Hello, I Must Be Going . . .

You know that uncomfortable feeling when you pass the same person in the hall over and over and over? You go from saying a friendly “Hi!” to a more subdued “Hey” to an interior “My head’s down because I’m pretending to check my BlackBerry” as you stealthily slink on by.

You may not have any control over how many times a day you run into certain co-workers, but you can ensure that you don’t wear out your welcome with survey participants.

Zarca’s Touch Rules Management allows you to filter out certain people who have already received a certain number of survey invitations from you, or who have already participated in a certain number of your surveys on or after a particular date.

By managing your participant lists with Touch Rules Management, you show your respondents that you not only value their feedback but also respect their time. So, when they do hear from you, they’ll be more likely to participate in your surveys.

Avoid over-surveying with Zarca’s Touch Rules – your participants will remain loyal, and you’ll enjoy higher response rates.

What is a Strategic Account Manager?

At Zarca Interactive, we take pride in our robust, user-friendly platform. Our clients tell us how easy our system is to navigate and how much they enjoy the ability to create complex reports in very little time.  Features such as real-time feedback, social media integration, point and click multi-level pivot tables, and wizard-driven SPSS import/export are just a handful of complex tools offered by Zarca.

However, much like any software system, the power of Zarca’s features is dependent upon user expertise.

If you need to gain crucial insight from your employees or customers, but don’t know how to go about wording your survey, whom to survey, or even the type of survey to deploy, call our Client Support Team.   If you want to incorporate media into your surveys or collect complex information, but you’re having difficulty applying these features, just call.  If you have collected data successfully, and now you want to create complex reports, share reports selectively with coworkers or post charts on social networks, but are overwhelmed by the options, please call us.

Every one of our clients is assigned a Strategic Account Manager (SAM).  This person gets to know you and your survey goals, becoming an invaluable member of your team.  SAM team members work with clients in various industries including retail, finance, healthcare and higher education.  Our SAMs provide guidance and expertise for everything from proper question types to assessing strategic survey deployments.

No matter what kind of assistance you need, we are here to support you in all aspects of your survey project.

The Power of a Post

Social media is here to stay, and ignoring that fact is like ignoring a cavity. It seems small and insignificant at first, but when you are in agony at 3:00 in the morning on your way to an emergency root canal, you’ll wish you would have taken care of it sooner. Okay, it’s not that painful, but you’re certainly not doing your company or organization any favors by dismissing social media as  a passing fad.

Revolutions and social movements have been mobilized through social media. Companies have seen stocks drop when customers flock to Twitter and Facebook in public outcry after a sudden product or service change. Social media has evolved  beyond the days of simply posting vacation photos online. Today, people use social media outlets to connect, communicate, compliment and complain.

Many companies and organizations have social media plans in place.  These groups use social media to leverage their brand, communicate with customers and build loyalty. Engagement is key to every social media plan. And one way to engage your customers is to invite them to take your survey via Facebook and Twitter.

If you want input from your fans and followers on topics such as customer experience, Zarca’s Winter ‘12 Release allows you to post surveys directly to your Facebook and Twitter pages with one simple click.   If you are thinking about re-branding or changing a product or service, use social media to gather customer feedback and avoid a detrimental mistake. Closing the loop is essential for effective two-way communication. Sharing surveys on social media is a powerful way to show that you’re always listening to your customers.

Saying Thanks & Making Amends

Love getting gifts, but hate writing thank-you notes?

Whether you’re eight or 80, thank-you notes are something to tackle quickly and be done with, if only to stop the guilt trip from your mom — or your conscience. Of course, we all know it’s good manners to thank Aunt Edna for the birthday sweater or your boss for the holiday trinket box topped by a disturbingly furry reindeer, but, even more importantly, we know we need to maintain those relationships if we ever hope to receive another gift. Or a decent performance review.

Zarca is an expert in correctly managing relationships.  With our new feature, Rules & Alerts, every one of your survey participants will be instantly thanked with little or no effort on your part. Simply set your desired condition — such as Completed Response Received — and a well-crafted thank-you note will instantly sail through cyberspace, landing in a duly impressed respondent’s in-box. After all, who doesn’t appreciate instant feedback, especially when it’s a courteous thank you?

But as important as it is to keep happy customers happy, it might be even more crucial to reach out to those customers or potential customers who aren’t so pleased to begin with.

For instance, I recently filled out a car rental survey, where I wrote about first being presented with someone else’s bill when dropping off my car (a good three times what I really owed) and then, once that was remedied, opening my credit card statement a month later to see I’d been double-charged. What response did I receive when I submitted my survey? None. What company did I rent my next car from? Not that one.

So here’s a real game-changer.

You receive a survey response that’s negative in some way. Maybe the answer option “Unsatisfied” was checked. Maybe an open-ended answer contains the word “Unhappy.” Or maybe, “Would you frequent our establishment again?” was answered with, “Highly Unlikely.” Reach out to that soon-to-be-former customer right now. Not in two weeks when the survey closes. Now.

Simply set your customizable condition, and you’ll instantly receive an email with the negative response. Then you can take appropriate action to win your customer back. Chances are, the recipient will be so stunned to hear from you that the original complaint will be forgotten — or at least forgiven. You may even find yourself with a customer for life.

We all want to feel like someone’s listening, that we’re not just whistling in the wind. Zarca’s Rules & Alerts makes it easy to open your ears, take immediate action and maintain those key relationships. (But, sorry, you’re on your own with Aunt Edna.)

Personalized vs. Anonymous Surveys

The Internet has allowed users to become connected to all forms of media in an unprecedented and personal way.  For example, Google knows the sites that I visit most frequently and, therefore, caters to my tastes with its search results.

Unfortunately, the Internet also provides a level of anonymity that can lead users in a dangerous direction. If you’re wondering what I’m talking about, check out the “Comments” section of any major news piece available online. Granting folks anonymity encourages candor, but it can also create a host of other problems.

So when you’re creating an online survey, should you offer anonymity?

Unfortunately, the answer is, “It depends.”

Each time that you create a survey, you must balance the pros and cons of anonymity with the impact of personalization. Here are a few things to consider before you launch an online, anonymous survey:

  • Full Candor from Respondents—Let’s be honest — respondents who feel “safer” knowing that you can’t identify them won’t be as inclined to hold back.
  • Response Rates—If respondents fear some form of retribution will follow the submission of their survey, they are likely to skip it completely.
  • Identity Protection—Studies have suggested that most drop-outs occur on survey pages that ask for personal information, such as demographics and email addresses. Many respondents fear that their sensitive information could be sold to marketing companies.
  • Inappropriate Responses—There’s always the chance that a bad apple will take your survey and use it as an occasion for vulgarity, bigotry, etc. Anonymity can increase this risk.
  • Ability for Follow-up—There may be times when responses will require further action on the part of the survey creator, whether to address a specific issue or adopt a certain policy.  Anonymous surveys make it impossible to follow-up to responses.
  • Reliability of Results—While anonymity may encourage respondents to be more truthful in their responses, it can also encourage them to be less diligent in fact checking. Misinformation tends to spread far more easily through anonymous sources because accountability is impossible. However, highly personalized surveys may incur instances of what we call social desirability, respondents saying what they think the survey creator wants to hear.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could create personalized surveys that were also anonymous? You can.

Anonymous surveys can be pre-populated to make the survey personal for each respondent.  Also, Intelligent Reminders enable the survey creator to send reminders to non-respondents, even in an anonymous survey.

So when walking the line between personalization and anonymity, consider your audience, the data you’re collecting and, of course, what you want your survey to say about you.

Want Quick Feedback? Take a Poll

Whether your fashion blog begs the question, “Who wore it best?” or your customer service forum is interested to know, “Was this helpful?” embedded polls are a great way to get quick feedback about a single topic.

Like many of the other features in our platform, the Poll feature uses a simple wizard design that practically holds your hand through the process of embedding a poll into your blog or website. It really couldn’t be any easier.

However don’t confuse “easy” with “simple.”  Our Poll feature is incredibly powerful.  In just a few quick steps, your custom poll can be translated into several languages and matched to your company’s site. You can even display the results to participants immediately after they submit their responses.

Not only does a well-positioned poll help you gather valuable feedback, it also lets your customers know that you care about what they think. The more easily customers can interact with your website, the more likely they are to come back.

How May I (Not) Help You?

A few Fridays ago, a friend and I made plans to meet at a local restaurant for a few games of pool after work. I knew this place sometimes closed the pool table rooms for private events, so I called ahead to make sure the tables would be available that night.

Me:  “Hi. I just want to make sure there’s no private event tonight and the pool tables will be open.”

Employee:  “They’re open now.”

(It’s 12:30 on a Friday afternoon.)

Me :  “Hmm. Well, I’m at work now.  I’m calling to see if they’ll be available tonight.”

Employee:   “I don’t know.”

Me:  “Could you maybe [hate to inconvenience her] . . .   find out?”

Everyone has a frustrating customer service story where you’re left wondering if the company is purposely trying to drive away business. Conversely, customer service that goes beyond expectations can turn around a bad experience.

For example, my teenage son loves going to a certain restaurant even though the kitchen almost always messes up our order, and we have to wait a really long time to get our food. But, without fail, the manager comes to our table, apologizes profusely and gives us a free appetizer or dessert. The last time we ate there, the kitchen once again had to remake my order. But, this time, the manager insisted on comping not just that one dish, but our entire bill. This restaurant obviously has a systemic problem in its kitchen, but their outstanding customer service is what stays foremost in my mind.

As part of Zarca’s marketing team, I often speak to clients about their experiences using our online survey software. Yes, they love our advanced features and flexible pricing and real-time reporting. But what I hear over and over is how impressed our clients are with our customer service.

Whether they are signing a contract with our sales team, training on the platform with our account managers or troubleshooting with our technical support staff, here’s what our clients are saying:

“Extremely helpful.”

“Beyond professional.”

“Always quick to respond.”

We could have the most innovative, cutting-edge online survey platform in the world (and — admittedly biased — I believe we do), but apathetic, discourteous customer service could instantly trump all the hard work of our design team.

So remember to put as much energy into the client-facing side of your business as you put into your product or service. One positive or negative experience may be all it takes to win or lose a valuable customer.

Battle of the Features: Branching vs. Question Display Logic

In a platform as robust as Zarca’s, with a breadth of features not available in most online survey solutions, we occasionally encounter a question about “redundant features.”  This question often arises with respect to my two favorite features — Branching and Question Display Logic.  While these features may be similar in concept, they each perform distinct functions, giving the survey creator an opportunity to enhance surveys in unique ways.

Branching

Branching, also known as Skip Logic, is a feature that allows survey creators to determine the questions that participants should and should not see based on previously answered questions.  For example, if a survey contains a question about the highest level of education you have achieved and you respond by stating you earned a bachelor’s degree, you should not be prompted with additional questions about the experience of receiving a doctorate.  Branching ensures that participants do not have to see questions that are not applicable to their circumstances. This further ensures that the survey creator will receive the best data possible.

When implementing the Branching feature, the survey creator must direct the participant from one survey page to another.  Based on how a participant answers a question on one page, he/she may be directed to another page for a series of follow-up questions.  For this reason, we say that Branching is “page-to-page dynamic.”

Question Display Logic

Question Display Logic (QDL) is similar to Branching in concept because it allows the survey creator to display certain questions based on how participants respond to preceding questions. Unlike Branching, however, QDL is not page-to-page dynamic.  With QDL, the follow-up question will pop up on the same page.  For example, if a survey contains a question asking the participant to rate the quality of a conference, and the participant selects “Poor,” the QDL feature can prompt a text box to appear immediately below the original question. The participant can then offer additional feedback and further explain their selection.

When survey creators ask me, “Which feature should I use?” I share the following tip:  If you are asking multiple follow-up questions that are best placed on a page by themselves, use Branching.  If, however, you are simply looking for a simple response to a single follow-up question, use Question Display Logic.

Happy surveying!

Mama Always Said, “Box is Like a Life of Chocolates”

Did you ever have one of those moments when you have the exact, perfect thing to say — a hilarious quip, a snappy comeback, the answer to a Jeopardy question — but you get so excited to shout it out that when it leaves your lips the words fall out completely wrong. Don’t worry; it happens to me all the time.

If it’s just your friends who think you’re lame, that’s fine. But what about when your little mistake is sent to thousands of your colleagues, clients or prospects? Not as easy to say, “Oops.”

You can save yourself a lot of hassle just by taking the time to proofread your work. Unfortunately, proofreading is a lost art for two main reasons:

1. Spell Check — I’d argue that spell check has caused more embarrassing typos than it has saved. It’s a great feature but should not be used as a substitute for the old “once over.” Spell check won’t notice that you used the wrong “their” or missed a word, but other people will.

2. Haste — Reading and rereading takes time. So it really comes down to a simple question: Do you want it done now, or do you want it done right?

So slow down. Before you hit Send or (God forbid) “Reply All,” take a minute to check your work.  Remember, the Zarca platform includes a built-in spell check, plus you can always speak to a client representative about any concerns. Even though you can still edit your survey text once it’s live, have someone proofread it before hundreds of others get their hands on it.  You won’t receive compliments for your impeccable use of punctuation, but you’re not going to lose credibility either.

The Real Magic of Online Survey Software

In recent years, technology has transformed every business process and practice. Surveys went from stuffing envelopes or making intrusive phone calls to pointing and clicking on a computer screen; from something that took weeks and months to mere days; from something that once cost thousands of dollars to being highly affordable.

If you have launched an online survey, then you have witnessed this “magic.” Yet, none of that captures the most powerful transformation that technology has brought to the survey world. Thanks to technology, surveys no longer need to be mere exercises in statistics and data collection. After all, do we really have data shortage in any company, college or non-profit? So prevalent is over-collection of data, it has been given a name – DRIP, for Data Rich; Information Poor.

Collecting even more poor quality data, because it is faster and cheaper, is like driving to more wrong destinations, because it is faster and cheaper. It’s time we arrive at the right place and stop driving around aimlessly.

Transform Your Survey Experience

This kind of transformation requires a fundamental shift in your outlook. Surveys can and should serve true customer relationship management – in the most authentic sense of the phrase. The old promise of surveying was about knowing what percent of your customers were unhappy. The new promise and potential in today’s online surveys includes (a) knowing EXACTLY WHICH customers are not happy with you (not just a percentage, but names, email addresses, contact information, what they bought, what specifically happened to make them unhappy, etc.) and (b) connecting instantly with each dissatisfied customer and immediately fixing whatever was broken relative to their expectations.

In this hyper-connected Social Media age, every happy customer can create a buzz, tweet or post with the potential to influence thousands or even millions of future customers. Sadly, every unhappy customer also has that same power. (Have you ever decided against choosing a hotel because it had only a 2-star rating on customer reviews?) Having a mechanism that allows an unhappy customer to  vent directly to you before they blast it in Social Media Land — thereby giving you a chance to immediately repair that relationship — is not only a wise investment but also an essential business growth strategy. The right online survey software should let you do this easily. And, you’ll agree, that’s a lot more power and value than creating Web forms.

We invite you to embrace the full potential of online survey software and experience the real magic of which they are capable.