Online surveys are a great way to collect customer feedback, but they are not the only way, nor are they the best way. Sometimes, the best way to really understand the customer experience with you is to either watch them or talk to them. Here is some advice on customer research methods. 

Advice on Customer Research MethodsAdvice on Customer Research MethodsOne thing that makes online surveys so appealing (and limiting) is that they happen online where you have no interaction with the respondent and no way to engage them. Let’s face it, it’s a lot harder to walk away from a real person than it is to ignore a link. At the same time, if you’re the surveyor, you might be hesitant or afraid to engage in a live conversation because you don’t want to get rejected.

I ran into this exactly question online and started digging around for creative ideas that you can use to gather feedback face-to-face and give your customer research methods some twist.

Get creative with Customer Research Methods

  1. Plan ahead.  Just like an online survey, you want to be clear about your objectives.  Keep it simple. One way I do this is write down exactly what decision I’m trying to make and then I brainstorm some criteria that I need to make that decision. For example, I might be trying to decide if I want to launch a new line of T-shirts with tacos on them. Supermarketer Noah Kagan did something like that last year and wrote about it in an article. In his case, he was trying to see if he had a good idea.
  2. Target specific people:  This is actually part of the planning process. The fastest way to get rejected and waste time is to try to talk to everyone. Find your target audience and target specific people who are most likely to give you valuable feedback (note I didn’t say positive or negative, but valuable). This is something Kagan did in his Taco-t-shirt example.
  3. Use a variety of channels:  You might speed your process by having a few email conversations or social media conversations with some of your targeted people. It will be easier to reach them and hone your objectives that way.
  4. Don’t walk up to busy people:  Remember, your goal is to generate a conversation – not interrupt and bother people. If you see that someone is busy, move on.
  5. Have a conversation:  DO NOT create an online survey and then ask people online survey questions that they can answer online. The whole purpose of this exercise and list of suggestions for customer research methods is to engage in a conversation. That doesn’t mean that you can’t use QuestionPro’s mobile survey app to manage your responses. This is something I do all the time. Instead of creating a survey — I create a discussion guide. There is a difference.  A discussion guide has open-ended questions and slots where I can take notes based on the person’s response. Sometimes I do include multiple choice answers – but I ask these questions inside of a conversation.
  6. Have a thank you gift:  Everyone is busy and time is worth something.  Make sure you have some gift cards at the ready to give your respondents a “thank you” gift.  You will feel good and they will love it.
  7. Schedule interviews as meetings:  This is especially useful if you are doing B2B interviews. Schedule a coffee, a lunch, a phone meeting for your interview. And keep YOUR questions to about ten minutes. They can talk longer, but you want to be sure that you get your most important answers in less than 10 minutes.
  8. Be on-demand ready:  One of the awesome things about using the QuestionPro app on your mobile device is that you will be ready to have an interview ANYtime.  This is a great tool and project to do while you are at a conference or an event that is customer-rich. There are many benefits of mobile market research.  You could be waiting in line to register or waiting in line for lunch and chatting it up with someone only to discover that they would be an ideal interview. Whip out your mobile device and say “I’ve been doing some research on exactly this topic, can I interview you?”
  9. Just do it:  Stop procrastinating and talking about doing this and work on customer research methods you use. Don’t worry about feeling shy, people love to share their opinions and be helpful. Especially if you are prepared and are talking to people for whom this is an important topic.
  10. Have fun: Guaranteed that if you go into this feeling like it’s a chore — everything about you will scream – I don’t want to do this!  And guess what — your respondent won’t want to do it. But if you put a smile on your face and come from a place of curiosity and fun – they will have fun too.

So there you have it — just because you are using online survey tools, doesn’t mean you have to use them online. There are so many fun and creative ways to go about your customer research methods and really get a great understanding of what matters to them.  You’ll be astounded at the insights you’ll get and how much fun you’ll have.

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