Listen up!

Last week, an article about loyalty programs caught my attention. Loyalty program signups have gone up, but loyalty program participation has gone down. Not only that, those involved in loyalty programs don’t seem to feel like any program is really hitting the mark they expect it to hit. What’s the takeaway for us?

We need to listen better

This bit from the article really jumped out at me: “US respondents rated loyalty programs at Amazon, Costco, Kroger, Jiffy Lube and Denny’s the highest in terms of meeting their needs. But no loyalty program met the needs of even 50% of respondents.”

What exactly does that mean?

First, to me, it means we aren’t listening.

But, let’s take a step back and look at the actual first question we should be asking, which is this: are we asking? And if we are asking, are we asking the right questions?

How do you know what to ask?

The field of behavioral economics seems to be gaining in popularity right now, in part because everyone wants to know what really makes us tick, and how does that affect what decisions we’re making? We are irrational when it comes to our decision-making processes, at least when we’re in the actual act of making those decisions — we become rational after the decisions have been made. That’s been the bane of consumer insights professionals everywhere. We do research, we gather information, and then, suddenly, after thinking we’ve figured out just what the customer wants and giving it to them, we find out they aren’t that interested in it because of some other factor we hadn’t seen anywhere in the research.

I had written a blog post addressing an idea of how to measure what customers value. It involved a multi-phase research project including quantitative and qualitative analysis. We can do a lot of that with feature-rich online surveys, but, sometimes, it means going a step farther and just opening every possible feedback channel, from social to website feedback to standard research surveys, and then doing broader analysis taking into account everything that we have gathered.

Research with communities

Enter online communities, stage right.

Online communities are a way to have a group of engaged customers who are interested in providing regular feedback that can be used to feed everything from a marketing campaign to general organizational strategy. We’re going to be hosting a special free training on April 28 about how to build your own online community. If you have a loyalty program already, then you have a great list to start from for recruiting participants.

But it can’t stop there. Just having an online community means nothing if you don’t engage them regularly. This means a full commitment to your online community once one is built. You will need to maintain regular touchpoints – surveys, opportunities for open feedback in online forums or online focus groups – and a level of openness with the community you don’t have with the rest of your customers. That would include being upfront about the fact you might be thinking about things like a UI change to your website and showing them mockups of what it might look like, a change in signage in your stores, and new product and advertising campaigns. It also means using a lot more open-ended text questions to be certain you’re getting enough qualitative feedback along with the quantitative feedback. As you engage regularly with your online community, you will likely find the questions you should be asking the rest of your customers so that your research dollars are more efficient and effective.

But first, let’s help you get ideas on how to start building your online communities. Join us April 28, 10AM Pacific / 1PM Eastern as we discuss where to start building your online communities. We will be recording this session, so even if you can’t attend due to time zone restrictions, please register so you have access to the recording later.