How to Create Customer Dialogue and Reduce Survey Fatigue

As a father of a toddler I’m no stranger to fatigue. Interestingly that also plays into one of the most common questions I get asked when it comes to customer experience managementWhat are some ways to reduce the risk of survey fatigue on the part of consumers?

Within surveys themselves there are four key elements that can serve to minimize fatigue on the part of a consumer:

1. Only ask important questions

Survey length is strongly correlated with drop-off rates in surveys. It is important that surveys only ask questions that are impactful to the results you want to achieve. A market insight driven approach to developing your survey based on a combination of cross-brand best practices and brand-specific loyalty modeling is the first step. Loyalty modeling can statistically determine which factors drive key outcomes, like overall satisfaction and likelihood to recommend, for your specific brand. This allows the survey design to prune questions that do not actually lead to useful results.

2. Make the survey appropriate for the medium

Data collection platforms should support a large range of media: computer web browsers, smartphones and tablets, or phone-based (IVR/CATI). Each media has different needs in terms of structure, length, and question wording in order to prevent fatigue. The ability to vary the set of questions, wording of questions and answers, and the visual layout of surveys for different media allows each survey medium to be used most effectively.

3. Give control to the respondent

Fatigue is caused by the mental state of the respondent – “This is taking too long” or “This feels like work.” Surveys can and should be segmented. All respondents are asked a short set of core questions and then given an option to complete a second longer segment that asked more detailed questions. Empathica’s testing with the same set of survey questions shows that adding this optional element reduces fatigue and results in more fully completed surveys.

4. Selective sampling

If it is not possible to create a survey of reasonable length due to the number of factors involved (operational efficiency, marketing, product feedback, etc.) then selective sampling can be used. This essentially allows you to use several smaller surveys at once. Any particular respondent will be asked a specific subset of questions. The ratio at which each subset of questions is asked can be set. For example, you may want 90 percent of respondents to be asked about operational efficiency and 10 percent about the effectiveness of a promotional campaign. In this manner no one particular respondent must answer everything but the total set of survey responses will give you insight across the full question set.

There are also methods to reducing fatigue across surveys:

Multiple surveys at once.

If you have a need to gather information about several discrete topics at once you can use selective sampling (described above). This allows you to invite a large respondent group and those that respond will be proportionally split across your surveys. You do not need to pre-segment your list and hope that enough respond from each group.

Multiple surveys over time (periodic eblasts).

While most satisfaction surveys are ongoing invitations, they can also be supplemented with periodic eblast services. Eblasts are based on specific lists of contacts and can be segmented to ensure that the same respondents are not over-invited to surveys.

Industry research has proven that the majority of consumers are interested in providing valuable feedback to retailers about their shopping experiences. However many companies seem to forget the tenets outlined above and are left struggling to understand why their programs aren’t getting the anticipated adoption by their customers. Plan to prevent fatigue during the build phases of your program and chances are excellent that you will experience higher response rates and less drop-offs.

How to Handle Negative Comments in Social Media

One of the most common questions I receive is about how a brand should combat negative comments in social media.

It’s true. There are many horror stories that you are most likely familiar with of negative word of mouth spreading like wildfire through social media (covered in one of our recent video blogs here). Employees and executives behaving badly, questionable product quality, poor treatment of customers – these are the stories that many people love to spread, and many brands in turn are wary of opening up their social media channels because of this. The reality is however that these are by no means the only comments about brands customers are making online.

In fact, customer experience programs that stress active advocacy may serve as the perfect solution for brands concerned about negative sentiment.

There is an old adage in sports that “the best defense is a good offense.” In other words, by being more proactive in any activity, you can reduce the harm caused by any oncoming risks.

In the world of social media and active advocacy this strategy has two prongs. First, by encouraging happy customers to become advocates of your brand, you can effectively build a safety net of positive sentiment throughout the online world that can cushion the negative effect from any negative comments that may pop up once in a while. What better counter to a negative portrayal of your brand online than to simply reference back to hundreds if not thousands of pre-existing positive stories of great brand experiences from your own happy customers.

A customer experience management program can also serve as an offensive weapon against negative commentary through the alert mechanisms that most have. These customer alerts allow brands to intercept unhappy customers at their moment of truth, allowing an opportunity for management or brand representatives to reach out personally to improve their brand experience before any negative sentiment is released to the world.

Customer alerts while simple in nature can be quite profound in their impact. By connecting brands directly to unhappy customers, brands are able to open up a true dialogue with them, to glean often meaningful insights, while also having an opportunity to create more advocates as well. After all, what better experience to share on social media than a brand so dedicated to customer service that they reached out to you in a timely and personal manner to correct an issue that you had reported.

Two facets of a simple strategy to reduce the risk of negative online sentiment the old-fashioned way: leverage positive word-of-mouth and never take a single customer for granted.

Back to School: A Chance for Retailers to Earn a Few A’s in Customer Satisfaction

Figures have historically shown that September is a month when retailers should be drawing customers into stores, as parents hit the shops ahead of the new term. In September 2011, retail volumes grew 0.6 percent month on month due to back-to-school and university purchases (UK National Office of Statistics). It will be interesting to see if this year differs.

Traditionally, the back-to-school period is an opportunity for retailers to deliver great customer experiences at this rather unique time of year. The back-to-school shopping trip is laden with emotion – excitement, anxiety, pride, dread, resentment – and that is just the parents. Some consumers will be overwhelmed with the costs involved and desperate to bargain hunt, others will only settle for the very best for Little Johnny – or maybe Big Johnny as he prepares to leave home for the first time. Either way, shopping trolleys are likely to be laden and there is a real chance to maximise sales and score points with customers by understanding their needs and responding accordingly.

Unfortunately, getting it wrong will not only mean that sales opportunities are missed but there is also likely to be a negative effect on long term customer loyalty. I remember the ritual of visiting Woolworth’s every year – new shorts, new pencil case, new geometry set – that so easily couldn’t have been set if the first visit had been a negative one. And this loyalty doesn’t just apply to the traditional stationery shop any more: the 357,915 new undergraduates (UCAS) this year will be requiring bedding, kitchen utensils, food, clothing, white goods, brown goods, computers, etc. The ritual is hard to break once formed, and highly valuable.

Starting infants’ school, moving to senior school and leaving home for university are all massive rites of passage with all elements of the process being inevitably relayed to friends and family in minute detail – online and offline. This could be a great marketing opportunity or a customer relations disaster! On a positive note, we know that 69 percent of consumers are willing to share great experiences (Empathica Consumer Insights 2011).

Our advice to retailers is pretty straightforward. The critical factors at this time of year are not that different to other times. Ensure staff are empowered and educated enough to provide advice as well as to man tills and to order sufficient stock levels for key products; prevent long queues forming and keep stocked up in core mandatory items. The key difference is that at this time of year the emotional resonance is turned up to 11 – making any let down much more impactful!

Whatever happens in reality this September, the critical discipline is to measure customer satisfaction alongside sales: not just how you perform against a checklist of standards, but how your customers feel. This will enable retailers to understand what really affects consumer behaviour in this very specific annual spending window which will allow better planning next year – and regardless of weather, or any other variable, September 2013 will again bring back-to-school fever.

If You Want to Develop a Great Brand, Ask the Right Questions

Customer feedback is not about numbers; it’s about delivering great customer experiences. Empowering each frontline staff member to deliver great experiences is the best way to differentiate your brand in a challenging economy. Consumers remain cautious and selective about where they spend their money, so exceeding their expectations is more important for brand success than ever.

Great customer experiences can drive active advocacy. In fact, 69% of consumers are willing to share great experiences with their friends and family. The best CEM programmes capture the unique ‘essence’ of your brand and help operators to understand why their customers become advocates and how to harness the power of recommendations.

Let’s start at the very beginning. You need to gain a deep understanding of what a great experience looks and more importantly feels like for your customers. What drives people to your brand? What causes them to be loyal and become advocates? What experiences will they share with friends and family?

But which questions are going to give you the customer insight you need to make your brand stand out from the competition? Customer engagement is an over-used phrase but you do need to connect with your customers at an emotional level to understand what really makes them tick. There’s a world of difference between asking whether a store appeared clean and whether the customer felt it to be welcoming and inviting. The right questions should always be personal to both your brand and your customers.

So, once you’ve gained insight into what your customers really feel and want, how are you going to harness this knowledge to give your brand a competitive advantage? It’s easy to try to be the best at everything – but unfortunately, this isn’t usually an achievable goal. You need to focus on your own brand strengths and exploit competitors’ weaknesses.

Let’s take a fast food restaurant example. Restaurant A may score highly on factors such as menu variety, speed of service and price. But Restaurant B could tap into the market opportunity to produce high-quality food delivered with exceptional service in an extremely welcoming environment. The food may be a little more pricey and it may take longer to prepare – but most customers appreciate that you generally get what you pay for. As the saying goes, all good things come to he who waits.

It’s only by asking the right questions that you can gain valuable insight into what real customers think and feel about your brand, giving you the knowledge you need to help your brand succeed. The best CEM programmes help brands to stay ahead of the competition by empowering them to turn research into experiential reality.

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