Many organizations use satisfaction surveys to keep a pulse on their customers. The objective is to be able to create a numerical measurement with some statistical validation.
The data can be divided into sub-groups to match the business organization and comparisons can be made between groups.
The survey can be repeated over time and comparisons of this year versus last year can show if a company is improving, staying about the same or getting worse.
As a general rule, most surveys are accumulations of questions with numeric ratings or choice. Some surveys include the ability for customers to enter comments in their own words.
Why Numeric Satisfaction Surveys are not sufficient
Surveys have their place but there is another form of customer satisfaction data that is purely qualitative, that is, opened ended, dynamic and flexible. It provides for a greater depth of understanding of your customers, and provides the language the customers use when discussing your products or services.
One technique to gather this data is called a focus group. Data gathered from a focus group can tap creativity and unconscious insights into the mind of the customer and come up with a rich source of ideas for new products, product improvements and additional services.
A focus group can often get to the real issues behind customer dissatisfaction identified in a numeric based satisfaction survey.
What is a Focus Group?
1. A focus group is meeting of like customers that represent the audience of your most important customers or the ones you want to learn more about.
2.The meeting is often held in a special facility where the customers can be observed and listen to by the sponsoring organization, from another room, through a one way mirror and microphones in the meeting room.
3. A moderator, briefed by the sponsor of the focus group, conducts the meeting using a discussion guide set up in advance. The discussion guide has the list of topics or questions the sponsoring organization wants to learn more about.
4. Customers are invited to attend the focus group and occasionally they are offered an incentive to come.
5. The customers may or may not know who is sponsoring the focus group meeting. There are pros and cons to each of these.
a The customers may be more willing to attend if they know who is sponsoring the focus group.
b. The negative side of telling the customer who is sponsoring the study is that they may feel inhibited to say what they really think, as it might jeopardize their relationship with the business.
6. The customers respond to the questions put forth by the moderator and often discussions will take place between the participants as well. This is intentional and yields valuable insights into the ways customers think, the vocabulary they use and the real issues they face with the products or services being addressed.
7. At the end of the allotted time, the moderator will sometimes ask the participants to wait a few minutes, while he or she checks with the sponsor to see if there are any last minute questions.
8. The customers are thanked for their time and, if an incentive was offered, are provided with their promised reward.
9. Often the focus group is recorded in audio and audio and video formats and are provided to the sponsoring organization.
Focus groups are a valuable asset to supplement customer satisfaction surveys. They get to the heart of customer problems and issues. They often bring up topics and considerations that the sponsoring organization had never thought of.
The disadvantage of focus groups is that they are not statistically accurate. They represent a small fraction of real customers.
If the individuals who participate are not carefully chosen, the decisions made based on the data gathered may be flawed.
Most organizations, if they can afford it, will run multiple focus groups, perhaps in different locations around the country or geography covered by the sponsor. Then the results can be compared and the data that is consistent amongst the focus groups can be the ones that are acted upon.
Have you run focus groups in your organization? Share your experiences in the comments section below.
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