If you’re in a successful business, you likely use surveys in some way. Whether you’re collecting customer feedback, testimonials, NPS scores or implicit memory associations, your surveys form the foundation of product development efforts, branding and customer service. It doesn’t matter who you are or what line of business you’re in — market research and customer feedback are critical.
The GRIT Report, a leading market research publication, recently surveyed 3,930 researchers to measure industry sentiment and forecast trends in market research. The results showed that 39% of researchers expect the quality of feedback to worsen over the next three years, while only 19% of researchers expect quality to increase. In other words, despite the advancing technology in questionnaires and surveys, companies are, generally speaking, getting worse insights about their customers.
This isn’t a big data problem, either. Big data has allowed researchers to resist this trend for some time by using quantitative behavioral data to gather new types of insights about people. That is a wholly separate type of data than qualitative feedback.
Real qualitative feedback tells you exactly how happy someone is, whether your logo makes them cringe and whether or not they were impressed with that last product you released. In our work at Vivid Labs, this qualitative feedback is just as important — if not more — than the big data we collect. The fact that the quality of this feedback is declining means we need to start paying attention to fixing the problem.
The GRIT Report went on to cite a few possible causes for this reduction in feedback quality:
Only after you’ve invested in getting a customer can you begin the process of getting their honest feedback. That takes time and money, and if you’re not paying attention, it could take a lot more of both.
The Art Of Reciprocity
Typically, businesses and research agencies try to convince respondents to stick around after a phone call for a “brief” survey. They may also send an email or piece of physical mail requesting that people take time out of their day to fill out (and possibly mail back) a lengthy questionnaire. I’ll let you guess how well those campaigns perform.
If you want a favor from your respondents, you might want to consider being the first to give. Reciprocity is a well-known mental effect that pushes us to return a favor when one is given to us. Free samples are the most common example of reciprocity in action. But when it comes to providing feedback, reciprocity alone isn’t enough.
It’s a lot easier to get someone to try a free sample of sesame chicken in the mall than it is to pay someone cold hard cash for a few answers. Digital acts of kindness have simply lost value over the years. According to a 2016 study using holiday cards, researcher Brian P. Meier found that a combination of digital suspicion and email overwhelm cause people to mentally dismiss free offers that are sent out digitally rather than physically.
Offer a physical gift to respondents before you approach them with a survey. This is different from an incentive, which is delivered after the fact. Sending a gift rather than cash changes the basis of the request from financial to relationship-based. Here are some examples of gifts that I have personally seen work well:
• Customized Kitchen Supplies: Although these will cost a bit more (and are better suited for bigger “asks”), customized kitchen and dining products such as Santoku knives and butcher blocks make for great statement pieces that are regularly put to use.
• Unique/Limited Edition Gifts: Something unique to the location in which you work or a limited edition gift would be a great starting point. We send locally roasted coffee from Daz Bog (a coffee roaster based out of Denver, our agency’s HQ city) as a way to extend our own culture into the offices of our clients.
• Product Upgrade: If you are looking for product feedback from existing customers, try sending them upgrades to the products they just bought.
Once the physical gift has been sent to the recipient’s residence or office, wait a day or two to ask for the survey completion. This is enough time for them to truly enjoy the gift without immediately getting inauthentically “upsold” to the survey request.
The ‘Cool Kids’ Club
Following other people makes us feel comfortable. This effect is universal, and it can lead your respondents to give you more feedback. According to a 2014 study by Anant Sudarshan, when households were told that their neighbors were consuming comparatively less electricity each month, their own power consumption dropped. This same effect can be found in your own respondents if you tell them that survey completion is popular.
Instead of relying on their goodwill to complete the survey, try using peer comparisons, such as: “75% of our customers complete this survey” or “3 out of 4 people provided feedback on this experience.” This could help to increase the likelihood of completion and have them feeling happy they followed the crowd.
Stay Open And Creative
There are many ways to begin collecting high-quality feedback from your customers and survey respondents. Try using the strategies outlined here, or make up some of your own, in order to start reversing the trends that the market research industry is seeing. The sooner you do that, the sooner you can get back to improving your business.