Market research can often occur within a silo – someone with an organization has a question, and research is conducted to answer it. While there is nothing wrong with that, it does miss an opportunity to use the research process itself as a means of customer engagement.

How often have you participated in research (e.g., taken a survey, etc.) and after completing it never heard another thing about it? What were the results? Did the company hear you? Were changes made as a result?

Below, we offer 4 Steps to engaging your customers throughout the research process.

Considerations for Engagement in Research

  1. Communicate across functions internally. When research will be conducted in the company’s name, ensure that all parties are aware and, if appropriate, promote the effort. Does the communications/customer service department know about it in case customers call with questions? Does the sales team know their clients may be getting contacted? Is there another department preparing to launch their own research? Can you use these other touch points (e.g., customer service, sales, etc.) to encourage participation? Ensuring everyone is on the same page can prevent confusion internally and externally, and show that your research isn’t an afterthought.
  2. Show that you know them. To the degree that you already know your customer, show it. Ensure that the research is relevant to them. For example, are you asking them questions they cannot answer because their account was just opened? Are you asking basic questions about their account that you should already know and that could easily be linked to their response instead? For instance, a customer’s sales volume could be seeded into their survey, with questions then adapted based on their actual purchase history, rather than asking a respondent to accurately recall that information.
  3. Tell them what you’ve found and how it has made an impact.  If the research is proprietary and results cannot be divulged for competitive reasons, this one may be hard, but closing the loop and showing that you not only received their response, but that you also heard them, can show your customers that their time was well spent. Maybe you can share a few top-line results in your newsletter, or maybe when a change is rolled out that was informed by the research findings you can point that out. Combining this with the above idea, you could reach out to those customers who most wanted that change to inform them of your decision and thank them for their input.
  4. Remember what they’ve already told you. If they already answered a similar, or even the same, question on a prior survey, do you need to ask it again? Rather, link the prior results to the new feedback. If you need to ask again, acknowledge that they’ve answered it before and you want to see if their responses have changed. And are they telling you information that could help you better serve them in the future? If so, can you track that data in your CRM system? Can you use it to place them in the appropriate customer segment? For example, if you know they won’t be in the market for a new product for at least 12 months, flag them so they don’t receive unneeded offers until it’s time. (Do be careful about confidentiality and privacy expectations here. If their responses may be linked to them later, they should be made aware of that upfront, and the survey shouldn’t be branded as “anonymous” or “confidential.”)

One last note. By making research itself more engaging, the need to offer financial incentives for participation will decrease. Knowing their time and feedback is valued, and will actually be used, can be incentive enough.

What research experiences have you seen or personally experienced that you felt were engaging?

For more on survey response rate and engagement, see a previous blog I wrote here.