customers to guide strategic decision-making. A quality market research firm will be able to sit down with you, design a methodology that will achieve your goals, and provide insight on how to effectively utilize the results from your project.At the end of the day, market intelligence is built around gathering the most accurate data possible about your customers or prospective customers. Substituting poorly designed tools for statistically valid research will cost your company in the long-run. So do your research right and find a quality market research firm to help you gain accurate information that will translate into greater profitability for your business.