While there are many ways to derail a customer survey project, the most common one is weak objectives. Weak objectives lead directly to project delays, bad survey design, and unrealistic client expectations.
Weak or unclear objectives are often caused by two main issues:
- Imprecision. The survey project’s goals are documented and discussed at too high a level—and that vagueness leaves too much room for interpretation during the research design, analysis and reporting phases.Example: A team agrees on an objective of creating a market segmentation model. Sounds good, right? Not really. There are many ways to do a segmentation model, and many initiatives that segmentation can support. Which ones are relevant? A better objective would be, “To develop a segmentation model that will support near-term sales strategy development,” or “To develop a segmentation model that will help us understand emerging customer opportunities.” In the first example, the study would likely focus on purchase plans, budget/spend behaviors, brand preferences, and might be primarily quantitative. In the second, the study would likely include a rich discovery phase. Two segmentation studies, different true objectives, and different methods.
- Unrealistic scope. If a customer survey project is defined with too many objectives, the scope becomes too broad to execute well. In customer survey projects, this often results in a questionnaire that is so long and difficult, that respondents drop out before completing it.In most cases the root cause of an unrealistic scope is conflicting agendas. Sure, everyone on your team may agree that they need to better understand customer needs, so they agree to do a survey. But the team members may have their own spin on how they want to look at needs.Here is an example. Without some discipline, a study about “customer needs” could easily end up with 5 or 6 objectives, such as:
- Understand emerging product feature needs
- Understand customer support expectations
- Discover brand perceptions
- Measure potential value of addressing emerging needs (for pricing and positioning implications)
That is a lot of content to cover realistically in a single, well-designed survey instrument. To tackle all of those goals well, the resulting survey would be so long, your customers will not want to complete it.
Customer Survey Goals
Without an agreed upon, and small, set of precise customer survey goals, your project is at serious risk. None of the objectives will be met with excellence. You won’t have enough data specific to any one objective in order to generate any clarity or insights. And chances are, none of the stakeholders will be particularly satisfied, nor will they be likely to have enough conviction about the results to take action. And that is the real disaster.
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