In my previous article, I shared key points and recommendations for developing a holistic Customer Insights Strategy. From defining your purpose and building out your research plan to interdepartmental collaboration and post-project follow up, it is important to get all your ducks in a row before launching a market research or voice of customer project. If you missed that article or want to revisit what was discussed, you can find it here.
The importance of starting with strategic development before acting is that once the wheels are turning, there’s not going back without burning the time and resources already spent. As a small business, we need to be targeted and efficient with our efforts. So, our Customer Insights Strategy provides a framework and a point of reference moving forward. If something’s working well, we want to build on that success. If we notice a bump in the road, we want to adjust the course. Either way, it’s about agility, continued progress and maximizing resources along the way.
That said, through the strategic planning process, it can feel overwhelming to see all the things we want to accomplish in one place. Some brands feel it’s most productive to conduct one big research project to address each goal and topic at the same time. Why not, right? If you’re going to ask customers for feedback, might as well cover all bases while you have their attention. That would also provide all the customer insights you’ll need for the year, and you wouldn’t have to keep asking for more feedback. I can see the appeal of this approach, but through experience I can tell you there are more risks than rewards.
Instead of the all-in-one annual survey approach, I recommend conducting a series of “Pulse Surveys” throughout the year.
What is a Pulse Survey?
Essentially, you’re breaking down the points covered in the big annual survey and spreading it out across a longer timeframe. These surveys are shorter, more focused, and dive deeper into the topics covered. Scheduling can vary depending on your goals and needs. For example, they can be weekly, monthly, or triggered by an event or specific customer behavior. Ideally, these surveys are delivered at a time when the topics covered are relevant and fresh in the respondent’s mind.
Why should I use them?
There are many reasons for conducting pulse surveys, but one that stands out is the customer’s experience. Nobody wants to spend 45 minutes completing a survey – myself included. Not only are they exhausting, but they also cause concerns around results reliability. As survey fatigue sets in, respondent interest and focus will fade. When that happens, responses may be more about getting the survey over with rather than providing meaningful feedback.
By keeping the survey brief and focused on a relevant topic, respondent attention and consideration remain strong. In addition, they will be more likely to participate in the next survey delivered because they know it’s a reasonable time commitment and topic matters to them.
How are they structured and designed?
Since these surveys are short and sweet, you can afford to be more creative with how they’re presented. Whether it’s using imagery instead of text response options or creating a storyline rather than a series of standard questions, this can double as both a feedback mechanism and a brand engagement touchpoint. Small businesses have an advantage in this area because there tends to be more flexibility around expressing brand personality. Rather than having to jump through approval hoops and keep within stringent branding guidelines, we can explore creative avenues and test new design elements.
As for backend development and structure, pulse surveys are a great opportunity for question branching and conditional logic. The questions they receive can be based on their response to the previous question. From your view, there may be 20 questions programmed, but the customer only sees five of them. This drill-down approach allows for deeper insight and more detailed follow up questioning rather than a static form which pins everyone to the same board.
When should they be sent?
This is the beauty of pulse surveys – there’s no limitation to when, where, or how they are delivered. Obviously, like anything else, there can be too much of a good thing. So, you don’t want to overdo it. But another advantage of being a small business is the close, tight-knit relationship we have with our customers. They are often eager to provide feedback because they feel a vested interest and consider themselves part of the brand. We can build on those feelings by regularly asking for their input and opinions which keeps them involved in the development of our brand.
Another benefit of having a flexible send schedule is supporting agile decisions. Our world is in a constant state of flux, which means trends, opportunities, and challenges can pop up without notice. When they do, a pulse survey can provide much needed customer insight to help guide your decision making. Since previous pulse surveys have established a relationship where asking for customer feedback is not out of the ordinary, you can quickly address topics as they arise and just as quickly apply the findings.
Who will benefit from the results?
In short, anyone and everyone can benefit. It’s likely that a one-time annual survey would have addressed the needs of multiple departments. The difference is that with pulse surveys, each department will have their own time to shine. They can script questions and plan delivery based on their specific objectives at any given point. Not only will this ensure the information they receive is timely and accurate, but it will also keep internal resource distribution balanced and provide opportunities for cross-departmental collaboration.
At MacKenzie, we customize each project based on the needs of our clients. In some cases, the one-time annual survey is the best option. In other cases, there are opportunities to leverage pulse surveys. Occasionally, it’s a hybrid approach that makes the most sense. Regardless of how customer insights are gathered, the most important part is taking action based on what we learn.
So, the next article of this series will highlight the power of “Data Storytelling” and outline a few ideas for bringing your customer insights to life.
Want to review or get caught up with the previous articles in this series? They can be found here:
Series Intro: Thriving as a Small Business
Part 1: The Role of Customer Insights
Part 2: Customer Insights Strategy