The quality of responses to an open-ended question like this is likely to be extremely scattered. At one end of the spectrum, you are likely to get off-the-cuff replies that are best ignored. At the other, you may get a few inspired ideas that give your whole project a boost. The bulk of the replies, however, are likely to be mundane. The most useful things to note are the incidence of popular mentions and those features that are largely ignored.
If a respondent is reluctant to reply or will only respond in a form you can't understand, you can't play God and decide what they mean. You just have to strike that interview even though this increases the number of questionnaires you have to conduct.
The biggest query over any questionnaire is whether respondents are telling the truth. However scrupulously you conduct your survey, some people will give you the answers they think you want to hear, or supply an answer that conceals more than it reveals. This happened spectacularly in the 1993 U.K. General Election. The Labour Party had an 8 percent lead according to all the polls. When the results came in John Major (Margaret Thatcher's successor) won by 2 percent. How come? Basically, it was uncool to admit supporting Conservatives at the time. When questioned by the market researchers a large number of respondents fibbed.
What do you feel is a fair price? If you phrase a question like this, you will inevitably get less reliable answers than you seek. (Why should respondents make a rod for their own back and pay more?) If the prices suggested vary disconcertingly, consider analyzing them by type of company, position of respondent, geographical area, or whatever else you think might account for such a marked disparity. An obvious market division will often appear. Other times, you may arrive at a more useful figure (as already suggested) by averaging respondents' answers.
A post mortem may suggest that they have given you a realistic price within their authorized signing limit. Thus, the price suggested by a personal assistant might be understandably lower than a price suggested by corporation chiefs. Conversely, potential users may rate a program's concept more highly than their chief financial officer. In the end, you may have to go for a compromise between your historical costs and your prospects' expectations. Provided you have sound reasons for your price, you should be able to explain it satisfactorily to anyone.
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