It shouldn’t be a surprise that customer experience (CX) is now a focus for many companies. According to Forrester, a small improvement in CX translates to millions of dollars in additional revenue per year. In many industries, CX is the competitive advantage that differentiates winners from losers.
The buzz on CX is relevant and timely to the market research industry. For one, the research team provides the insight companies need to improve the end-to-end customer experience. But there’s another compelling reason why researchers should think about CX: research activities, by their very nature, are part of the customer experience. From the customer’s perspective, the surveys and discussions they receive from your company aren’t separate from their brand experience when they visit your store or when they interact with a customer service rep.
When people opt-in to participate in your surveys, discussions and other online community activities, they’re agreeing to share their time, feedback and opinions with you. It’s critical to show that you respect your customers’ time by considering their experience and thinking about how they might feel after engaging with you.
Improving the experience in your research activities doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are four simple tactics to get you started.
1. Watch your tone
The tone you use to engage with your customers impacts how much time they’ll give you. Customers today have high expectations, and the tone you choose could either enhance or diminish the brand experience. Speak to your customers as allies rather than superiors, as consultants rather than robots, as adults rather than toddlers.
Think about the last few activities in your online community. Do your questions sound like questions from a tax form? If so, it’s time to re-evaluate your tone. When you relate to your customers in an honest, familiar way that adds value to their life, the result will be greater brand trust and engagement.
2. Encourage and show progress
In general, you should avoid long surveys. In fact, according to the GRIT Consumer Participation in Research study in March 2017, 81 percent of people prefer surveys to be 15 minutes or less.
A better approach is to send a short survey and do follow-up activities engaging only the relevant people. But if you can’t avoid sending a long activity, make sure the experience is fun and seamless for your customers.
First, be upfront about the time commitment. If you’re transparent about the estimated amount of time it will take to finish an activity, people will be less likely to be irritated.
Letting people know about their progress will also help. Some Vision Critical customers add playful commentary throughout their insight community activities to inform customers how much more time it should take to finish. Here are some examples I’ve seen:
- You’re nearly there—just three more questions
- Exciting stuff, right? The finish line is in sight.
- We’re making some good headway. Click “next” to find out how many are left.
This approach, coupled with a progress bar at the top or bottom, lets your customers know that you empathize with them, and it demonstrates that you value their time.
3. Share results
One of the reasons why customers join online communities is to learn something new. You can tap into this motivation by sharing what other people in the community have shared.
Include charts and other visuals in your community to allow your customers to compare their answers to their peers. For example, if you’re running a study on home-buying, you could share what percentage of people in your community recently purchased their first home.
Of course, it’s not appropriate to share every finding and insight, but by regularly sharing back results to your community members, you’re giving them something to chew on before they move on to another question or activity. Sharebacks allow your customers to get to know other people in the community, which could help foster a sense of purpose and belonging.
4. Ask for feedback on the experience
Unless you ask for honest feedback, you may never know that people are falling asleep when they answer your surveys. Monitoring your community’s response rates is important, but it’s just as crucial to give people an opportunity to share their input about their experience when they participate in your research activities. This could be as simple as asking, “How engaging did you find this survey?” or “Did this survey feel relevant?” after each activity.
Another option is to ask a more general question (such as “Is there anything else you’d like to share?”) to encourage people to share their perspectives on things you haven’t thought of.
Don’t let bad market research activities ruin CX
Customers will continue to choose brands that provide a great experience. It’s time for market researchers to see their roles as part of the CX ecosystem. Your customers aren’t merely respondents—they’re people who want to be spoken to as equals and who want to be listened to. It’s time to bring the human element to all your research activities.