The challenge of Chunky Questionnaires

29 Sep 2017 | Research & Business Knowledge

Why it’s such a challenge to make customer feedback questionnaires short and focused, but still insightful and valuable?

We’ve all seen them; as customers we’ve received them, as researchers possibly guilty of writing them.  Long detailed questionnaires that ask about every possible aspect of the experience in ‘actionable’ levels of detail.

Most of us talk about the importance of short questionnaires, just asking a handful of punchy questions, maybe with an opportunity for the customer to provide a written/spoken comment.  Net Promoter Score is perhaps the most well used example. At the ultimate extreme are the four smiley face buttons seen at airports and retailers.

What we don’t always consider though, is the array of stakeholders from different departments across the company, all of whom need to know about their particular interface with the customer … in enough detail to be able to take actions.  That in itself raises a question around the merit of so many people owning a part of the customer journey, but that’s a whole different topic around organisation structure.

Why the long questionnaire?

The challenge hasn’t fundamentally changed but some of the solutions have with the greater amount of accessible data:

  1. The team managing the customer experience research has to juggle that desire for a short simple questionnaire with the need for detailed information across the business.
  2. The strategic vs tactical focus and the typically associated speed of change.  How often do we need to ask the customer about the car parking?  If it hasn’t changed and visitor numbers haven’t changed then we possibly don’t need to ask every customer, every day to rate the car park!
  3. Often the information needed, or at least a proxy for it, can be found elsewhere.  Customer data can show transaction patterns, web browsing data can tell us a lot about website performance, dwell times provide a basic understanding of behaviour etc.  Add to that, data from benchmark satisfaction studies and you can build a reasonable picture of the customer experience that perhaps reduces the number of questions needed.
  4. Do we have to ask the customer?  Aside from the other data sources noted above, there are often other ways of finding out.  Simple observation can tell us a lot in both physical and online environments.  We can see what people do, where they go and, to some extent, how happy they are.  Mystery shopping and audit techniques can monitor the process to check if the basics are being done right.

So, what do you do if, even after challenging stakeholders on their wish lists and getting to the shorter list of things you really need to actually ask the customer about, your questionnaire is still too long?

Chunk it!

Break the questionnaire into bitesize chunks and created tailored short questionnaires:

  1. A few vital questions with the opportunity for comment can be the start point.  Text analytics make this approach far more feasible than it used to be in terms of cost and speed to make sense of the verbatim comments
  2. You don’t then have to ask everybody everything all of the time, which is where chunks come in:
    • Break the remaining topics in to chunks and only ask each customer to complete one chunk.  Chunks might relate to a specific aspect of the journey (staff, value, convenience) or to channels (website, store etc.)
    • Chunks can be split across the total sample, so that at any point in time you have feedback on all elements of the journey
    • Chunks can be rotated in and out, relevant if there is seasonality to your business and the offer or experience changes through the year
    • Chunks can be defined as static or changing; chunks containing things that can quickly change either from the customer perspective or the actual service provided can be included more frequently than those slow-to-change aspects
    • Chunks can be more easily replaced or removed.  As the market of product and service offer changes, so the questionnaire chunks can be quickly and easily adapted
    • Put the chunks somewhere else! Do they really need to be on this questionnaire? Could they be included in other surveys?

The Chunking Challenge

It’s much easier, and therefore quicker and cheaper, to have one standard (long) questionnaire with everything in it.  Stakeholders are happy, the research agency is happy, analysis and reporting is straightforward and tracking KPIs is an easy process.

Chunking takes an investment of energy and time upfront to develop, it adds effort to both the set-up and ongoing management of the process and it adds complexity to the data analysis and processing.

But chunking is worth it …

  • It keeps the questionnaire short and customer-focused, improving the quality of feedback gathered
  • It gives all the stakeholders the insight they need at the right time, making it a powerful input to business decisions
  • it can stay relevant to the changing needs of customers and the business

Happy Chunking!

Helen Roberts, XVInsight