Why design is important for surveys

Firstly what is a brand touchpoint – simply defined, a brand touchpoint is all the points where you, your employees, your brand generally, touches a customer or potential customer.

If customer experience is the fulfilment of the brand promise, all aspects of customer experience should be designed to enhance and reinforce the overall brand image.

While millions of pounds are spent every year developing brand marketing campaigns considering the message, imagery, tone of voice, targeting and media mix. Some elements of the customer experience are often over-looked – what you say? What about your customer research?

While the design and tone of all other customer interactions might be carefully conceived, customer research is all too often over-looked, particularly online in-house research. Surveys’ are almost always too long and poorly designed aesthetically, interactively and operationally.

We’re in a privileged position; we get to see lots of online survey’s – some are better than others but most break the fundamental rules of a brand touchpoint – i.e. they are unpleasant customer experiences.
The first is survey length – an online survey MUST be short; by short I mean it should take no more than 10 minutes (ideally 5 mins) to complete and that’s a real 5-10 minutes and not the 5-10 minutes achieved when the person who designed the survey times themselves completing it!

Get someone impartial to sit and ‘take’ the survey and time themselves doing so, it’s surprising how long a survey can take if you actually read all of the questions and answer options.

Why should the survey be short? Because you want your customers to have a good feedback experience, you want them to engage in the process of giving feedback and you want their accurate feedback so that your product or service development is based on accurate information. Long surveys lead to respondent fatigue, put simply, your customers get bored.

Now look at the grid question below; Imagine the scene, the customer has been completing the survey for 15 minutes, then this grid appears, perhaps not all the questions are relevant to the customer yet they have no choice but to answer all, they’re bored by providing feedback, they want the survey to end so they can be entered into the promised prize draw, they’ve already given 15 minutes of their time so to stop now would be a waste. What do they do?

In some of the surveys’ we’ve seen recently as many as 60% of the respondents have ‘straight-lined’ on some questions, in fact most research surveys are designed to deliver straight-lining.

Straight-lining is bad. Why? Because it’s difficult to know whether someone answered questions they’d read carefully in truth or if they were simply clicking through as quickly as they could without reading any of it. Yes, the customer has responded but it is quantity over quality, the data is now unreliable and of little true value for business decision making.

How many of us have seen online survey response rates fall year-on-year? Have we asked ourselves why? Think from a customer perspective, you’re a repeat customer of a particular brand and so regularly engage with that brand, you’re asked for your feedback. If your first experience of giving feedback involves completing a long and largely irrelevant questionnaire, what is the likelihood of you offering your feedback again?

Analysis of many survey responses shows us that the new and repeat customer ratios found in survey data are often very different from the new and repeat ratios found in customers generally, i.e. new customers are more likely to engage in surveys than repeat customers. Since it is also common for new and repeat customer profiles (age, gender, socio-economic group, lifestyle and life-stage) to differ significantly, the reliability of this data for business decision making must be questioned unless of course, the data is weighted to ensure statistical reliability.

Encouraging customers to engage in feedback begins with the concept of brand touch-point. Customer feedback is an important brand touch-point. Used correctly the customer feedback survey is a key element of brand interaction. It should leave the customer with a positive impression of the brand. It should be aesthetically pleasing, intuitive and interactive. It should, receive the same degree of consideration as any other element of your brand delivery. It should leave customers feeling valued.

Click here for an example of how a survey (in this case a quiz) can be interactive and engaging.

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