Customer research studies are one of the most valuable ways to provide insight to a brand’s performance. As research and strategy director here at VantagePoint and after 20 years of experience conducting these studies, I have a few insights on how to best design, administer, deploy and analyze research studies. Here are the answers to some of the questions I hear most frequently.
I rely on the Net Promoter Score (NPS) to measure customer satisfaction, which asks one simple question: How likely is it that you would recommend our company/product/service to a friend or colleague? I typically send the NPS survey annually and add three to five further questions to rate performance on key drivers of satisfaction. In addition, I recommend ongoing, transactional gatherings of customer feedback to help identify both real-time areas of improvement or success stories.
While online surveys have their place, in-person research techniques are the most insightful, as you can adjust your questions on the fly. I’ve driven with sales and service reps on calls to hear the actual “word on the street” and found it a valuable technique.
Another cool technique is facilitating online forums for respondents to come and go as they please. The built-in flexibility permits users to expand upon a threaded discussion with countering and/or complementary points of view in an open, yet monitored environment.
Sorry, there is no magic sample size target number. I won’t belabor you with a predefined set of sample sizes and +/- percentage levels of confidence. The correct sample size comes to light when common themes emerge. I lean heavily on qualitative techniques such as in-depth interviews, observational studies and online forums to effectively capture a brand’s internal perspective and customer point of view. I’ve conducted as few as five and as many as over 100 in-depth interviews to reach convergence. The right sample size is truly a real-time epiphany.
Most customers and prospects recognize that surveys will lead to new and improved products or services and will participate in a free study. That said, it is customary in some industries to reward or incentivize participation with something as simple as a $5 Amazon gift card. A more substantial reward, like a free tabletop mixer, could also be a great incentive for a more deeply involved survey or a significant time commitment.
Have questions beyond these? Feel free to leave a comment. And be sure to check out this “Be an Apple” post for more insights on brand management.