You have my attention…now don’t lose it.

As a lifelong shopper, I’m at the point where I anticipate survey invitations following a purchase or a trip. (Although I’m still not sure how much valuable input I can share from a two-minute visit to purchase a pack of gum.) In fact, I’m surprised if I don’t receive a request for feedback.

A few weeks ago I went on vacation and, like clockwork, received a survey invitation within 36 hours of returning home. Since I was on a mission to ensure one of the staff members will be named the next Employee of the Month, I was eager to participate. Unfortunately, though, my interest dwindled as the minutes ticked by. Although I diligently answered page after page of  questions, the progress bar barely moved. This survey felt longer than my entire vacation.

There are many challenges when launching survey initiatives. First, you have to entice your audience to open the survey. Then, once you have their attention, you have to keep it. If they feel the survey is too long, they’ll soon bolt.

Since I work in the survey business, I understand wanting feedback on every little detail to best improve your product or service. But, seriously, everyone shouldn’t be asked everything.

For instance, if someone didn’t visit the spa, even if they wish they had, then they shouldn’t be forced to wade through pages of spa questions. That’s where tools like Branching and Question Display Logic come into play. Branching respondents to just the most relevant survey questions cuts the survey’s length, which helps ensure that participants not only finish your survey but also provide quality feedback. It’s a win-win situation.

With Zarca Interactive, you can quickly and easily create powerful, personalized surveys. Get feedback you can put into action, such as making Ricky “Employee of the Month” (hint, hint.)


Creating Complex Reports Quickly & Easily

Surveying is a valuable way to communicate with customers and employees, while providing insight into their thought processes. But while most companies can easily collect survey data, it’s much more of a challenge to make sense of all the responses and ultimately create powerful reports.

Before 2009, most businesses simply didn’t have the expertise and time to properly filter and quantify survey data. Therefore, it was nearly impossible to use that data in strategic decision-making.

Over the past few years, Zarca Interactive has refined tools to address the painstaking process of creating reports, charts and analyses, with particular emphasis on minimizing the steps required to create complex reports. This means that reporting can be done by any employee in your company, not only those in your research department.

In just a few moments, you can easily create complex pivot tables, pie charts, statistical analysis, segmentation reports and much more — all via Zarca’s wizard-driven, point-and-click reporting tool. And, once you’ve generated those reports, you can easily email or share them in nearly every major format or on any website.

Zarca helps you quickly and easily create and generate complex reports — allowing you to use those reports to make informed, strategic business.

The Fine Art of Email Delivery

You built a survey so powerful that you sent test invites to all of your colleagues with the subject line, “Look How Amazing Linda Is!”  Your colleagues agreed, so you’re ready to launch your organization’s annual compliance study.  It is imperative that everyone participates because the data obtained must be shared with the federal government. This survey is a big deal.

Before you hit the “Send” button, however, ask yourself if you developed a launch plan and attended to the email delivery logistics.  If this sounds unfamiliar, here’s what you should do:

a) Determine a date and time to launch the survey, and inform prospective participants that the survey will be released then.  This way, people know to expect a survey and can contact you if they don’t receive it.

b) Inform the company’s email administrator that you’re planning to launch a survey and provide the specific date and time in advance.

c) Present the email administrator with the Zarca Readiness Plan.  This document includes valuable information to ensure email delivery.

d) After the Readiness Plan is implemented, confirm with the email administrator that both Zarca’s mail server and application server are white-listed.  (Essentially, you’re looking for a “yes” to both items.)

e) Speak with the email administrator about threshold limits to determine the number of emails the mail server is prepared to process at one time.  If you’re planning to send a survey to 10,000 people and the threshold limit is 500 per hour, you’ll need to consult with the email administrator regarding the launch plan.

Once the launch plan is in place and you’ve sorted out the logistics, send the survey to yourself and your colleagues.  Participate in the test run to ensure that everything goes smoothly and according to plan.  Once you’ve confirmed that everything works properly, distribute your survey.

Good luck and happy surveying!

Does Friday Feel Like Monday?

Everyone has a bad day at the office. Even the co-worker who greeted me daily with a way-too-peppy, “Good morning, Sunshine!” occasionally did so through gritted teeth. Nobody should expect to love their job every minute of every day.

But if you — or your employees — are having more bad days then good, and feeling an overall sense of dissatisfaction and lack of motivation, then action must be taken. According to Aon Hewitt, the global human resource consulting and outsourcing business of Aon Corporation, global employee satisfaction is at its lowest level since 2008. Worldwide, 44% of all employees feel a disconnection between their individual roles and their employers’ organizational goals.

It’s no wonder, then, that a majority of new visitors to the Zarca Interactive website are searching for information about Employee Satisfaction Surveys. Just in the U.S. alone, businesses are losing $370 billion annually to apathetic employees, yet 70% of leaders have no engagement plan or strategy.

If employee satisfaction is a topic of concern at your company, let Zarca Interactive help you get to the root of the problem so you can take appropriate action. We’ll work with you to ask just the right questions, monitor employee responses with real-time reporting, and create and run customized, powerful reports.

Get started by checking out best practices for conducting Employee Engagement Surveys. After all, the only thing worse than an office full of unhappy employees is an executive suite full of oblivious managers.

How to Increase Survey Responses: Understand Motivations

The critical ingredient for a successful survey project is a group of motivated respondents. There are some people who are naturally motivated to answer a survey, eager to share their opinions. Others couldn’t care less. So, how do you inspire every survey respondent to participate?

The study of human motivation has a long history in the fields of psychology and economics.  One prominent way for businesses to look at motivation is the Cost-Benefit Analysis (CBA).

Companies measure costs such as money, time, and reputation before sending a survey.  The benefits are usually measured in anticipation of increased business and improvements to the bottom line. Successful surveys do not just improve the company, they improve your customer relationships and communication practices.

Whether we realize it or not, we as individuals use CBA to make daily decisions. For survey participants, the costs are the time and effort used to complete a survey. However, the benefits for survey participants are often unclear or meaningless. You’ll always have narcissists who get a thrill at the chance to share their opinions. But, if you want to increase your response rate, then you need to share the benefits, or survey recipients won’t bother.

You may know the survey benefits for your company, but what’s in it for your respondents? What are their benefits of taking your survey?

Want to learn more? Please read my report: Maximizing Survey Participation

How Effective is Your Social Media Strategy?

According to several new studies, companies are not communicating effectively with their customers through Twitter or Facebook.  Jan Rezab with Econsultancy Digital Marketers United writes  about a study that clearly shows,  on average, businesses respond just 5% of the time when customers pose questions on popular social media sites.

Maintaining active communication not only strengthens the relationship between consumer and retailer, it also improves brand equity in the public eye.  Nothing sends a stronger message to the consumer than a company willing to stand behind their product and provide an open channel of communication and feedback.  There’s a common misconception that all a company needs to be social in the digital age is a Facebook page and a Twitter account.   Not so, say many researchers.  The truth is that  companies have to go beyond that first step and begin responding to those who show interest in their brand.

Nowadays, companies spend a lot of money attracting and luring new customers.   Interestingly, consumers have actually become companies’ biggest brand ambassadors.  I remember a time when identifying with a top retailer was considered selling out.  This paradigm shift has put companies in a position that most do not seem to be managing well.

As business owners, some of the most valuable  information we can glean from social media is consumer perception of our brand, products or services.  The advent of technology has given us a platform to not only gauge feedback, but to have a direct line of communication with our end users.  The moment our constituents  feel wronged, technology  allows us to  instantly and immediately reach out.

Maritz Research surveyed an online panel of just under 1,300 U.S. consumers who use their Twitter accounts to communicate about products, services and companies.   Nearly half of the respondents expected the companies to read their tweets, but only one-third received   a company response to a tweeted complaint.  Of the remaining two-thirds who did not receive feedback, an overwhelming 86% would have “liked or loved” to get some type of company response.

The message is clear and well-received by forward-thinking  organizations such as Dell.  The result is a stronger allegiance to brands, increased sales and the best kind of marketing a company can buy — an army of brand ambassadors.

Customer Satisfaction vs. Customer Loyalty

By successfully leveraging social media, today’s businesses are able to communicate directly with their customers on a much larger scale than ever before.

Social media like Facebook, Twitter and blogs keep businesses in constant contact with their customers. The only downside to most social media sites is a lack of dialogue. So the question becomes, “What do my customers think of my business?”

For more than a decade, customer satisfaction indicators have been a great way for any sized business to understand how their customers are feeling.

But are satisfied customers enough?

Surveys on satisfaction may yield results that show a high percentage of “Completely Satisfied” customers. However, a survey of the same group can often show an alarming percentage of customers who would be willing to purchase the same service from a different provider.

In “The Customer Satisfaction Survey Snag,” Bloomberg Businessweek’s Kevin Poyne says that a new scale is needed to measure customer loyalty. In Poyne’s scale, satisfaction becomes the midpoint. Satisfied customers may have no complaints, but will they remain loyal to your business?

A higher rating would be, “Better than I could expect from another provider.” This rating begins to imply loyalty.

Of course, it should be noted, that studies have also shown that in tough economic times (i.e., now) customers are likely to reduce their own “total satisfaction” in favor of “purely the lowest price.”

According to Poyne, the ultimate test of loyalty — the willingness to tell friends — should be the top rating: “This was so great I will mention it in conversation later today.”

Companies that are able to create and maintain satisfied and loyal customers stand a much better chance of survival. Those who strive for satisfaction alone may be fighting a losing battle.

All Question Types Are Not Created Equal

Despite what your primary school teachers may have told you, there is such a thing as a bad question — especially when it comes to surveying.  The type and quality of the questions you ask will determine the type of data you receive, which ultimately determines the quality of the reports you create.  Good questions mean good data.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when creating survey questions:

1. If you want only one response to a question, do not give participants the opportunity to select more than one option.

2.When creating a rating scale question, consider making the scale smaller, not larger.  On a scale of 1 – 10, no one really knows the difference between a “9” and a “10.”  You will get more definitive data with a smaller scale.

3. Remember GIGO – Garbage In, Garbage Out.  If you ask participants to enter a certain kind of information but provide them with open space and no formatting parameters, the participant can enter anything.  For example, if you ask me for my annual salary in an employee survey, but you only provide an open-ended text box, what is to stop me from entering a bunch of &*%^ (junk) symbols?  Format the text boxes to receive certain kinds of data — numbers, percentages, ZIP Codes, Social Security numbers, etc.

4. Don’t double dip when writing your questions.  Double dipping is when you combine two questions into one.  For example:  On a scale of 1 – 5, rate the quality of the hotel accommodations and the cost for the perceived value.  What does the participant do if the hotel was amazing but not worth $600 per night?  Create separate questions for each item.

These are just a few helpful hints as you build your surveys.  Happy questioning!

The Art of the Employee Survey

It’s 9:47 on a Tuesday morning.  You and your colleagues are gathered in the conference room brainstorming how you are going to create the new employee study requested by the CEO.  There have been some stirrings in the company about satisfaction levels, opportunities for improvement and a lack of corporate efficiency.  But before contacting vendors for project quotes, it is important to consider a few issues.

While you may have a general idea of what you want, make sure that you have a clear understanding of your project’s purpose.  Do you want to conduct a satisfaction study or an engagement study? 

Employee Engagement

Employee engagement is defined as the heightened connection that employees associate with their jobs. This association influences them to apply additional effort for the company. The predecessor to engagement studies were employee satisfaction studies, which simply explored the question, “Is the employee satisfied with her job?”  As satisfaction studies evolved, researchers realized that a significant piece of the puzzle was missing.

Employee Satisfaction

An employee can be satisfied with having a comfortably air-conditioned office, sufficient coffee supplies in the break room and a consistent paycheck.  None of these items, however, leads the employee to apply additional, discretionary efforts to her job.  She won’t necessarily work diligently to help the company meet its bottom line, if she is just satisfied with status quo.  Thus, satisfaction is a limited measure.

Reporting Considerations

In addition to the type of employee surveys you would like to conduct, think about the kind of information you want to see in the reports.  The best way to answer, “What do we ask in the survey?” is to determine the information you want to obtain from the reports.

How are you going to distribute the survey to your employees? Are there staff members who do not use their email on a regular basis?  If so, perhaps you should consider providing an email, paper and/or telephone option to accommodate all employees.

You might also consider if the survey should be conducted in multiple languages, the time of year it will be distributed, and how employees will be notified that the survey is on its way.  Remember, the pre-survey communication effort is just as important as the survey itself.

The possibilities are quite extensive but with the right partner firm and a clear sense of direction, you will succeed!

How to Maximize your Survey Benefits

In my final post on participation rates, I’d like to explore the role of benefits. Benefits are any advantage a person thinks will result from completing a survey.  Examples of benefits can include anything from feel-good emotions to material rewards.  Because we don’t always know what every participant perceives as a benefit, how can we maximize survey results and appeal to everyone?

It is important to understand that benefits are usually less obvious to a person than the cost of completing a survey.  Costs occur as soon as a survey arrives in your inbox, whereas benefits are enjoyed in the future.  We must help people see that the long-term benefits are worth the short-term costs.

There are a few steps we can take to highlight a participant’s benefits:

  • Begin pre-survey communications several weeks before the survey period.  Not only do these communications provide basic information about the survey, but they also give information about the kinds of decisions that will be made — thereby highlighting the potential benefit.
  • Provide examples of past surveys that led to a specific change. These changes are tangible benefits that participants can relate to.
  • Personalize the survey invitations, along with the survey itself.  Include a participant’s first and last name when possible.
  •  Include images and videos in your survey.  Color and sounds help to make the survey come alive and feel “more real.”
  • Report the findings of the survey and explain how those findings will be used. Take every chance you can to show how the voice of your constituents is having an impact on business decisions.

This last step is particularly important because it proves that you value your respondents. Participants want to know that they didn’t waste their time, and that their voices are being heard.  If you follow all these steps, you should soon see an increase in your survey participation rate!

Thanks for reading my posts about Maximizing Survey Participation!