Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Your Initial CX Assessment...Part 3 - Qualitative Research and Customer Exit Surveys

In this post we’re going to look at two seldom used (in the customer experience context), but invaluable sources of information.  

Qualitative research...typically focus groups or individual interviews, and (increasingly used in the CX domain) ethnographic observation, provides your CX assessment with the all-important customer sentiments that are not available through quantitative research.  While quantitative will tell you how many customers say “x” or purchase “y”, a well designed qualitative research study should give you a sense of how and why customers feel about interacting with your company and its products and services.  As Anne Beall points out in her book, Strategic Market Research (1), “...qualitative work allows us to explore all the potential thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of a group of people.”  The results of qualitative research can be presented in various formats...written reports typically prepared by the moderator, audio or video recordings of the customer discussions, and in some cases, the transcripts that usually accompany on-line panel discussions.  If you’re fortunate to come across some recent qualitative research that your organization has completed on topics such as how customers learn of, evaluate, purchase and use your product or service, here are some items to look for and potential questions to keep in mind...
  • How’s their body language?  Obviously you can only get a sense of this in a video, and if you’re lucky to either personally view a focus group, or have a access to a video recording, pay careful attention to not only what customers say, but their expressions and body movements as well.  Saying positive things about their experience with the company in the absence of smiles or other positive expressions may tip you off that the customer is not being sincere.
  • In listening to audio or watching a video of the research, how would you characterize the sentiment of the participants?  Were their views generally favorable towards the company, or was their a noticeable sense of dissatisfaction?  More specifically, did the respondents appear or sound energetic when they spoke favorably of the company?  And, conversely, could you detect a sense of hostility, disappointment, or frustration when discussing dissatisfaction?  Also, importantly, for what specifically did they express their positive or negative sentiments?  This seems obvious, but often in qualitative research, it’s tempting to generalize that if customers like / dislike something in particular, they must like / dislike the entire experience.
  • If possible, take a step beyond the official reporting and recordings, and have a chat with the interviewer / moderator.  A good facilitator may be able be able to discern the hidden dynamics of a group discussion and identify “off the record” statements made by participants that may likely reveal their genuine feelings about your organization.  In my own moderating experience, for example, I asked the participants to walk around a prototype product and report back on their impressions.  Standing next to a couple of the respondents, I overheard their very critical and negative remarks about the prototype.  On returning to the group discussion, these participants then provided positive impressions of what they saw...these “disconnects” are not uncommon in group discussions.  A good moderator will catch this, and is thus a good source for learning what customers are “really thinking.”

Exit Surveys...these surveys or interviews, which are also referred to as defector or loss surveys, are surprisingly not a part of many companies’ formal customer research.  As the name suggests, these surveys are completed by customers who no longer do business with your company.  And while in some cases, it’s not easy to identify those who take their business elsewhere, in other instances, it’s readily apparent.  If you’re customers subscribe to your company’s offering, you should be able to easily determine if they don’t renew.  The same logic applies to leasing or rental arrangements.  And of course, in certain sectors, such as financial services, a customer can simply close their account and have their funds transferred to a competitor.  I think these opportunities to capture customer feedback are so useful that if your organization only has a budget to execute one type of survey, this should be it...why?  Because you’ll learn much more from your failures than from your successes.  
From a well designed exit survey or interview, you should be able to add the following to your overall CX assessment....

  • Broadly speaking, do customers defect because of dissatisfaction with your company’s product, or with the supporting service?  Can you isolate which products and/or services?
  • What is the trend for these defections?  Are they consistent over a long time period, or is this something relatively recent?  If the latter, you’ll now need to determine if they’re possibly associated with a recently launched product or service.
  • Are the defections associated with a particular geographic region or retail location(s)?
  • Can you attribute the defection to customer dissatisfaction, or are customers no longer purchasing from you because your company doesn’t offer a product or service that may better meet their needs?
  • Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, are you able to identify who these customers are?  Specifically, I’m not referring to personal identification, but rather, whether the customers can be identified based on their purchase frequency and revenue to the company.  This implies that your company maintains a robust transactional database to facilitate this.  The ability to identify lost customers by the value they provide goes to the 80/20 rule...20 percent of your customers likely account for 80 percent of your organization’s profit...are these lost customers coming from that 20 percent?
In future posts, we’ll look more closely at designing and implementing a comprehensive quantitative and qualitative Voice of Customer system.

(1) Strategic Market Research, by Anne E. Beall. Page 12

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