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If context is King, are traditional surveys the Jester of the marketing mix?

Today, it is widely accepted that the holy grail of successful customer engagement can only be achieved through delivering a truly customised and personalised customer experience at every touch point, whether in store or online. Brands are working hard to win over highly empowered consumers who now expect not only to have their needs met instantly, regardless of the contact channel, but who also expect a brand to really know and understand them as an individual, knowing both their actions and attitudes – but how can these expectations be met?

For many years surveys have been used by marketers as the primary tool for researching the attitudes of consumers on a broad array of topics relating to the brand, in turn using the information gathered to affect positive change. However, despite the approach to customer engagement evolving into a first party relationship, the design and implementation of this method of feedback hasn’t changed for decades. Traditional surveys only provide brands with limited, usually anonymous, feedback. They lack context and often don’t engage a consumer at a personal level, hence why more and more people decide not to engage in a generic feedback process, unless of course they are disgruntled already and want to make a point.

To maintain a constant level of feedback brands have spent fortunes on incentivising consumers to respond, however this has led to perpetuating more of the same inconsistent and irrelevant information. So the main question is: why wouldn’t brands turn generic survey processes into engaging and highly relevant opportunities to connect with their customers? It’s time that brands become engagement led rather than research led.

Context and personalisation is key and contextualising surveys is the only way to gain the level of insight required to understand the individual customer and meet their expectations of you as a brand.  Brands need to go a step further and dynamically contextualise surveys based on a customer’s recent activity, providing feedback at an experience level that is current and 100 per cent actionable. Brands can then start to use feedback as part of the marketing communications mix. According to recent research by Walker[i], the customer of 2020 will be more informed and have greater power to influence the wider experience  on offer, meaning customers will expect brands to know who  they are and what they’ve done (actions),  linked to how they feel about their brand relationship (attitude). Taking this into consideration, brands must take heed and ensure they’re collecting and assembling data across the customer engagement spectrum to build a 360 degree view of the customer.

Contextualised surveys provide brands with the opportunity to use contextualised feedback to influence the customer journey, as such they are far more likely to gain information that can be tightly linked to outcomes and actions, ultimately driving business improvements. It’s expected that customer experience will overtake price and product, according to Walker, so to not use feedback to influence the customer journey is a glaring mistake.

With this in mind, how information is utilised to create a survey is just as important as the way a survey is broached with customers, including the design and implementation of the survey itself.

For example, if a customer visits a store every day to buy their lunch, they may well miss any request to fill out an inbound survey on a poster or on their receipt, and if they do see the request, they may not go out of their way to complete it. Let’s assume that the retailer has a loyalty programme and the lunch purchase is linked to the swipe of a loyalty card. Imagine the improvement in both feedback volumes and content if the retailer sends this loyal customer an email shortly after one of their visits, which thanks them for choosing to buy their lunch with them every day and asks for their specific feedback following their experience that day. As you can imagine, they’re more likely to pay attention and respond. If the survey can be easily accessed via an embedded link, with survey questions tailored to them as an individual, they are far more likely to invest the time. Plus if the retailer throws a personalised incentive into the mix - in this instance it could be a free lunch - the customer will feel personally rewarded and incentivised to shop again and again.

Whilst traditional surveys are effective in analysing particular areas of service a brand wants feedback on, personally contextualised surveys provide the ability to analyse the experience of each individual customer, generating a two way conversation between them and the brand. This results in actionable information on specific transactional behaviour and if done well, will engender long term loyalty through the improvement of service delivery. Not only does this level of detail give brands the opportunity to reward and incentivise customers to shop  again, it increases the likelihood that customers will want to complete future surveys, allowing brands to improve the experience at an individual level and turn what was once a mundane, disconnected research process into a holistic engagement led activity. This gives us as marketers a chance to truly practice what we preach!


[i] http://www.walkerinfo.com/customers2020/