Dunvegan Blog

10 Tips for Successful Employee Surveys

With the increasing focus on employee engagement, employee satisfaction, and employee retention, companies are conducting more employee surveys in hopes of gaining helpful insights. There are numerous survey tools that allow companies to undertake employee surveys internally without investing in expert consulting support.

While my bias is towards engaging an expert to support your company in designing the questionnaire, collecting answers from your employees, analyzing the responses and providing priority actions to help your company succeed in attracting, engaging and retaining a high performing workforce, I offer the following tips regardless of which path you choose.

1. Identify a senior leader as the sponsor of the survey—ideally, the president/CEO or business owner. The sponsor must have credibility with the employee community and engender trust that the results will be taken seriously and acted upon.

2. Make the survey objectives clearly communicated. When employees have a clear understanding of what is to be accomplished, they will be more likely to participate. Use every channel available to convey to employees the purpose of the survey and the anticipated outcomes.

3. Include everyone—all employees who will be affected by the outcome.

4. Guarantee anonymity—ideally, work with an external firm to ensure that answers are completely confidential and there is no opportunity for employee responses to lead to reprisal or hard feelings. If you choose to undertake the survey in-house, be sure that the answers do not get linked to the responding employee. If there is a breach of confidentiality, you will not get honest contributions.

5. Provide paid time to complete the questionnaire/survey. This is a work-related assignment and should be covered during the regular workday.

6. Make the survey concise. Focus on your objectives rather than asking every imaginable question; it shouldn’t take longer than 15 minutes to complete.

7. Ask objective questions. Avoid biasing the responses, and ensure that employees always have the option to answer: “don’t know/uncertain,” “not applicable” or “prefer not to answer.”

8. Prioritize the objective analysis of results, and ensure that analyses are aligned with the stated objectives.

9. Be prepared to share the survey results with everyone in the company who was asked to participate. Be clear about the actions to be taken, including when, where and by whom. Use every channel available to convey to employees the results of the survey and the actions to be taken.

10. Fulfill your promises to take action based on the survey results. Repeat the survey to measure the impact of the actions/changes that arose from the survey.

The Dunvegan Group works with B2B companies to improve employee retention using The Platinum Rule®, "Treat other people the way they want to be treated." Learn more about our solution.

 


Anne Miner founded The Dunvegan Group in 1987 as a full -service marketing research consulting firm. Under her leadership, the company has adapted to changes in the markets, advances in technology, and economic ups and downs. The firm developed its own processes, metrics, and software to support the services it delivers to Business-to-Business corporations, as well as smaller companies, including start-ups. The company serves clients across North America and around the world as they thrive and grow through serving their own customers according to the insights customers provide.

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5 Customer Research Myths ~ Debunked

In discussing Customer Care and Retention Research with potential clients, I am hearing comments reflecting 5 specific beliefs about customer research. These beliefs have evolved based on the technologies available and the media coverage of various studies which make it appear easy (and therefore cheap) to either avoid customer research all together, allocate a very limited budget to this work and/or expect their internal team to be experts at customer research.

Read on to understand the 5 beliefs and why they are myths …

Myth #1: We don’t need customer research, we know our customers.

Do you really KNOW your customers? What they value about their relationship with your company? What they wish you would change? Where they experience problems or annoyances with your company? Where they experience ‘pain’ that you could help them with … even if this is not something you currently offer?

Customers are unwilling to provide candid feedback to their sales representative for a variety of reasons:

  • they want to avoid hurt feelings
  • they don’t want to compromise their negotiating position
  • they have already decided to leave, and don’t want the bother.
  • they have not been asked (especially true of positive feedback)

Customer research will help you to keep up with changing customer needs and wants and anticipate opportunities to improve and expand your products and services.

Myth #2: If we do need customer research, we can do it ourselves.

You certainly CAN do your own customer research. There are tools (e.g., apps) available to help you collect the information and tabulate the results. Some of the tools are even available free.

And, just as anyone with a tool box can do their own mechanic work, or plumbing or carpentry, that does NOT make them experts.

Marketing research is both an art and a science. And, researchers are skilled professionals who know how to word and how to present questions to minimize biasing the customer’s answer. The interpretation of data is a science which researchers have mastered. And, your customers are more likely to speak freely to an unbiased researcher than they are to speak freely with members of your team.

Myth #3: A researcher could never understand our business - it's too complicated.

The researcher brings knowledge and experience of capturing customer insights across a range of businesses and industries.

While they will need your help understanding the jargon (and acronyms) of your business, and an overall understanding of your business, it is more important for the researcher to fully understand your research goals, your market, and your customers.

Remember, the objective outside perspective from a skilled researcher is of great value in providing you with a deeper understanding of your customers. An understanding that is free of bias or agenda!

Myth #4: It’s easy to design a survey questionnaire.

As mentioned above, there are many tools that make it appear easy to design a survey. But, if the information gathered is to provide useful insights, you must think about how you will analyze it and design accordingly.

You will also want to be sure that the order and wording of the questions minimizes the bias introduced to the dialogue (e.g., that you don’t provide the answer to a later question or lead the customer to give a specific answer).

You will be surprised at the intricacies of questionnaire design and data capture; it is not as easy as it looks!

Myth #5: Anyone can conduct a focus group.

As with questionnaire design, moderating focus groups requires specialized skills and abilities.

Not only will the moderator ask the questions in a specific order, and an objective manner, they will ensure that participation is inclusive and that all points of view are explored.

Moderators often use projective techniques and specialized tools (e.g., usage diaries, experience journals, ethnography, and observation) to support the discussion and develop a clear picture of customer behaviour.

Next time you are tempted to attempt a do-it-yourself solution or disregard the value of customer research all together, please consider these 5 myths and how a researcher can bring great value to your organization.


Anne Miner founded The Dunvegan Group in 1987 as a full -service marketing research consulting firm. Under her leadership, the company has adapted to changes in the markets, advances in technology, and economic ups and downs. The firm developed its own processes, metrics, and software to support the services it delivers to Business-to-Business corporations, as well as smaller companies, including start-ups. The company serves clients across North America and around the world as they thrive and grow through serving their own customers according to the insights customers provide.

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Simulation in the B2B Sales Process

In the B2B world where complex solutions are pervasive, sales teams are challenged to identify the customer’s “pain point”, position their product or service as the optimum solution and persuade the customer to make a purchase.

A product demonstration is a critical component of the sales presentation offering customers the opportunity to test the product’s performance before deciding.

In a world of disruption and exponential change, there is risk that tomorrow, or at least before the product has been delivered and installed, there will be something better available.

Companies often guarantee upgrades and product enhancements to mitigate the risk of rapid obsolescence and ensure that the customer always benefits from innovation.

But, when it comes to services, particularly consulting services, the sales person may present flow diagrams, testimonials, and case studies but how often do they simulate the process and let the customers experience the outcomes they can expect?

It seems to me that simulating the experience is more likely to create trust and confidence in B2B customers/clients. Having experienced the process/solution, leaders will be better able to evaluate the anticipated outcomes and articulate the rationale for engaging the chosen consultant.

At The Dunvegan Group, we have incorporated simulations into our sales process; the first step is a no charge simulation using generic data. This leads to a small fee contract simulation using real data gathered from the client’s own customers and employees.

Simulations allow our clients to mitigate their risk by investing a small amount, to experience our process first-hand, before committing to a larger program.


Anne Miner founded The Dunvegan Group in 1987 as a full -service marketing research consulting firm. Under her leadership, the company has adapted to changes in the markets, advances in technology, and economic ups and downs. The firm developed its own processes, metrics, and software to support the services it delivers to Business-to-Business corporations, as well as smaller companies, including start-ups. The company serves clients across North America and around the world as they thrive and grow through serving their own customers according to the insights customers provide.

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Is Your Voice of the Customer Program Being "Gamed"?

How often have you heard, “When you get the survey, be sure to give me a 10.”? Or, “If there is anything that would prevent you from giving me a 10, please tell me and I will fix it.”? When employees endeavor to boost their satisfaction or NPS® ratings by pressuring the customer, you will not get an accurate read on the strength of the bond between your company and your customers.

This is the risk you face when deploying Voice of the Customer programs that utilize 0-10 rating scales and single question measures. We have seen it happen in companies with the best of intentions and more frequently in companies that attach some portion of compensation to ratings or scores based on customer feedback.

To counteract the risk of inaccurate measures, The Dunvegan Group has adopted two practices:

  • Use of semantic scales (e.g., words) rather than numeric scales (e.g., 0-10), and
  • Use of a composite measure (e.g., multiple factors) to evaluate the likelihood of customer retention/defection.

Through rigorous research, across multiple B2B categories, The Dunvegan Group has identified three critical factors indicative of customer retention/defection, and a method to avoid the potential for internal personnel to game the system.

Service Excellence: Customers expect to experience a high level of service excellence when dealing with B2B Enterprise companies.

At the highest level, customers intend to continue to do business with your company AND they are willing to recommend your company when asked.

Providing your customers with service excellence in doing business with your company, and an experience worthy of recommending your company when asked, is first factor in retaining customers; however, it may not be sufficient to keep your customers coming back.

Pain Tolerance: Change occurs when the pain of the situation is greater than the pain of making a change.

Your customers will tolerate a degree of poor service as long as the pain of making a change exceeds the pain of putting up with the situation.

This is the second factor in retaining customers and the first hurdle for customers who are receiving less than excellent service. It gives your company an opportunity to remedy the situation and rescue the business before the customer defects.

Competitive Choices: Change occurs when there is something more appealing than the current situation.

This is the third factor in customer retention and the second hurdle for customers who are receiving less than excellent service. When customers perceive that there are no better options, despite experiencing poor service and a high degree of pain, they will not switch.

When your customers perceive that your competitors offer goods and service that are at least as good/better than what you deliver, customers may switch despite experiencing a high level of service excellence.

By measuring these three factors, using a non-gameable method, The Dunvegan Group’s programs identify the strength of the bond between your company and your customers. You will see which individual customer contacts are strongly bound to your company, which ones are at risk of defection and everything in between.

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How to radically improve problem-solving in your organization!

In the January 2017 issue of Harvard Business Review (HBR)[1], Thomas Wedell-Wedellsborg demonstrates the power of “reframing” problems to identify optimum solutions quickly, consistently, and effectively.

He begins with an example that illustrates the importance of framing the problem.

When tenants complained that the elevators were too slow, meaning they had to wait for the elevator longer than they could tolerate, the obvious solution was to replace the elevators ~ a costly solution that would exacerbate the problem during installation.

When the problem was reframed as, 'the tenants are bored while waiting for the elevator', a more cost effective and timely solution presented itself; give the tenants something to occupy their attention or entertain them during the wait.

Have you noticed that most elevator lobbies and elevators themselves have mirrored walls? It turns out that people are happy to look at themselves (their reflection) while waiting and this opportunity effectively reduces the perception of a long and boring wait for the elevator.

So, how do we go about “reframing” problems to ensure that we explore all potential solutions?

Wedell-Wedellsborg recommends methodically applying the following steps:

  1. Establish legitimacy for the idea: Demonstrate the power of reframing to your team. The elevator example is a clear and simple example, or you can present them with a copy of the HBR article.
  2. Bring outsiders into the discussion: Whether from other areas of your business or external consultants, an “outsider’s” fresh perspective can be very helpful. These people will help to illuminate the options but cannot be expected to develop the solution.
  3. Have the individual team members define the problem in writing: This is to be done before you commence the reframing exercise so you can see the range and variety of definitions and ensure that the team is prepared to take responsibility.
  4. Ask “what’s missing?from the problem definition: Be sure that you have considered the full scope of the problem.
  5. Consider multiple problem categories: Ask “what type of problem is this?” A production problem? An attitude problem? A perception problem? An incentive problem? Can the problem fit into multiple categories? This may present several alternative solutions.
  6. Analyze positive exceptions: Identify positive outcomes achieved in previous problem-solving efforts. Consider what was different or unique about those situations and how you may apply the learning to the current situation.
  7. Question the objectives: Identify competing objectives or objectives that are out of alignment; reframe the problem to encompass all the objectives.

Having reframed the problem in one or more ways, it is time to gather evidence to support the reframed definition. Test your hypothesis using recognized research approaches: observation, surveys, prototypes.

Continue to refine the problem definition and the solution until you are satisfied.

To learn more about how you can apply reframing techniques to problem-solving in your organization, please contact Anne Miner, President of The Dunvegan Group toll free at 1.888.281.3074 or anne.miner@dunvegangroup.com


 

[1] “Are you solving the right problems?” Thomas Wedell-Wedellsborg, HBR January- February 2017 page 76-83

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