By Darren Wake, Business Development Manager, TLF Research
Yes I do know they’re not easy to impress, but do we always help ourselves by the way we present results from customer surveys? I think the problem stems from the fact that the people responsible for the surveys (whether research agencies or company managers) are immersed in the detail of the survey, keen to tell the full story and too obsessed with demonstrating the credibility / statistical reliability of the results. Put yourself in the Directors’ shoes for a moment. Two things are typically much more important than anything else. First and foremost a summary of the key outcomes that is very quick and easy to take onboard. Secondly, and this is a bonus if it can be achieved, something that adds real insight, e.g. a real eye opener into how customers think or feel about a particular issue.
The evolution of results presentations
For many years, the reporting method of choice in the market research industry was the crosstab. It wasn’t unusual for agencies to deliver telephone directories of crosstab data tables full of numbers. Comprehensive? Definitely. Reliable? Usually. Meaningful? Yes if you’re a stats anorak. Actionable? No chance!
Advances have been largely driven by software developments, so the ability to produce good looking Word reports, with charts in the 1990s was a big step forward. They could explain the results, illustrate them in charts, they could include all the detail (e.g. data tables and customer comments) as appendices and, if they had a good exec summary (which they often didn’t), they could meet the needs of researchers and their CEO pretty well.
The next advance was integrating all this in Microsoft Office including PowerPoint presentations. This was a fantastic differentiator for the early adopters but as we all know, has very mixed press these days. This is mainly because people seem to go out of their way to make them long, boring, complicated or all three!
Lots of more recent developments have made it possible to improve the visual appeal of PowerPoint – infographics and word clouds being two current favourites. They might be novel and look good but making them communicate actionable information or add insight is a much bigger challenge that few master. Look at this infographic from the BBC. Do the graphics on the right add anything to your understanding of the Greek crisis that you wouldn’t have easily assimilated from the stats on the left. You could argue it detracts from it on unemployment since the two rows of people are not even to scale with the percentages.
Real time reporting has also been one of the flavours of the month since software developments in CATI and web surveys made it relatively easy to do. Instead of quarterly or monthly reports, companies involved in continuous tracking can have results every week, every day or even all the time, as each interview is completed or a survey response is received. This is great technology. It can be just like watching a stock market screen and pouncing at the optimum time to buy or sell. That’s very useful. It can make your trades a lot more profitable. But it can also waste a lot of time as you watch the screen changing and maybe do or don’t invest at the optimum time. There’s obviously an opportunity cost to the time you spend watching that screen. And the same is true with real time reporting of survey results. What’s the opportunity cost of watching your headline measure ticking up and down. How often do you implement changes to your customer service strategies, processes, training or any other activities that make a difference to the customer experience? Every hour? Every day? Every week, or month? Less often? Whatever your answer, there’s not much point spending any time looking at real time reports that are any more frequent.
Web reporting, i.e. the delivery of survey results via a website is a different matter. It’s not that it’s any quicker. You could have results emailed just as fast. The key benefit of a good web reporting site is interactivity. It gives you control and flexibility by allowing you to instantly select the results you want. Perhaps your Swindon store manager is going to run a promotion with in-store product demos on premium anti-ageing creams. No problem. Let’s drill down into the views of over 55 females in that area. Or you could get the store managers to do that kind of thing themselves as there’s no limit to the number of colleagues that can use a web reporting site – password protected if you want to control access. So a good web reporting tool is great for efficiency, speed and convenience. But does it impress your Board? I can’t think of many CEOs who will want to spend the time learning enough about a web reporting tool to get the best out of it.
No. Back to where we started. They want an instant picture of ‘the 3 key things I need to know’. And if you can give them some genuinely new insight into customers, that will really impress them. Especially if it chimes with a current flavour of the month like the 3Es – customer emotions, customer empathy, customer effort.
This is where you need to bring the customer into the boardroom. A real customer would be great, albeit not too practical. But there are other ways of bringing the customer to life and making an impact. As you can see on the previous two pages, TLF’s Opinion Dashboard does just that on 1 computer monitor, 1 PowerPoint slide or even 1 piece of paper. On the first two, of course, you can make it work. Click on a photo for an insightful comment that represents the prevailing view in that demographic. Choose from a suite of videos that reveal customer emotions as well as attitudes and behaviours, or drill down into the data from any of your survey questions split by your segment of choice. And I nearly forgot. The centrepiece is the CEO’s 3 key points.