How feedback surveys can boost spending by 131%

Customers who answered a feedback survey (vs who didn’t) spent 131% more over 12 months. Start the survey with an open-ended question asking what they liked the most.

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This paper is 4+ years old (it’s Thursday, research throwback day). But you’ve probably never heard of it. That’s an absurd waste of excellent research.

Along with the previous tip “People love products with rituals”, this was one of the main studies that motivated me to create Ariyh. Hope you love it as much as I do.

Thank you Christophe Lembregts (Rotterdam School of Management) for introducing me to this research.


Regularly ask customers for feedback, including what they liked the most, to boost repurchases

Impacted metrics: Customer spending | Purchase frequency
Channels: Surveys | Customer service | Marketing communications
For: Both B2C and B2B

Tip type: Existing research (February 2017)
Previous tip: Use ‘Pick-your-price’ to boost sales (All tips here)

Recommendation

Regularly ask (potential or existing) customers for feedback (e.g. their satisfaction with your overall product, delivery, customer service).

Start with an open-ended question asking what they enjoyed about your product or experience. For example:

  • “What did we do great?”

  • “What did you like the most about the experience?”

  • “What did you enjoy about [Product]?

Then, you can move on to your regular questions (e.g. satisfaction rating, what to improve).

Effects

  • Asking customers for feedback increases their future spending, even more so if they respond.

  • To maximize the effect, start with an open-ended question asking what they liked the most:

    • In a B2B experiment, this additional question increased spending 32.88%

    • In a B2C experiment, overall spending was 130.98% higher for those who answered the survey vs those that didn’t.

  • The effect can be broken down into three components (see figure below), two of which we know from previous research:

    • Mere solicitation effect [previous research]: simply asking for feedback through an online survey (without getting an answer) increased average sales of a B2B software by $1.10

    • Mere measurement effect [previous research]: customers who completed a closed-question satisfaction survey spent a further $5.39 on average

    • Mere measurement plus effect [new discovery]: when an additional “Please tell us what you particularly liked about your trial experience” was added at the start, spending increased by a further $2.19

(Breakdown of effects driving more spending - Click to zoom in)


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Why it works

  • When asked for our opinion (mere solicitation and measurement effects), we generally develop a better impression of the other party.

  • Our memory is easily influenced, so when we’re asked to remember and explain our positive experiences in an open-ended question:

    • We ‘dig’ in our memory, extract the best parts of the experience, and then actively reprocess them in order to explain them in our own words.

    • The refreshed memory of the experience that we then ‘save’ again is a positively-distorted one.

    • We now have both a more positive and longer memory of the experience (because we were forced to ‘refresh it’)

Limitations

  • It’s unclear how much (or whether) the effect changes if the positive feedback is asked in a closed-question.

  • Asking for feedback improves positive memories of the experience, but it’s unclear exactly by how long.

  • The study only tested feedback that’s asked by and privately shared with the company. Authors of positive public online reviews (e.g. on a Facebook page) may experience the same effect, but this was not tested.

  • The effect appears to work with those who had a poor experience, but probably not with those that had a terrible one.

Companies using this

  • Based on data from 10 years ago (it’s unlikely that there have been huge changes):

    • 86% of companies gather some type of feedback from customers, the vast majority of it general or negative

    • Only 26% of executives say they have a systematic way to collect and analyze feedback regularly

  • It’s very rare for companies to ask for positive feedback. For example, the UK’s Royal Mail website has a page where you can share compliments, they even promise to send it to specific employees.

Steps to implement

  • If you don’t already have it, set up an automated system to regularly ask for feedback from customers (an in-app or emailed online survey being the easiest option).

  • Start with a positive open-ended question. If keeping response rates high is a priority you can make the open-ended question optional.

  • Rethink the way in which you ask about what you can improve. Negatively framed questions (e.g. “what did we do wrong?”) may encourage customers to remember the experience as worse than a more positively framed one (e.g. “what can we do to make your experience even better?”).

  • Test ways to acknowledge positive feedback you receive (e.g. an automated email, a personal note, etc.), as it might boost the effect.

  • Encourage customers to write positive reviews about you. You’ll not only generate positive word-of-mouth but might also produce a similar positive effect for the authors, whereby they will recall the best parts of your product and have a better image of you.


Study type

Field experiments (on repurchase behavior of 27,066 customers of a large B2C portrait studio retail chain and spending of 8,384 customers at a B2B software company). United States

Research

Bone, S. A., Lemon, K. N., Voorhees, C. M., Liljenquist, K. A., Fombelle, P. W., Detienne, K. B., & Money, R. B. (February 2017). “Mere Measurement Plus”: How Solicitation of Open-Ended Positive Feedback Influences Customer Purchase Behavior. Journal of Marketing Research, 54(1), 156-170.

[Link to paper]

Affiliations

Huntsman School of Business, Utah State University; Carroll School of Management, Boston College; Eli Broad College of Business, Michigan State University; Marriott School of Management, Brigham Young University; and D’Amore-McKim School of Business, Northeastern University. United States.

Remember: This research could be disproven in the future (although this is rare). It also may not be generalizable to your situation. If it’s a risky change, always test it on a small scale before rolling it out widely.


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