Until very recently, polls felt like the law of the land in traditional media and public opinion. The analysis of social networks now offers new possibilities in terms of innovation and business intelligence. If they implement a contextualization process, firms and political organizations can gain significant competitive advantages: a better understanding of the market, bigger cost savings, faster growth, smarter use of resources and more efficient targeting of a favourable clientele.
Techniques of social networks analysis are improving at an exponential rate; so much so that they are now foreshadowing the use of individuals’ comments and interaction as a strategic vector.
Today, best practices serve as an example to optimize business processes but most of all, they help in capturing new markets by reducing the risks in said markets. This case study describes Voxco’s perspective on the revolution we are witnessing in the field of social networks analysis.
We hope this study will be a source of inspiration for you with regards to social network analysis within your company.
Posted by Eric Perreault
Mastery of information management has become an essential ingredient in the creation of corporate value. Market research firms and their customers have fully understood the strategic implications ; they are increasingly exploiting survey results, and this will eventually transform business organization and operations.
For example; “In 2010, only 8% of firms regularly using customer satisfaction and loyalty measurement programs actually analyze the data with sophisticated statistical tools…and practically none of them convert the data into action plans, hence the need for follow-up initiatives,” states Michel Saulnier, researcher and president of the Quebec chapter of the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association (MRIA). In fact these business managers risk missing out on strategic pointers with all the consequences that this might have for their markets.
Yves Masson, Senior Partner of the research firm Saine Marketing considers that “consumers today are much more critical in their shopping choices, consequently satisfaction indicators no longer enable firms to have a clear vision of the loyalty and engagement of their customers.”
Aware of this phenomenon, market research firms are looking to develop new approaches to managing survey results. The aim is to initiate implementation of continuous improvement processes at all operational levels of the firm, and to convert the results of satisfaction surveys into action plans. “Today, organizations are exposed to multichannel communications offering multiple points of contact with their customers; such as retail outlets, call centers, online purchasing sites, social media etc. They must develop a 360 degree vision of the client and incorporate the findings of these studies into their management systems,” believes Yves Masson.
Inclusion of an explicit process within the organization structure to effectively exploit the results of satisfaction surveys should be fundamental; not something left to chance or improvisation. “Awareness of the need for a certain management policy often only arises in a crisis, at a time when management realizes that it does not have the tools to deal with the situation,” Michel Saulnier points out. In this area, the National Bank is a pioneer. In 2007, the new president of the bank, Louis Vachon, introduced a new vision “One client, one bank” that was to transform the customer relationship approach to banking. “Customer expectations are constantly evolving and we must be able to adapt to their needs in real time,”says Dominik Giasson, Senior Director of Research at the National Bank. Four years ago, the National Bank implemented a measure of customer loyalty which is currently evolving. This includes an improved governance process and ensures that customer satisfaction is a priority throughout the entire organization.
To uphold promises made to customers, is governance the ultimate corporate tool?
Large organizations such as Hydro-Quebec are moving in the same direction, and are creating new management models which in the near future will be adopted by most companies. This is a trend which will be interesting to follow closely.
Posted by Marie-Eve St-Arnaud
You already know that in this day and age, firms increasingly analyze what people say and write about them and their brand on the Web: discussion forums, blogs, social networks, RSS feeds, etc. This research takes time since the results come from hundreds, even thousands of comments. Some talk about the strengths and weaknesses of the products, others challenge them and still others compare them to the competition.
IN BUSINESS, TIME IS MONEY
The majority of social networks content analysis software requires manual handling to prepare their reports. Analysts normally use software such as Excel to classify information and integrate excerpts of comments to that information. They then use software such as PowerPoint to give shape to their reports and add some tables and graphs to them. Long hours have thus been spent manipulating data. If the exercise is a necessary evil for small sized firms, it is simply a source of profitability loss for large companies and market research firms, which analyze social networks on a daily basis.
A PROFITABLE SOLUTION
Acuity4 Social is one of the few software in its category to analyze the content of social networks and provide relevant reports with a minimum of manipulation. As soon as an analysis is launched, categories are created and the comments are integrated – all automatically. The most seasoned analysts can also create their own categories, without altering the relevance of the results.
Acuity4 Social processes the information, classifies it, assigns sentiment to comments – and presents these results in a clear and detailed report.
For businesses and market research firms, the automation of social networks content analysis is a considerable advantage. Acuity4 Social automation and reporting help to come up with analyses that are much more detailed, and in less time than competing software.
Before considering the acquisition of social networks analysis software, businesses should ask themselves about their needs as well as the necessary manipulations and execution time. Does the acquisition of social monitoring analysis require the hiring of more staff?
Business is Business. Do the Math.
// Other related article that could be of interest
Posted by Eric Perreault
“Polls are for strippers and cross-country skiers”
– Sarah Palin, speaking at a Tea Party rally one year ago
Despite this assertion from the defeated Republican vice-presidential candidate, polls continue to be omnipresent in the coverage of electoral seasons. We are witnessing this in the United States, even more than we did recently in Quebec’s elections. The fact is, even if dismissively downplayed by some, political and opinion polls are here to stay because, in addition to being an important gauge of public opinion, they are heavily relied upon and commented on by the media to feed their news cycles. With such a strong demand for polls, their supply will continue. The market (for them) has spoken.
The United States is as fascinating a case as it gets in assessing the significance, or not, of polls in today’s electoral process. Some argue that polls influence election results. Let’s just say that with close to 500 national and state-level polls regularly cited at any time (the Huffington Post Pollster tracking model charts their average daily), hardly a day goes by without a voter hearing or reading about a new poll. This may or may not scare them into volunteering for their candidate or convincing friends and family of the importance of their vote, but it could secure their feeling of being in the lead, maybe to the point of not bothering to vote. Most likely, however, people realize that a poll is not a prediction and that it should not change their vote or electoral behaviour. “The web site is called Pollster, not Forecaster” Stanford University political science professor Simon Jackman reminds us about HuffPost’s tool.
One thing to keep in mind when reading U.S. polls is that national ones often matter less than those in, say, Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio or Virginia, a few of the infamous “swing states”, those that could swing either way in the November election and where Obama and Romney will focus their campaigns. That is due to the American political system which, in all its heightened polarization, reduces the significance of polls in most states, even the giants California, Texas or New York because they rarely switch allegiance despite their huge populations. The most sought-after votes are those of independent voters, and most especially in those swing states.
So if you want anything that looks like a prediction, the polls reflecting these battleground states’ intentions are the ones you should pay most attention to.
Posted by Marie-Eve St-Arnaud
The annual conference held by the “Council of American Survey Research Organizations” (CASRO) is a major event for the market research industry. This year’s theme “Strategies for Transformative Times”, is finely in tune with this period of intense change that we are going through.
These changes also amount to major challenges for the market research industry since its very existence is sometimes called into question: take another look at our article “Are you ready to find out more about your clients?”, which addresses very real cases. However, while these challenges are indeed at our doorstep, several CASRO presenters will explain how developments in technology and new data sources constitute extraordinary opportunities for market research. It is even said that we are in a “Golden Age” for this industry. Isn’t this exciting?
Another very interesting aspect of the program is the meeting with two of the leaders in social media, Facebook and Google. This is an excellent opportunity to learn more about one of the hottest topics of the moment. It will enable you better assess the benefits of our social media monitoring solution, Acuity4 Social.
At Voxco, we are very pleased to participate in the CASRO annual conference, and we invite you to come and see us there to discuss our applications for online surveys, multichannel data collection, mobile surveys and social media monitoring. We have just announced Actuity4 Survey version 4.5, our online survey software, so you can take advantage of this CASRO opportunity to learn about our new features for respondents using smartphones and tablet devices.
There will be many participants, so it would be best to reserve a time slot to come and chat with us!
Have a great conference, and looking forward to meeting you in Arizona!
Posted by Eric Perreault
There’s a lot of noise about the validity of online surveys these days. People questioning the reliability and accuracy of the results, the so called ‘error margin’, samples sizes and panels, and so forth. We’ve all read about it, and it can get pretty confusing.
Let’s clear some stuff up, shall we?
All online research is not the same. Just because fruit grows on trees, that doesn’t mean that all fruit that grows on trees is the same. Just like fruit, there are a variety of online survey types. Facebook polls, for example, are not meant to be used for serious research purposes, only for entertainment.
True market research requires methodology, scientific principles, oversight, and a plethora of other aspects. This holds true whether the survey is online or offline.
Telephone Surveys VS Online Surveys
What makes one survey more accurate than another? That is the question that people should be asking. Accuracy and reliability of data is the short answer, the long answer consists of the ‘why’.
It doesn’t matter ‘how’ you conduct a survey or a poll (online, offline, interception, etc.), it just matters that you follow and understand the rules of the art. We often see pollsters (political in particular) conducting very similar surveys, yet it happens quite often that each firm arrives at different results. Why is that? If I’m asking aß similar question to 1000 people, shouldn’t the results be statistically similar if I ask that similar question to another 1000 people?
No, the truth is that ‘similar’ questions are not ‘the same’ questions. Similar market research firms are not ‘the same’ firms. Similar pollsters are not ‘the same’ pollsters. The truth is, when it comes to research, everything is in the details.
The Phone Survey Explained
Telephone surveys and polls work in the following way. First, draft up a questionnaire. The questions should be designed by a specialist who understands how questions work, for just as with everything else in surveys, it’s about minimizing error. “Do you like X brand or politician?” is a completely different question from “Would you buy X brand or vote for X politician?” The wording matters.
After making sure that the questions are neutral and don’t ‘lead’ the respondent, tackle sample. For the telephone, this means selecting a few thousand phone numbers in strategic locations which, in theory, could be projected upon the whole population.
(Note: there are many different types of surveys, some have lists of pre-selected eligible respondents (Doctors, Professionals, people between 24-35, etc), and some survey typed are called probabilists (these are the most reliable phone surveys, because the sample is truly random). More on this in later posts)).
Then the survey is programmed into a CATI (Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing) software, and the telephone interviewers get to work calling people.
Online Surveys Explained
For online surveys, the process is similar, first we design the questionnaire with the same neutrality as the phone questionnaire, but then, instead of random phone numbers to represent the population statistically, we turn to panel management software, such as the excellent one provided by CINT, and select a sample (or Type) of people from the panel list that represent the group(s) of people whose opinion or input we seek. Then, a questionnaire is programmed into an online survey program, like the one provided by Voxco, an invitation is sent to the panellists, and they answer the survey online.
The Difference Explained
For a typical phone survey, say a 15 minute, 1000 completes survey type with a completion rate of 2 per hour, and a deadline of 5 days, we need to complete 100 survey hours per day, and at 5 hours per shift, that equates to 20 telephone interviewers working per day on that project.
Not all telephone interviewers are created equal, some are great at their craft, and can complete 4 surveys per hour, some are terrible and can barely manage 1 per shift. We’ve all been called by a telephone interviewer that was so bad, so incomprehensible, rude, in a bad mood, that we asked to speak to their supervisor to complain. We’ve also all been called by those really good ones that even convince us to do the survey during suppertime simply because they’re that charming.
On the phone, people don’t always answer the same way to each question simply because the person conducting the survey on the other line is either good or bad, charming or boring, conforming to MRIA rules and guidelines or not, called you when you were in a bad mood, or during supper, or too early or too late, and for a plethora of other reasons. That, even though it’s being supervised, causes errors in the results for which ‘the margin of error’ doesn’t account.
Alternatively, even though we circumvent the ‘human aspect’, online research also contains some inherent flaws. For example, you can never be 100% sure that the person to whom the invite was sent, is truly the person answering the survey. Also, some research has shown that not everyone answering an online questionnaire takes the time to read the whole question before answering. Additionally, the general response rate is lower when using online research, and professionals (Doctors, Architects, CEOs, etc,) are quite harder to poll.
So What’s The Best Solution?
Well, that all depends on the type of survey you’re conducting, but generally speaking, if you’re looking for precision, the Mixed Approach is hands-down the best solution.
The analysis of the results gathered by a mix of online and offline surveys allows for greatest reliability of data. (Note: The analysis of survey results (online or offline) is just as responsible for accuracy as the survey itself. More on this in later posts).
By using both methods, online and offline, not only are you getting the best of both worlds, but you’re actually double checking your results using two different, and independent techniques. The mixed approach, in our ever-evolving electronic world, is truly the answer to all your research questions. Both techniques are complimentary to each other, and their weaknesses and strengths are often mutually exclusive, which is why, conducting both simultaneously, yields the most precise and reliable results.
This is a fascinating subject, and in the coming months, we will be exploring it, as well as methodology, phone room management techniques, online sample management techniques, the margin of error, and many other subjects related to the online/offline survey reality.
Meanwhile, if you have any questions about online or offline research services, software, or techniques, please don’t hesitate to give us a call. Also, if you have a chance, come and see us at CASRO Annual Conference (2012, October 8-11), we’d love to meet with you face to face and in this online world, shake hands. We’ll be answering questions and presenting many state-of-the-art research products, and would love to get your insights, comments, and opinions.
Until the next time!
Posted by Eric Perreault
Several studies make the point: customer experience and employee commitment are strongly correlated. To put it another way, employees who are happy in their work will go that extra distance to make the customer happy. The diagram presented in this study is revealing: 75% of the employees of customer experience leaders are moderately or strongly motivated in contrast to 30% in less performing companies.
The benefits of a strongly motivated team go beyond impressive scores in satisfaction surveys. As shown in this article, revenue per employee in an Apple Store is $473,000 compared to an average of only $206,000 for retailers in the same sector. However, as it points out, even if Apple’s formula is fairly classic (sufficiently high salary, selective recruitment, careful training), this is not a domain for sleeping on your laurels since difficulties can quickly ruin the party.
Under these conditions, it is crucial to frequently check up on troop morale. Many companies conduct an employee satisfaction survey every year or two. The term ‘Voice of the Employee’ is increasingly used to designate this type of survey, Xerox Corporation certainly uses it.
While all types of surveys present their own challenges, employee opinion surveys bring particularly delicate ones. The fact is that the employer-employee relationship can easily produce conditioned responses “to please management” rendering the results valueless. To counteract this tendency, the company must be transparent with regard to its intentions and methodology. Respondent anonymity is a key success factor, and must be clearly established. This is one of the principal reasons why many companies choose to entrust the exercise to an external research agency.
On the other hand, it should not be assumed that a satisfaction survey is sufficient to keep an ear on employee relations. As can be seen in the Xerox report quoted above, what is needed is a global view of the situation together with initiatives to start discussions about those issues which require changes or improvements. Experts in organizational performance underline that it is the employees, who experience these problems every day, who are able to propose solutions that will effectively contribute to organizational success.
To successfully undertake such a dialogue, it is suggested that one should start by establishing with employees the points that they consider the most important. This enables the motivational study to be focused in the right direction. Equally important is to conduct small surveys on chosen groups with a view to improving specific processes, for example installing new software. For this type of interaction some organizations favour direct discussions, but as pointed out by a human resources management expert one must not be afraid of new technology.
In this regard, an organization can easily use our Acuity4 Survey online survey software to quickly build the targeted surveys mentioned above. Software for monitoring the social media such as Acuity4 Social can also be useful for analyzing employee discussions and to better understand their concerns. Once deployed for your internal needs, these solutions can also be used to check up on the satisfaction of your customers – killing two birds with one stone.
Finally, as we discussed in a previous article, customer satisfaction surveys can produce useful results only if the right questions are asked: questions which match the real preoccupations of your customers. Your customer support staff are on the front line facing your customers. They are the ones to know what pleases and bothers them.
Why not put the questions to them?
Posted by Marie-Eve St-Arnaud
A survey conducted at the end of June 2012 by Harris Interactive revealed a significant difference of opinions according to whether collected from smartphone users or by traditional surveying methods. Specifically, 49% of mobile users opted for President Obama compared to 31% for his adversary Mitt Romney. Other surveys conducted over the same periods declare a much closer race.
In our article published last May Trends in mobile devices: not just new technology, but behavioural changes as well, we pointed out that in the US the proportion of smartphones is about the same as regular mobile phones. Adding to this, the firm comScore has just announced that the population of smartphone users in the US grew to over 110 million in July 2012. The sample is statistically significant. On the other hand, the spread of voting intentions clearly shows a difference in behaviour between ‘mobile devotees’ and the rest of the population.
One clue towards explaining the difference is to be found by looking at age categories. The 18-44 age category figures highly among mobile devotees, while the most significant group is in the 25-34 category. Notable also, in the survey mentioned at the beginning of this article, is that respondents aged 18-34 were clearly in favour of the outgoing president while retirees showed the opposite.
Another clue is to be found in the demographic analysis conducted by the company Nielsen last May. While male/female proportions are well balanced, racial minorities are over-represented to a high degree among smartphone users: nearly two thirds of Asiatic Americans (67.3%) are skilled users of them, as are 57% of Hispanophones and 54.4% of Afro-Americans. What is more, this difference corresponds with Ethnographic analyses of president Obama’s electoral base.
Going beyond these demographic considerations, it is important to reflect on behaviours which are specific to mobile Internet users. For example, they make up the majority of people who are active in the social media. According to figures quoted in this article: 91% of mobile internet access is related to social media, and Americans spend more than 2 1/2 hours a day doing it. To say that social media play a major role in their life is certainly no exaggeration.
Once again, analyses such as Obama vs. Romney: Who’s winning the Facebook presidential race? show a clear superiority of President Obama in the social media. Whether it be in terms of the number of discussions, viral impact or the number of fans, the outgoing president overpowers his adversary. One figure says it all: in the course of a single month (May), 620,00 likes were posted on the president’s Facebook page! It stands to reason that this advantage will be reflected in the score for voting intentions when it comes to mobile users.
On the other hand, one must not lose sight of the dynamics of mobile users, not just those on the social web. They function in real-time, hence are likely to react and get excited whenever they feel confronted. This may be a developing trend in society, but it certainly has an extremely volatile effect. An unfortunate incident with a strong viral tendency can change everything.
As you can see, it is important to make the time and effort to fully understand the population of ‘mobile devotees’, they have a lot to teach us, and not only during the electoral season.
Have a great summer!
Psst… And have a look at our Mobile Survey Video!
Posted by Marie-Eve St-Arnaud
In the UK, consumers are very open to mobile marketing, much more so than most firms imagine. According to an industry study ‘Velti and MobileSquared’, 55% of consumers are receptive to receiving communications about those ‘trusted brands’ which have gained their confidence. Clearly, there are limits to this level of trust. While consumers expect these brands to respect their commitments (the initial opt-in clauses), they nevertheless limit the number of such brands to 3, on average. Many are called, but few are chosen!
Even so, the conclusion of one of the authors is fascinating: “…our research shows that consumer demand for mobile marketing exceeds supply“. Despite the fantastic growth in mobile technologies that we spoke about in this article, firms appear to be reticent about jumping into this arena.
Basic human resistance to change partially explains this reticence. After all, research presented in the book ‘Immunity to Change’ reveals that even when cardiac patients are told that they risk death if they don’t change their lifestyle, only one in seven actually does so!
This resistance to change, however, is also a reflection of what happened fifteen years ago when on-line surveying first appeared. As well expressed in this blog posting, the issues of security, quality, and data protection are very similar, and will be regulated when we become more familiar with the technology. Nevertheless, despite similarities, there are differences, particularly in terms of proximity and even intimacy.
In fact, there are many people who use their mobile device in bed! What is more, this can be used to determine exactly where we are, information which is generally considered very confidential, but which is voluntarily shared by all users of the popular networking application Foursquare. It is also the ultimate ‘real time’ tool. As noted in the above mentioned article, it is not rare to see 80% of surveys conducted on mobile devices completed in less than two hours!
For marketing purposes these notions of proximity and intimacy support the key points identified for Web 2.0 interaction: context and pertinence. Consumers are interested in receiving messages which are pertinent to their interests, but are averse to receiving messages that bear no relation to their reality. The ‘real time’ aspect of social media and mobile technologies reinforces this point by adding the context in which they are used: a message must fit in with the user’s precise context at the moment it is received for it to be perceived as useful.
For marketers, while this is another handicap it is also an opportunity. By integrating various signals transmitted by users, for example through social media, geolocation services or interactions with a brand’s channels of presentation on the Web , it is possible to target promotions, surveys or recommendations with great precision. They will, as a result, be pertinent to the customers’ contexts, and thus especially effective. According to a study conducted by SoundBite Communications, 52% of respondents consider a mobile device superior to other marketing methods in terms of return on investment (ROI).
Certain practical examples are evident: studies aimed at obtaining information through a mobile application or device must absolutely function in mobile mode. If not, you will be acting like a company responding to an email with a fax – a big “fail“ in social media jargon.
Usage statistics can lead to even more innovative uses. It is known that 40% of mobile owners use them while watching television. Since they often make comments on social media about the programs they are watching, this represents a unique “targeting“ opportunity.
And you, do you follow your customers in real time?
The Voxco Team