Great customer insight


customer research

Conducting research into customer satisfaction is a key aspect of a good event management strategy, to ensure that events meet delegate expectations and therefore are viable long term propositions.
Getting quality customer feedback is vital, but it can seem daunting if you have not done so before. It can be a particular challenge to ensure that you hear from enough of your customers and to make sure that you are asking the right questions in the first place.


Where to start?
The danger of jumping right in with a survey to find out what delegates thought about your event is that you might be asking the wrong questions.
Market research techniques like satisfaction surveys are valuable tools, but are inevitably limited by the questions that are being asked. As you will have no doubt experienced yourself, when you complete a survey you can only really respond to the questions being posed. In effect the person preparing it has set the agenda.


Positive responses to irrelevant issues
Where this can prove problematic is if, for example, the questions in a post event satisfaction survey focus on the quality of the catering and hotel comfort levels, when the delegates are really interested in networking opportunities. The survey results may be positive, but the delegates are providing good feedback on issues the majority of them do not consider important.
It is, therefore, very important to start by ensuring that you are asking the right questions. What is really important to your delegates? What do they think are the most important factors, which if you get them right, will result in high levels of satisfaction?


Focus Groups.
A great way of starting to understand this is through focus groups. Focus groups are effectively structured feedback sessions involving a small cross section of existing and potential customers. Where budgets allow it is always worth using an experienced professional. If budget is not available it is possible to run a fairly basic group yourself.
Some basic tips are included here;

  • Select a cross section of customers and potential customers
  • Choose a venue and meeting space at a convenient date and time for your customers
  • Invite your customers to attend the group and offer an incentive for attendance
  • Draft a topic guide for the discussion, this is effectively an informal agenda to help you structure the discussion
  • Hold the focus group, ensure that you have a mechanism for recording the discussion
  • Write up the key findings and action them

Typically the number of focus groups that you hold should reflect the size and diversity of your audience. Practically it is likely that this will be determined by your budget. If you organise a large, national or international conference or a series of conferences in multiple locations you may need to consider holding multiple groups in different areas/regions. Around 8 or 9 people per group is generally agreed to be the perfect size.

Online focus groups are an effective way of getting feedback from your customers, without the need for them to travel. They can be particularly effective at engaging busy professionals, who might otherwise not make their time available. Such methods are relatively cost effective and simple to implement, companies such as www.liveminds.co.uk provide an 'off the shelf' solution.


Next Steps
Once you have completed this process and have a clear idea about the key success factors for your delegates - i.e. what is really important to them, you are well placed to create your customer satisfaction survey.
However you plan to capture the data from your delegates it is important to ensure,

  • The questions are clear, unambiguous and easy to understand
  • The questions follow in logical order
  • The survey is of an appropriate length and not too time consuming for delegates to complete

As a rule of thumb you want your survey to take around 5 mins, certainly no longer than 10 mins or you might experience drop off in the completion rate or disengagement as people 'switch off'.
Before your survey goes live it is very important to test it. Get several colleagues to complete the survey before you let a 'real' customer do so. Ask them to highlight any obvious mistakes and point out anything that does not quite flow. Also have a look at how the results of the test come back to make sure that you have a manageable method of analysing the results and that it is really getting to the heart of the questions that you want to answer.


Collecting your data
There are many different ways of getting your survey into the hands of your delegates. You will need to figure out which is the best approach for you and use it. Some of the most popular methods are listed below;

  • Online. Distributing an online link to a tool like survey monkey is a straightforward method of collecting data. It has the major benefit of being straightforward and easy to manage the analysis of the results. The disadvantage is that your delegates will need to make the effort to access the link during the event, which may result in a drop off in participation in the survey.
  • Paper. Hard copy self completion surveys are commonly used, particularly during or immediately following events. They are easy for delegates to manage and return immediately. Can be more of a challenge to analyse the results, particularly if there is a significant response level.
  • Face to face. Using people to collect data for you. This can be a good method of encouraging a high proportion of delegates to complete the survey. It can be more expensive to implement and worth noting that people can alter their responses if the feedback if they perceived their feedback is not totally confidential.
  • Mobile. There are an increasing range of mobile apps and services that enable people to complete their survey on their mobile device. Check out companies such as www.ipinionsurveys.com

This approach should ensure that you have a robust approach to customer satisfaction research will provide detailed insight and ensure you have a picture of current satisfaction levels and a clear route forward for making improvements.


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