Survey tools provide for gathering customer feedback but not for organizing it. Most large firms today have dozens or even hundreds of separate accounts with survey tools. Employees conduct online surveys to solicit the information they need to answer specific questions. In the process, they degrade the research process. Response rates decline, as too many individuals send out too many survey invitations. Respondents are confused, as questionnaires are published with leading questions and ambiguous lists of choices. It’s easy for do-it-yourself researchers to collect data poorly, leading the business to the wrong conclusions and the wrong decisions.
Panel management is the recognition that customer feedback management is an asset and should be treated as such. In order to preserve customers’ willingness to respond to surveys, organizations need to control and conserve access to those customers for survey research. Too often, organizations survey all or most of their customers rather than a random sample, which at the cost of modestly lower statistical validity enables many more surveys to run in parallel. Good panel management practices treat survey respondents as an ecosystem and make sure not to hunt respondents to extinction.
Surveys are a great way of gathering data that is representative of customers as a whole: quantitative information. MROCs, or market research online communities, are a complementary research technology that allows researchers to monitor and initiate rich conversations between customers: qualitative information. By moving to research community management, firms are able to gather more extensive qualitative information than can be done with focus groups, on a continuous rather than an ad-hoc basis. This enables firms to turn to customers for both strategic and tactical decisions.
Enterprise Feedback Management (EFM) unites surveys and research communities to provide a fuller picture of customers, in numbers and in their own words. The marketing research department now mentors and assists employees as they conduct research; research data is pushed out to employees in hierarchical reports that tailor it exactly to their responsibilities. The marketing department learns the Voice of the Customer and hears ideas and issues raised directly by customers. The IT department integrates CRM with the panel management capabilities of EFM: professionals can then easily target groups of customers for particular surveys, and customers themselves see shorter questionnaires, with information they have already provided the organization embedded behind the scenes.