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Active Research Series Part 2 – Engage in the Moment of Truth for Actionable Insights

by Duff Anderson, on Feb 3, 2014

This is the second blog post in a series that explores the key pillars of Active Research. In my first blog post, I looked at why you should be using a framework, the third article why it is important to inject customer feedback data into other business systems. In this post, I will outline different engagement methods and how this can change the nature of the information you capture. 

Last year I started a three part series on the key pillars of Active Research beginning with Frameworks, the foundational support of Active Research. This is the second installment focusing on the next pillar of Active Research, engagement.   

In terms of Active Research, engagement is the act of engaging customers in the ‘Moment of Truth’ across digital touch points to better understand their intentions and environment. Timing, sampling, and usability/design are all factors that significantly affect the characteristics of information received from a solicitation for feedback. Many times, results driven from different forms of engagement are positioned as synonymous or in competition, and businesses mistakenly analyze and make conclusion as if this were not the case, while in fact the representations are wholly divergent.

In this post, I’m going to explore how and why these factors define engagement.

Timing of Engagement

Recently, I visited my bank’s website and a few days later I received an email asking for feedback about my experience. As you can imagine, my ability to remember the experience was not adequate to answer many of the questions within the survey. Questions such as how navigational and content features affected my ability to accomplish my tasks were especially difficult.  It is well documented that the ‘remembering self’ and the ‘experiencing self’ are quite different, particularly when it comes to how we perceive an experience.

Oddly enough the remembering self doesn’t always know what the experiencing self went through. The remembering self tells itself a story about what happened and that story doesn’t always reflect the true experiences of what went on in the past.” Dr. Daniel Kahneman on Remembering Self

In Active Research, we are particularly interested in understanding the visitor’s immediate experience and intentions with the ultimate goal of optimizing the experience for future visitors with similar intentions. If the bank had engaged me, the visitor, during the experience itself they would have captured insights that more accurately defined my true experience and intentions.

The first challenge in recognizing intent is capturing feedback as close to the Moment of Truth (i.e. At the most critical time in their browsing/shopping experience) as possible. By engaging and capturing feedback from customers in the ‘Moment of Truth’, the context of customer intentions and the environment they are experiencing becomes available.

Timing within the immediate experience also affects visitors' motives to provide feedback, as people are quicker to complain than they are to compliment. Engagement technologies can be further enhanced within the ‘Moment of Truth’ by controlling the period between the invite for feedback and when the visitor provides it. An important tool in Active Research engagement capabilities is a pre-post methodology, which invites visitor on-arrival to provide feedback at the end of their experience. Using a pre-post methodology produces a representative sample of both positive and negative feedback as the commitment to provide feedback is not influenced by the experience itself. This is an important consideration when representative sampling is the goal.

Sampling and Engagement

The different types of active research engagement from individual to representative

Passive persistent engagement, like a feedback button, provides individually focused information that represents one person’s experience. On the other hand, random active engagement, like an invitation to provide feedback immediately after a site visit, provides information that is representative of the population being sampled. Active random engagement can be triggered to target particular audiences or the population as a whole and provides reliable reproducible results.

Representative information should be used to measure the success and failure of strategies and drive strategic change. Why? Because representative engagement methods give equal opportunity to all opinions, and while a true random sample is a theoretical goal, by paying attention to sampling you will find that your results will be more reproducible and therefore more reliable.  Representative results can be projected onto the population as a whole, opening the door to integrating and enriching other information, like behavior from clickstream data, with customers’ stated intentions and preferences.

It is proven that customers are more likely to engage using an active engagement method than an opt-in passive method. However, a passive persistent engagement method can be accessed at any time by anyone.  A good example is a feedback button leading to a comment card. Results from this form of engagement are very different than representative feedback, as it is not random. Research shows that users who are motivated to provide feedback unprompted generate data that is heavily weighted toward the negative.

The charts below demonstrate this negative skew of results and relatively low participation rates using passive persistent engagement compared to active random engagement.

Chart demonstrating the negative skew of results and relatively low participation rates using passive persistent engagement compared to active random engagement.

This type of data does not serve the same function as representative sampling; however, its temporal and individual focus enables quick fixes and prompt follow-up. It also provides an invaluable source for individualized information with which the business can save, convert, or use to nurture vocal customers.

Engagement Design and Usability

Unlike other forms of research, Active Research engages customers interacting with digital channels in the course of real situations.  For this reason the solicitation and collection of feedback from customers becomes part of the digital channel experience itself. 

Everybody appreciates the opportunity to be heard but nobody likes the feeling they are being spied on. Tactics that would be considered rude in the physical world are often executed without hesitation in the digital world. By engaging in an honest and transparent way you build trust and improve your brand image, even among your visitors who choose not to communicate with you.

For engagement to be a brand-building experience even with visitors who don’t participate; your engagement methods need to meet the following criteria:

1. Visitors must understand immediately that your organization is engaging with them.

If visitors feel like they've been hijacked by an outside source, this will have a negative impact on your brand. Therefore, engagement methods whether active or passive should be customized and branded to your organization’s image and tone.

2. Be honest, sincere, and have a clear opt-out option

Some visitors won't want to participate and you're not there to force the issue. Instead, they will appreciate that you care about their experience and this will build trust.  Once a visitor opts out, it is equally important to respect their decision and avoid immediately engaging them again with multiple requests.

3. Engage across different digital channels and device types

Once you have the timing, sampling, and design of your engagement aligned to your Active Research needs, the final challenge is being able execute it across different digital channels and device types. Website engagement methods, whether passive or active, should be adaptive and/or selective to device type.  This includes the solicitation for feedback as well as the collection interface that presents questions and captures answers. To effectively execute Active Research in apps and SaaS solutions, using both random and persistent engagement for feedback remain a requirement. Active Research engagement methods can be executed on other digital mediums, including social media platforms, In Set top box, and in Operating Systems. The option to engage via SMS, Email, or QR codes extends the reach of Active Research while continuing to engage in the moment of truth even in offline environments.

The different points you can engage visitors for feedback in active research

How you engage matters!

In Active Research, engagement providing the expertise to capture customer experience in the ‘Moment of Truth’ across every stage and touch point of the digital lifecycle is essential. How you engage changes the nature of information captured. A complete set of engagement capabilities that take into account timing, sampling, and design/usability is indispensable when aligning your digital channels to best meet your customers’ needs. 

Duff Anderson
Duff Anderson

Duff Anderson is a visionary in Voice of the Customer research with over 20 years’ experience.

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