Are your research efforts hurting the customer experience?

Are your research efforts hurting the customer experience?

Creating a positive customer experience is now the focus for many businesses. But how many realise that the act of measuring customer experience is also part of that experience?

Collecting customer feedback is now a key focus for many organisations. In many industries, where differences between products or services are small, customer experience is the only factor that differentiates between winners and losers. Research departments are instrumental by providing insights to improve that customer experience. But there is another important issue researchers should think about. Taking part in research is part of the customer’s experience. From their perspective, your requests for feedback aren’t separate from their experience when they visit your store, browse your website or speak to a customer service representative.

Please realise that when customer opt-in to participate in your surveys, discussions and online community activities, they’re agreeing to share their time, feedback and opinions with you. It’s critical to show that you respect this by considering their experience of the research and thinking about how they might feel after engaging with you. Improving the experience of your research activities doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are five simple recommendations to get you started.

1. Watch your language

The language and tone you use to speak with your respondents impacts how much time and feedback they’ll give you. Customers today have high expectations, and the way you ask things could either enhance or diminish the brand experience. Speak to them as equals rather than superiors or experts. Think about the last questionnaire you used. Do your questions sound like those from a tax inspector? If they do, it’s time to re-evaluate your approach. When you relate to respondents in an honest, simple and familiar way, the results will be greater brand trust, better engagement and more insightful feedback.

2. Value their time

Above all else, you should ditch long surveys. Most people prefer surveys to be 10 minutes or less, 5 minutes is better still. An alternative approach is to send a short survey first, and then follow up with those customers who have given certain answers. If you can’t avoid a longer questionnaire, make the experience interesting and fun. Also, be honest and upfront about the time commitment you need them to make. If you are transparent people are less likely to be irritated and complete the task. Let them know about their progress. Whilst progress bars are helpful, here are some other engaging ways of informing them how much more time a task should take to finish: ‘You are on the home straight’, ‘You’re making great progress – only three questions to go’, ‘You are almost at the finish line’ and so forth. Keeping participants informed shows that you empathise with them, and clearly demonstrates that you value their time.

3. Share insights

One of the frustrations many respondents have is that they have no idea whether their contribution has been helpful or how. This is even more relevant when taking part in longer-term activities such as online communities. Many join because they want to learn something new and you can nurture this motivation by sharing insights as you go along. For example, if you are running a community on fashion shopping, let them know what percentage of community members own a Prada handbag or Jimmy Choo shoes. Clearly, it’s not appropriate to share every insight, but by regularly sharing tidbits you are rewarding their participation, tickling their curiosity and stimulating further feedback. Also, such sharing allows your customers to know others and give them a sense of purpose and belonging.

4. Ask for feedback

You are obviously asking for feedback about the customer experience of the product or service, but what about the experience of the feedback process itself? Unless you ask, you will never know if people doze off when answering your surveys. Or you will never know why someone suddenly disappears from your community. Monitoring this feedback is critically important. It gives respondents the chance to tell you about their experience when participating in your research activities. This could be as simple as asking, “How enjoyable did you find this survey?” or “Did this survey feel relevant?” after each activity. Another option is to ask a more general question, for example, ‘Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about your experience?’, to inspire people to share views on things you haven’t even thought of.

5. Reflect who they are

This one applies to face to face interactions with interviewers. If you need to speak to young fashionistas, why employ middle aged women in hush-puppies? Similarly, if you are talking to high-ranking executives who drive luxury cars, why use twenty somethings wearing jeans and t-shirts? People are more likely to engage and give opinions to people who look like them and share similar attitudes and views. Consequently, when you spend a lot of time and effort recruiting the right respondents to take part in your research, you should spend just as much time and effort in finding the right interviewers.

So, what’s the key take out of this article?

Don’t let bad market research ruin the customer’s experience of your company. Customers will continue to choose businesses that provide a great experience. It’s time for market research teams to see their role as part of the wider customer experience delivery. Your customers aren’t merely respondents or numbers. They are individuals who want to be spoken to as equals, and who want to be listened to and valued.

It’s time to bring customer focus to all your research activities. 

If you would like help to align your insight programme with customer experience, please give us a call.

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