There are a number of ways to analyze your data, from hiring a survey research group to buying an online program, to entering the data yourself into an Excel spread sheet. The latter is more time-consuming and will have less out-of-pocket costs than the other choices. Basic analysis will involve calculating statistics such as mean (average) and range, which can be accomplished with your spreadsheet. Your spreadsheet can also graph data via a pie or bar chart, which can be helpful in visualizing your results.
More complex analysis might include running a regression analysis. In short, regression analysis attempts to mathematically determine the relationship between a dependent variable and one or more independent variables. In a business setting, you might model sales as your dependent variable and expenditures on advertising as a simple model, i.e., sales is dependent upon advertising expenditures. In this case the result would tell you quantitatively how much sales respond to changes in dollars spent on advertising. For a very quick explanation see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gb4qqX4uhYA .
We mentioned non-response bias above, and this can occur in a survey if the answers of your respondents differ from the potential answers of those who did not answer. There are different ways to test for nonresponse bias. In email surveys some values are already known from all potential participants (e.g., age, business, male, female, counties) and can be compared to the values that prevail in the subgroup of those who answered. If there is no significant difference, this is an indicator that there may be no nonresponse bias. In email and mail surveys those who didn’t answer can also be phoned and a small number of survey questions can be asked. If their answers don’t differ significantly from those who answered the survey, there should be no nonresponse bias.
Using the results
The results of your survey can be a great source of input as you make changes to move your grain and feed business forward. We urge you to take the actions you feel make the most sense. Remember, survey results give you good information, but this information must be evaluated with your knowledge of your business and the market.
Be sure and let your audience know that you paid attention to their input and that their input influenced the actions of your business. People appreciate knowing their voice was heard and appreciate it even more when they realize you followed up on their suggestions. This can be important for loyalty from customers who completed a customer survey and commitment from employees who completed a climate workplace survey. All in all, periodic surveys can be an appropriate tool in your management toolbox.
Dr. Joan Fulton is Professor and Associate Department Head, Department of Agricultural Economics and Center for Food and Agricultural Business, Purdue University. Dr. John Foltz is Associate Dean, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and Professor, Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology, University of Idaho. Barbara Foltz is Survey Operations Manager for the Social Science Research Unit, Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology, University of Idaho.