Last year, my wife and I traveled to Cambodia. We left our computers and smartphones at home. We pretty much unplugged. But in Siem Reap, a dusty town that serves as the jumping off point for exploring ancient temples like the one at Angkor Wat, we discovered that no matter how far you travel these days and no matter the language barrier, you just can't escape conversational marketing. After a glorious day at a local spa, my wife and I paid and were presented with a postcard with instructions for taking a quick online survey about the spa's service, which was fantastic. But the survey itself wasn't all that extraordinary. In fact, had we not been thousands of miles away from home in a country so very different from our own, we probably wouldn't have given the survey a second thought. After all, we get these kinds of invitations from brands on a daily basis. More often than not, the receipt for my meal doubles as a survey invitation. Whenever I speak with someone at my bank, I get an email asking me to rate the experience. And just about every online purchase seems to be followed by two emails: the first confirming my order and the second, you guessed it, asking me how things went.
These days, brands of all types and sizes aren't shy about asking questions. In fact, the mantra of conversational marketing has obviously kicked the question engine into high gear. But there's a big difference between being willing to ask your customers questions and having what it takes to ask the right questions, in the right ways, and to draw the right insights. Brands make a lot of mistakes when soliciting customer feedback, and it's often because they don't ask themselves the right questions in advance.
"Smart brands gather feedback from their customers in a systematic, scientific fashion," says James Barry, senior director for Hanover Research. "The smartest brands communicate with their customers in a variety of ways including, but certainly not limited to, qualitative interviews to generate new product/service ideas, ongoing tracking surveys to understand the brand's position within the market place as well as satisfaction amongst customers, and quantitative surveys to validate new product concepts. This ongoing dialogue with customers allows smart brands to develop sound plans and then validate decisions prior to the implementation of their strategy."
So what questions should your brand ask? As it turns out, the better question is: How should your brand go about asking questions of its customers? Here's what every brand should keep in mind.