Technology allows citizens the privilege of having something they never had before – the center stage to speak their truth and demand that they be heard. Before technology and the transparency, it brought, organizations and governments had limited means to get our feedback and bring awareness to topics that impacted us as a society.
Leap forward to today, where as citizens we now have access to more information about policies and events affecting us locally, nationally and globally. Also, we can choose to be more informed than we have ever been in the past. Through social media, we leverage this information to challenge or support beliefs, policies and institutions. The information we provide can be valuable and insightful, and lead to real change.
One example of this is online petition sites like change.org, which highlights the positive effects of citizen engagement like putting a woman on a Canadian bill, or making sure that plastic micro-beads are banned from cosmetics so they don’t pollute our water ways.
Governments understand that it is important to engage citizens and ask for feedback, which is why many countries including the United States have their own petition platforms like “We the People”. However, there is more to engaging citizens and improving the citizen experience than just providing a petitioning platform.
As a naturally curious person, I studied science and research at school - I love research and the insights that can be derived and the outcomes that it can bring, specifically when insights lead to providing better services and information for my clients and their customers. From my time at iperceptions, I have seen the light bulb turn on for clients when they can see the benefits that structured customer feedback can bring to improving the digital experience. Working at a company with over a 15-year history of conducting Voice of the Customer research and developing a methodology that engages audiences in a meaningfully way (aligned with the client’s brand and communication strategy), the outcome is clear for clients; the results and their associated actionable insights are overwhelmingly positive.
This blog post explores the benefits of collecting customer feedback and how continuously listening to the citizen can improve the day-to-day operations of your website.
Debate point 1: Will my agency’s brand be impacted?
If you are a marketer at heart, everything has a perception, an essence or style that can be judged or labelled. In other words, everything has a brand. Even governments and their agencies or ministries have a brand. So those who are custodians of different government agencies also have an interest to protect, grow or change their brand in a way that builds trust and reliability with its citizens.
This is where research can help – the key is to align the methodology with the values of the organization.
Voice of the Customer methodology plays into brand perception. For example, using an ‘interstitial overlay’ (see figure 1 below) allows you to invite visitors in an upfront and polite way and explain the research purpose and how it is aligned with your branding strategy. Furthermore, a good platform will allow you to program when and where the survey appears so that you can engage your citizens in the moment of truth.
Figure 1: ‘Interstitial Overlay’
iperceptions has conducted thousands of studies using an interstitial overlay, and the brand impact tends to be net positive. Customers respond well to organizations who listen and actively take on feedback. In fact, it increases brand perceptions and has led to increased engagement and reported overall satisfaction.
There are a whole range of other citizen engagement types that can be utilized to collect data that suits your organization, such as a discrete survey invitation, email surveys, site optimization surveys (e.g. iperceptions’ Customer Experience Optimization Solution) and embedded surveys.
It is important to understand that not all engagement methods are equal. The method(s) you choose to adopt as part of your Voice of Citizen program will ultimately impact the type of data you collect and how it can be used. For more information on the difference check out this blog post on - 3 Things You Need to Know Before Building a Customer Experience Program.
Debate point 2: What is the impact of feedback collection on the user experience?
The answer is limited. We tend to find that the site navigation, content availability and depth are factors that actually disrupts the user experience and lowers satisfaction scores.
This theory can easily be tested by connecting your feedback with your behavioral analytics and/or session replay tools. Specifically, you can see the sessions and compare them to those that have not been surveyed. Furthermore, you can use citizen feedback to identify which sessions to review and help contextualize your web analytics data to more effectively identify how you can improve user experience.
Debate point 3: Do I have to collect feedback from everyone?
iperceptions has been conducting online research since 2000, and we have found that we can provide a reproducible and representative sample of a website’s population with at least 400 respondents per survey question. This means that if you have an average of 40,000 visitors to your site, you only need a 1% response rate to get a representative sample.
The key of any good research is to create confidence in your research findings by creating a balance between short engaging questions, collection and the number of data points –this is what will contribute to reliable research.
Using technology such as a Universal Code or a tag manager to deploy your research allows analysts to present surveys to people who only visit certain pages, giving the flexibility to only ask a small selection of questions at the right time to the right visitors. Therefore, research can be deployed to address different needs of the site or explore specific content areas of your government site.
Further e-research can be designed using tools such as skip logic and branching, so that citizens only see certain questions based on their role, purpose of visit or other variables. This makes surveys short, concise, and relevant to the citizen’s experience.
In e-Government, we see that the target audience may be visitors other than what you primarily target. Sometimes not enough of your target audience visits the site, which could be a function of content suitability, navigation or awareness – just to name a few. Once e-research has identified this problem, we ask our clients to engage and conduct other types of research, especially if they need additional feedback from a particular target market. Sometimes clients even combine different methodologies that target populations outside of those that go to their website in order to get additional meaningful results that will assist in making decisions and improvements to e-Government.
Good research should only ask the questions that an organization needs to know, are open to hearing the answer to, and are in a position to take action on and make real change. This will ensure your research is engaging, short and to the point.
Because government sites have access to large populations, you don’t need to invite everyone. Only a small percentage of visitors will ever know that you do research, and when they do, they will trust that they will not be continually asked to take the research. To ensure engagement with your study, take the time to align it with your brand, communication style and organizational values.
Be bold and look at other forms of research to round out your feedback. From there, decision makers can make informed decisions about their websites, services and policies.
For those that are still not convinced, conduct pilot research to see how it can be best used in your organization and to support your chief citizen experience officer.