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Disappointment over disruption of Customer Satisfaction Survey

11 May 2023

Buller District Council is disappointed to discover that efforts were made to disrupt and manipulate its recent Customer Satisfaction Survey

The survey, which ran throughout March, initially showed an excellent community response of more than 700 responses, but analysis of the data carried out after the survey had closed showed that 499 responses were invalid.

Research First, the company managing the survey for council, found evidence that the online link was spammed in the final two weeks of the survey. This included filling out the survey using the same prize draw email (which was valid only once), gibberish responses, reoccurring responses, which is evidence of copying and pasting the exact same responses across multiple surveys.

Acting chief executive Rachel Townrow says: "This is incredibly disappointing. The goal of the survey was to encourage residents to share their views with council on their interactions with us. It’s an important opportunity for people throughout Buller to share their thoughts on their experiences with council, so that we can be guided on future decision-making.

“What this behaviour has done is given us a smaller than ideal number of valid responses to work with at 244, when the data is statistically more valid with 400 responses or more. Had this not happened, we might have extended the survey window and used different approaches to encourage more people to participate. We genuinely value hearing people’s views and are very grateful to the residents who filled out their survey in good faith.

“We are moving ahead with the analysis of the genuine responses we got from people in the community, and we want to make it clear we really appreciate the people who contributed in good faith. We will still of course go ahead and do the prize draw out of those responses as promised.

“We are talking with the research company about better ways to assess and monitor the survey responses while the survey is still live to give us a better chance of avoiding a situation like this again in the future.

“Unfortunately, it appears that this methodology of the survey, using an open online form, is vulnerable to spamming if people are determined to do so. Other options such as conducting call centre interviews and distributing closed link surveys with individual passwords are possible, but can create barriers to participation and pose additional costs to council. We will review the tools we can use to measure and monitor customer satisfaction in the future,” says Ms Townrow.


For more information, please contact
Acting Chief Executive
Rachel Townrow