Companies are trying to listen to their customers, but if it's not a good experience for them, you're missing an opportunity to enhance brand experience and win repeat customers.
Many companies approach consumer insights as a sideshow, something that's low priority. And that's a problem because surveys and other engagement activities are, in fact, an important point of contact, and a place where brands can strengthen their relationships with their customers.
Bad research is bad marketing, and if your research activities don't provide great customer experiences, you are inadvertently damaging your brand. Here are some tips on how to use research activities to work for your brand, instead of against it:
1. Obsess over each customer touch point.
To build brand loyalty, companies need to ensure that all teams that interact with customers provide the best possible experience. CMOs know this best: it's why editorial, marketing, and store management go through ruthless quality checks. Top-notch marketing teams would never allow a print article to be badly laid out, store signage to be misspelled, or a LinkedIn ad to have an illegible font.
So why do companies allow ugly, old-school surveys to go out? Every customer touch point matters—and surveys sent to millions of customers are certainly touch points. If your surveys are still grey and only allow checkboxes and text, you're already behind. Just look at what websites look like these days; people expect the same experience in your surveys. If your surveys still look like they'd be right at home in Netscape, you might find your brand following the old browser's ill-fated destiny.
2. Abandon the ad hoc approach.
It's not just about the look and feel of surveys; they also tend to be long and dull. As a consumer, imagine being asked to rate 24 different ads, where you live with a list of 192 countries written in tiny font, along with irrelevant questions about things you haven't watched.
Why are these surveys so time-consuming and boring? Because some companies treat consumer insights as an ad hoc activity. Many companies run lean insight teams in an effort to save money, outsourcing many of their activities to agencies. This is problematic when you're not engaging your agency the whole year since that requires them to cram everything in one survey. Don't let an ad hoc approach and external parties impact the experience for your customers.
3. Build the marketing skills of your in-house research teams.
When marketing and research teams don't talk to each other, the customer experience suffers. Where is the snappy layout seen in the same company's advertisements? What about the targeted content or voice in their marketing emails?
To deliver the best survey experience, brands need to build the marketing expertise of their in-house research teams, and vice versa. By broadening the skills of these teams and by making sure they're communicating with each other, brands can help ensure that their research activities build goodwill with customers who are willing to provide their feedback.
4. Reflect consistent branding in your research activities.
Nowadays consumers use their smartphones for most online activity. Unfortunately, a lot of surveys are clunky on mobile. Don't give your customers fat-finger complex with tiny radio buttons they can't select easily on a touchscreen.
Beyond usability, a lot of surveys don't look or feel the same as the company's other apps or mobile web design. When research activities are seen as low priority, bad customer experience happens. Companies end up sending surveys using different software platforms, and research and CRM software tend not to be integrated. The result is a user experience that lacks cohesion with the company's branding.
How can you provide a more consistent experience for your customers and research participants? By following branding 101. You don't have 10 disconnected websites, loyalty programs, or CRM systems, so why should customers see something different whenever you're asking for feedback? Standardize more, and use a common platform for feedback. As it does in marketing, consistency in research activities will provide a better brand experience.
5. Make it a two-way conversation.
More of your customers would probably respond to your surveys if they had a sense of what's in it for them. They already buy from you, and they might want to help you improve. They'll even give you their time and opinions. But the value for them isn't clear. They don't hear back from you after providing their thoughts, and they don't know if their opinions made a difference.
If you're treating research activities as a one-way street, then you might be turning people off because they don't know how their participation is beneficial to them. People are eager to share their thoughts and their time with brands, but they need to know that their time isn't wasted.
A lot of creative hard work goes into creating the right brand experience for your customers. Stop letting bad research practices undo it. Start reviewing all your customer touch points— including your research activities—and hold your research activities to the same quality standard you apply to any other customer interaction.