Conducting research with your own customers
Article by Kevin Smith, author at OnePoll
So you have a customer base and you’d like to conduct an online survey to find out their thoughts on a number of topics. But where do you start? Below are our top tips on how to successfully poll your own customers.
As with any research project, understanding your overall aims and objectives for the research should be your first priority. Are you using the research to gauge ongoing customer satisfaction, or as a one off project? Do you want some form of written responses, or purely statistical? If the survey is ongoing, how often would you want to pull the data down? These sorts of questions will affect how you structure your survey and the style of questioning.
There are a wealth of options online whereby you can download or use standard questionnaires. These can be somewhat dangerous as they encourage a lazy and standardised approach. If you are investing time and money into insight amongst your customers or clients, you should fully immerse yourself into understanding exactly what questions you want to ask and what options should be included in those questions. Start with a blank canvas and your results will thank you for it.
The beauty of polling your own database is that ‘you’ are in control of the look and feel of the survey. With this in mind, be sure to include elements in your survey that your contacts will be familiar with. Incorporate your brand identity and this will ensure your respondents will feel at ease answering the survey and trust where their data is going. If you can, include your brand name in the survey url as an additional touch. Keep these design elements consistent too if you are emailing a link to your database with the survey url.
Any experienced researcher will tell you how important it is to ensure you keep your respondents engaged during a survey, but this is even more important when surveying your own contacts. Whereas we have a panel of our own that are used to answering surveys, your panel will not fill out surveys on a weekly basis. Therefore, be sure to offer the respondents good variation with question types, question wording and engaging media such as images and videos. The more ‘pretty’ the survey looks, the more likely the respondent will complete the job.
Don’t forget too to add in questions that you may want to cut the data by at the end. For example, if you want to cut by gender or age, be sure to add those into the survey questions.
When respondents start a survey, it’s vitally important to ensure they understand what the survey is about, why it is being conducted, what will happen with the results, how long it will take and (where applicable) what reward or prize they are entitled to. This paints a picture for the respondent and brings them on board with your aims and objectives. The more invested the respondent is, the better quality data they will provide for you. If they understand how long the survey will take from the start, they will more likely continue to the end.
As with the nature of online quantitative research, we can become somewhat obsessed with stats and figures. The real secret to a strong piece of research is to gather not only percentages, but also written responses from the respondents. For example, if you know that 5% didn’t do something, why not ask ‘why?’ and have them write a little explanation. You can then go over this data post study and dig a little deeper to understand the thoughts and opinions behind those answers.
Fortunately here at OnePoll, we have a tried and tested incentive scheme for our panelists that ensures we gain excellent response rates and a high standard of data. For respondents that aren’t used to being part of an incentivised panel, it is worth considering offering them something in return for their time spent responding to your survey. This could be freebies, discounts on products or an entry into a prize draw. You can then gather contact details during the survey (with their consent) and announce the winner post research.
Don’t be fooled with this being low down on our list, as keeping a survey short and snappy is perhaps our most important piece of advice. Whilst you will want to take this opportunity to ask as many questions as possible, try and remain as focused as possible. Avoid asking any questions that won’t be completely useful to you. Ideally, the survey shouldn’t last longer than 10-15 minutes for the respondent to complete. Any more than this and there is a high chance respondents will drop out. And again, be sure to let the respondents know how long the survey will likely take at the very start of the survey.
We often hear clients talk about how big their database is and how they expect to receive thousands of responses to their survey – however, at this point you need to be realistic. A cold database that isn’t used to answering surveys will likely see under 5% response rate, perhaps even as low as 1-2%. With this in mind, make sure you share your survey a number of times via e-mail and other means you have. Anywhere from your website, social media, shop receipts, leaflets…the list goes on. Don’t give up and keep pushing until you’re happy you’ve got as many responses as you can.
You’ve done it! You’ve received thousands of responses to your beloved survey and you’re excited about what the stats will reveal. This is where you can get creative with the results. Cut the data as many ways as you possibly can to reveal interesting insights and comparisons. Our MRS accredited research team can help here in terms of how best to analyse your data. In addition, if you’re preparing the results for a big meeting or sales pitch, think about visualising your data with reports, animations, or infographics.