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Customer Centricity in the Digital World

Today it is essential to be a customer centric organization in order to remain competitive. Active Research is one of the best ways to ensure your competitiveness by continuously capturing the intentions and experiences of customers in real online situations. However, many companies forget their manners when approaching visitors online and conducting Active Research. Tactics that would be considered rude in the physical world are often executed without hesitation in the digital world. However, extensive research shows that politeness will open up more doors to communication with your visitors and even improve your brand image among visitors who choose not to communicate with you.

When implementing an Active Research Solution, the manner in which you elicit customer feedback and the timing of when you ask for feedback are critical components to the success of your initiative. There are three main points to consider when engaging customers for feedback.

  1. Honesty and transparency are the keys to successful communication.
  2. Selective listening will lead you down the wrong path, but continuous listening puts you in tune with your customers.
  3. The solicitation of visitor feedback needs to be a brand-building experience for all visitors who get involved, not just those who agree to participate. 

Build your brand through research

It is important that a solicitation for feedback builds brand equity, even among those who don't participate. To succeed in doing this, your engagement needs to meet the following criteria:

  1. Visitors must understand immediately that the solicitation for feedback is coming from your organization.  Therefore, the invitation should be customized and branded to your organization to make it clear that your organization is the one interested in hearing from them.
  2. The invitation must have a clear and intuitive opt-out button. Most visitors won't want to participate, and you're not there to force the issue. Once a visitor opts out, it is equally important to respect their decision, and avoid asking them again for at least three months.
  3. The invitation must mention how much of a time commitment you are asking for (less than five minutes is a good rule of thumb) and then respect that commitment. 

Great example of a branded invitation by Telus

On average, 1 to 3 percent of visitors will opt in to a well-branded, on-arrival invitation, with more than 85 % of those who agree to participate actually provide feedback at the end of their experience.

Feedback from your actual site visitors is an extremely valuable and finite resource, so it's important to not abuse it. Serve as few invitations as possible in order to capture a statistically significant sample size. For most sites, 750-1,200 responses per month is enough to address your intelligence needs. For example, if you have 150,000 unique visitors per month, then an invitation rate of 30% should suffice.

The WHY behind the WHAT

Once you have engaged with your customers successfully, Active Research focuses on the customers’ immediate environment and situation. This provides an understanding of intentions and outcomes not possible using other forms of customer feedback. Traditional forms of customer research, like panels or email surveys, help you understand customer desires, personas, values, and demographics.  However, they usually fail in providing the type of insight you need to be customer-centric because they lack context.  Active Research provides context, where insights are focused on the customers’ purpose of visit and ability to complete their tasks. It provides the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’ of what’s happening.   Avinash Kaushik, explains well this need to understand the ‘why’ in digital analytics laying the foundation of what we today call Active Research in his article,  The Three Greatest Survey Questions Ever.

Providing Immediate Context to Customer Intentions

To explore this more, let’s use forecasting the weather as an analogy. The Farmers’ Almanac is based on historical data and examines what has happened in the past. This is similar to most forms of traditional research that also examine what customers have experienced in the past.  Historical precedent is powerful, in the northern mid-latitudes, four seasons is second nature to everyone and we certainly would doubt the news that the next three months were going to be warmer than the three just pasted. We have achieved this confidence not by accident but by observing and measuring the climate continuously over time.  However, if your goal is to decide whether you need to take an umbrella to work tomorrow, understanding your environment using an active weather forecast is much more helpful than the Farmers’ Almanac.  Active Research, like an active weather forecast, provides immediate context to customer intentions and the environment they are experiencing. This allows you to adapt and align to immediate customer needs.

Farmers’ Almanac

  • Forecast based on historical data                           
  • Lacking a real situation
  • Like: Traditional  customer research

Today's active weather system:

  • Forecast based on immediate environment
  • In context
  • Like: Active research

The same principles apply when it comes to using VoC to recognize customers’ immediate needs. It is necessary to continuously and actively engage customers for feedback in the context of real situations, to understand their intentions and outcomes. With Active Research these customer insights are directly injected into existing business systems. From customer support systems to session replay to web analytics, Active Research enhances the customer centricity of existing business applications. By taking an Active Research approach, we have a chance of moving measurement to understanding and customer intentions to something we can recognize and take action on.