There’s a delicate balancing act required when it comes to keeping tracking studies relevant. On the one hand, your tracker needs to be consistent from wave to wave. Otherwise you can’t be sure whether shifts in responses are due to your business efforts or questionnaire changes. On the other hand, to remain useful for your internal teams, your survey needs to adapt to changes taking place in your business.
Recently, we talked with Nicola Riggleman, our Senior Director of Business Development at The DRG, about the ways she helps clients get the most value from their tracking studies.
As you work with clients on their tracking studies, what steps do you take to ensure the research remains relevant and useful over time?
It always starts with a conversation with our client. We maintain ongoing communication with them before and after each wave of a tracking study is conducted. These conversations focus on understanding what changes they’ve made in their business since the previous wave. Some of the key questions we ask include whether they’ve shifted their strategic planning focus in any way. Have they launched new areas of business? Have key customer touchpoints recently changed? Are there any differences in the way they interact with customers?
We always look for ways to better serve the internal team who depend on the tracking research to guide their business decisions. Have they changed how they use the data? Are there new issues or topics that they need to better understand? We need to clearly understand their needs to ensure their tracking study is capturing the right information to identify whether their efforts are helping move the needle in the right direction.
What challenges do you see clients dealing with as they work to maintain the relevance of their tracking studies?
Certainly, no tracking study stays the same forever. One big challenge that clients face is working in new questions that are most relevant to the business, at that point in time, while maintaining the ability to monitor longer-term trends in core metrics.
It’s important to recognize that changes to the questions asked, the order in which they are asked, and even the wording can influence responses. That’s why we think critically about the potential impact survey changes may have on the results and ultimately the usefulness of the research. We consult with our clients to help them weigh the pros and cons of making a change. And, when revisions are made, we find ways to minimize the potential influence of the change.
What are some ways to incorporate new questions into a tracking survey without impacting the ability to accurately monitor core metrics over time?
One way is to reserve a section at the end of the survey for questions about timely topics. These may be issues that are temporarily relevant or those that may continue to be tracked in future waves. By inserting a new question at the end of the survey, we keep the respondent experience answering core questions consistent with previous waves. However, there are times when significant changes to the business require major changes to the main survey. In those instances, we help our clients transition to make a clean break and treat the updated tracking survey as a new benchmark. Other times, we may recommend conducting a parallel test, where the original survey is fielded along with an updated version among two separate but equally representative samples. By comparing the results of identical questions across the two surveys, we can assess the overall impact the new survey changes may be having on responses. In addition, this allows a bridge from a trending perspective.
Have you seen any changes in the metrics that clients are tracking over the past few years?
We’ve seen a mixed level of interest and importance placed on Net Promoter Score (NPS) over the past few years. One change we’ve seen is that clients are less likely to look at that number in isolation – they recognize the need to understand what factors are contributing to shifts in NPS, either up or down.
Each of our client’s tracking studies are customized to meet their unique business needs. Some clients focus more heavily on satisfaction with the many aspects of the services they provide. Others have a greater need to monitor perceptions regarding the amount of effort customers must make at key touchpoints. More recently, several clients have made changes to their delivery channels, most notably in mobile apps. We work with them to be sure their tracking research is monitoring their customers’ experience across all channels.
Capturing the emotional component of the customer experience is also an increasingly common objective in many tracking studies. In addition to monitoring key metrics over time, clients are relying on their tracking research to gauge how successful they are at delivering on their brand promise.
How would you describe the overall role research partners play when it comes to optimizing clients’ tracking studies?
Maintaining the relevance and effectiveness of a tracking study depends on so many factors. We work hard to stay current with the latest developments in our clients’ industries, which may impact their customers’ experience. This helps us know when to recommend a new question to gather feedback on an emerging trend or competitive activity. Other times, that knowledge can help us put the research results into greater context. Ultimately, it really comes down to developing a strong partnership with our clients. Consulting with them, so that we truly understand their needs and business goals, is the key. That way, we can be sure their tracking research is tailored to meet their objectives and adapts, when necessary, to shifts in their new business developments and the customer experience journey.