Expectations Scales: 3 versus 5 points

Expectations Scales: 3 versus 5 points

Recently, we were collaborating with a client about a project, and she asked us which Expectation Scale we should use – 3 or 5 point.

If you’re not familiar with Expectation Scales, this is what they typically look like:

This is a 3-Point Expectation Scale:

This is a 5-Point Expectation Scale:

Expectation Scales are widely used in market research. They are:

– easy for people to understand

– can be deployed in virtually any category

– provide definitive information across a multitude of factors

So, they have a lot going for them!

While the 5-Point Expectation Scale is useful and widely popular, the 3-Point Scale is easier for consumers to work with, and it carries more meaning for the researcher when it comes to analysis.

The beauty of a 3-Point Scale is that it does not leave room for a gray area.  It requires that the consumer make a definitive answer – positive, negative, or neutral.  While the 5-Point Scale might soften the blow a bit for an under-performing product, it also can artificially boost an average product.  On the other hand, the 3-Point Scale leaves minimal room for error – either positively or negatively.

I think of our preferences for expectations scales a bit like our preferences for removing a band aid – you can go slowly, taking off the edges bit by bit until you peel it off  – that’s a 5-Point.  Or, you can go fast and just rip it – yup, that’s the 3-Point! Now, which one are you?