If you’ve ever tried to get a group of people to decide where to eat, you know it’s easier to get a definitive response with “What sounds better, pizza or seafood?” rather than an open-ended “What kind of food are you in the mood for?”

QuestionsThe endless possibilities of open-ended questions can sometimes cause response paralysis, and that is true with surveys as well. Effective users of Net Promoter surveys know the qualitative responses in the open-ended question are more actionable and valuable than the quantitative score, but unfortunately response paralysis results in many respondents leaving it blank. Most people aren’t willing to dedicate much time to a response, and if something doesn’t come to mind in a few seconds they move on.

Now I’m not knocking open-ended questions, they can yield incredibly valuable insights and uncover things you might not think to include in closed-ended questions. And one problem with closed-ended questions is they can leave respondents frustrated with forced responses to questions that are not relevant to them. I recently attempted to complete a survey where the first 3 questions forced me to rate services I hadn’t even used. Bad for both customer experience and your response rates.

Net PromoterBut what if you could make open-ended questions smarter so you avoid response paralysis, while driving both highly actionable responses and high response rates? Using member analytics to create laser-focused and personalized survey questions does just that. Think of these as surgical procedures rather than the general health checkup of Net Promoter or other generalized surveys.

For one of our clients (a large health club brand), our analytics detected a precipitous drop-off in attendance at group exercise classes for a specific age and gender demographic. Far-ranging speculation about the reason ensued. Perhaps unpopular class content, or inconvenient class schedule, or nearby competition was to blame. The release of a new series on Netflix was even floated as a possible reason!

With good customer data, there’s no need to speculate. There’s also no need to wait for the next Net Promoter or other generalized survey hoping to get feedback about a very specific issue you already know needs to be explored. You know which demographic segment was in question, you even know which individuals had stopped attending the classes. All that needs to be done is to send ONE very specific question to a very specific segment of members: What can we do to improve your group exercise class experience?

Several very positive things occur with this approach:Checklist

  1. The respondent’s mind is focused on a very specific thing, eliminating response paralysis
  2. The respondent is presented with a question personalized around their previous product usage, increasing the likelihood of a response. Experience Management experts at Qualtrics have found that personalized surveys can increase response rates up to 48%.
  3. The survey is occurring on the customer’s “calendar of concern”, not yours. We tend to send surveys on an arbitrary schedule of our choosing, which may or (likely) may not coincide with the real-time concerns/frustrations/obstacles our customers may be facing.
  4. The respondent’s answer can produce immediately actionable insights. They were attending classes (using the product), now they’re not. Speculation is not effectively actionable, specific responses from the members are.
  5. You’re cutting down on unnecessary touches to unaffected customers because you’re targeting just the customers who a) have a connection to the specific product/service in question, and b) are exhibiting behaviors indicative of some sort of issue with it (e.g. low usage, decreasing usage, etc.)
  6. It doesn’t look or feel like a survey. Most people hate surveys. The impression most surveys give is that you don’t know anything about the member and you are trying to learn about them. This is the opposite. You know something about them, and you’re just directly asking for feedback about it.

ConclusionWaiting and hoping for actionable feedback in periodic Net Promoter and other generalized surveys is a passive approach, often resulting in corrective actions that are weeks or months too late for some members. Using member behavior analytics to direct targeted, purpose-built surveys puts you in a far more proactive position for driving member experience, retention, and the coveted power of word-of-mouth we started caring about NPS for in the first place.