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Maximizing Response Rates: Get Respondents to Start the Survey

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It is incumbent on researchers fielding self-administered surveys to maximize response rates.  This reduces the potential for response bias, where the survey results may not accurately reflect the opinions of the entire population of targeted respondents. Previously we discussed ways researchers can increase the likelihood of respondents opening an email survey invitation.  This post addresses how to get respondents to actually click on the survey link and participate in the survey.

Make the Invite Easy to Read

Don’t bury the lead.   The opening sentence must capture the respondent’s attention and make the investment in effort to read the invitation.   Keep in mind most people skim emails.  Keep text of the invitation short, paying close attention to paragraph length.  The email should be easy to skim.

Give a Reward

Offering respondents a reward for participation is an excellent way to motivate participation.  Tangible incentives like a drawing, coupon, or gift card, if appropriate and within the budget, are excellent tools to maximize response rates.   However, rewards do not necessarily need to be tangible.  Intangible rewards can also prove to be excellent motivators.  People, particularly customers who they have a relationship with the brand, want to be helpful.  Expressing the importance of their option, and communicating how the brand will use the survey to improve its offering to customers like the respondent is an excellent avenue to leverage intangible rewards to motivate participation.

Survey Length

Intangible rewards are often sufficient if the respondent’s cost to participate in the survey is minimal.  Perhaps the largest cost to a potential respondent is the time required to complete the survey.  Give them an accurate estimate of the time it takes to complete the survey – and keep it short.  We recommend no more than 10 minutes, more preferably five to six.   If the research objectives require a longer survey instrument, break the survey into two or three shorter surveys and deliver them separately to different targeted respondents.  Do not field excessively long surveys or mis-quote the estimated time to complete the survey – it is rude to impose on your respondents not to mention disastrous to your participation rates – and it’s unethical to mis-quote the survey length.  As with getting the participants to open the email – creditability plays a critical role in getting them to click on the survey.

Credibility

One of the best ways to garner credibility with the survey invite is to assure the participant confidentiality.  This is particularly important for customer surveys, where the customers interact commonly with employees.  For example, a community bank where customers may interact with bank employees not only in the context of banking but broadly in the community, must ensure customers that their survey response will be kept strictly confidential.

Personalizing the survey with appropriate merge fields is also an excellent way to garner credibility.

Survey Entry

Make it as easy as possible for the participant to enter the survey.  Program a link to the survey, and make sure it is both visible and presented early in the survey.  Again, most people skim the contents of emails, so place the link in the top 1/3 of the email and make it clear that it is a link to enter the survey.

In designing survey invitations, remember to write short, concise, easy to read emails that both leverage respondent’s reward centers (tangible or intangible), and credibly estimate the short time required to complete the survey.  This approach will help maximize response rates and avoid some of the pitfalls of response bias. Click here for the next post in this series in prompting respondents to complete the survey.

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Guest Return Intent Drivers in the Restaurant Experience

Young couple in restaurant

The business attribute with the highest correlation to profitability is loyalty.  Loyalty lowers sales and acquisition costs per guest by amortizing these costs across a longer lifetime – leading to some extraordinary financial results.  However, the question remains, what service attributes drive guest loyalty?

To answer this question from a behavioral standpoint Kinesis conducted 400 restaurant mystery shops with the purpose of determining which service attributes/behaviors drive guest return intent.  Forty-six service attributes were observed across five dimensions of the guest experience: environment, food & beverage quality, greeting, personal attention and timing of food and beverage delivery.

The attributes measured grouped into these five dimensions as follows:

Environment

  • Table maintained appropriately throughout the meal
  • Dining room clean, organized and well maintained
  • Exterior building, parking lot, walkways and planters clean
  • Silverware, china, glassware and your table clean
  • Men’s restroom clean and stocked with supplies
  • Lighting fixtures clean and working
  • Lobby area clean and organized
  • Menus clean and in good condition
  • Women’s restroom clean and stocked with supplies
  • Bar clean, organized and well maintained
  • Room temperature level comfortable

Food & Beverage Quality

  • Entrees presented attractively, and tasted good
  • Appetizer presented attractively, and tasted good
  • Drinks attractively presented, and tasted good
  • Dessert presented attractively, and tasted good

Greeting

  • Greeting made feel welcome
  • Prompt greeting
  • Staff members greet with a friendly smile as being seated
  • Thanked and encouraged to visit again
  • Ask specific questions about your experience upon leaving

Service: Personal Attention

  • Server attentive and prompt throughout the meal
  • Server discuss the beverage menu, suggest an item or ask about your preferences
  • Server discuss the appetizer menu, suggest an item or ask about your preferences
  • Server promote daily specials
  • Host carry on a conversation as being seated
  • Server discuss the beverage menu or ask about preferences
  • Receive appetizer in a timely manner
  • Manager engage guests in conversation
  • Server smiling and enjoying time with all the guests
  • Acknowledged by a server in a timely manner
  • Attentive to needs while in the bar area
  • Server discuss the dessert menu, suggest an item or ask about preferences
  • Server knowledgeable and confident when responding to questions
  • Manager present
  • Server try and entice you to order their favorite appetizer(s)
  • Resolve any service, food or beverage issues

Service: Timing

  • Food and beverage service timed well
  • Receive entrees in a timely manner
  • Receive starter soup/ salad in a timely manner
  • Receive appetizer in a timely manner
  • Manager engage guests in conversation
  • Receive drink orders in timely manner
  • Receive dessert in a timely manner
  • Cashed out in a timely manner
  • Acknowledge and get order in a timely manner
  • Drinks arrive in a timely manner

 

In order to determine the relationship of these attributes to return intent, Kinesis asked mystery shoppers if, based on the guest experience, they intended to return to the restaurant.  This independent variable was then used as a basis for cross-tabulation to determine the frequency with which the behaviors were observed in shops with positive return intent and negative return intent.

The results of this cross tabulation is as follows:

Environment Shops with …
Positive Return Intent Negative Return Intent
Table maintained appropriately throughout the meal 96% 73%
Dining room clean, organized and well maintained 100% 90%
Exterior building, parking lot, walkways and planters clean 100% 94%
Silverware, china, glassware and your table clean 98% 94%
Men’s restroom clean and stocked with supplies 96% 91%
Lighting fixtures clean and working 98% 95%
Lobby area clean and organized 100% 98%
Menus clean and in good condition 99% 97%
Women’s restroom clean and stocked with supplies 93% 92%
Bar clean, organized and well maintained 99% 98%
Room temperature level comfortable 95% 94%

 

Food & Beverage Quality Shops with …
Positive Return Intent Negative Return Intent
Entrees presented attractively, and tasted good 98% 58%
Appetizer presented attractively, and tasted good 97% 88%
Drinks attractively presented, and tasted good 97% 88%
Dessert presented attractively, and tasted good 97% 97%

 

Greeting Positive Return Intent Negative Return Intent
Thanked and encouraged to visit again 95% 63%
Ask specific questions about your experience upon leaving 35% 8%
Greeting made feel welcome 93% 70%
Prompt greeting 93% 76%
Staff members greet with a friendly smile as being seated 60% 44%

 

Service: Personal Attention Positive Return Intent Negative Return Intent
Server attentive and prompt throughout the meal 93% 45%
Server discuss the beverage menu, suggest an item or ask about your preferences 80% 43%
Server discuss the appetizer menu, suggest an item or ask about your preferences 68% 33%
Server promote daily specials 64% 33%
Host carry on a conversation as being seated 70% 41%
Server discuss the beverage menu or ask about preferences 63% 35%
Manager engage guests in conversation 73% 47%
Server smiling and enjoying time with all the guests 97% 73%
Acknowledged by a server in a timely manner 96% 73%
Attentive to needs while in the bar area 92% 72%
Server discuss the dessert menu, suggest an item or ask about preferences 81% 65%
Acknowledge and get order in a timely manner 94% 80%
Server knowledgeable and confident when responding to questions 98% 86%
Manager present 43% 31%
Server try and entice you to order their favorite appetizer(s) 64% 57%
Resolve any service, food or beverage issues 53% 67%

 

Service: Timing Positive Return Intent Negative Return Intent
Food and beverage service timed well 92% 51%
Receive entrees in a timely manner 92% 59%
Server promote daily specials 64% 33%
Receive starter soup/ salad in a timely manner 91% 60%
Receive appetizer in a timely manner 93% 65%
Receive drink orders in timely manner 96% 73%
Receive dessert in a timely manner 95% 77%
Cashed out in a timely manner 97% 81%
Acknowledge and get order in a timely manner 94% 80%
Drinks arrive in a timely manner 98% 85%

 

Putting all this together, the ten attributes with the largest difference between shops with positive and negative return intent are:

Top 10 Attributes
Dimension Attributes Difference
Service: Personal Attention Server attentive and prompt throughout the meal 48%
Service: Timing Food and beverage service timed well 41%
Food Entrees presented attractively, and tasted good 40%
Service: Personal Attention Server discuss the beverage menu, suggest an item or ask about your preferences 37%
Service: Personal Attention Server discuss the appetizer menu, suggest an item or ask about your preferences 35%
Service: Timing Receive entrees in a timely manner 33%
Service: Personal Attention Server promote daily specials 31%
Greeting Thanked and encouraged to visit again 31%
Service: Timing Receive starter soup/ salad in a timely manner 30%
Service: Personal Attention Host carry on a conversation as being seated 29%

 

Of the ten attributed with the strongest relationship to return intent, five belong to the personal attention dimension, three belong to the timing dimension, the food & beverage quality and greeting dimensions round out the top ten with one attribute each.

Directing our attention from specific attributes to broader dimensions, the following chart shows the average difference in shops with positive return intent to shops with negative return intent:

Return Intent Gaps

Outside of the timing of food and beverage delivery, the dimensions of the customer experience with the strongest correlation to return intent are the greeting and personal attention, followed by food and beverage quality and the physical environment.

Click Here For More Information About Kinesis' Research Services

Not All Customer Experience Variation is Equal: Common Cause vs. Special Cause Variation

Variability in customer experience scores is common and normal.  Be it a survey of customers, mystery shops, social listening or other customer experience measurement, a certain amount of random variation in the data is normal.  As a result, managers need a means of interpreting any variation in their customer experience measurement to evaluate if the customer experience is truly changing, or if the variation they are seeing is simply random.

In a previous post, we proposed the use of control charts as a tool to track customer experience measurements within upper and lower quality control limits, giving managers a meaningful way to determine if any variation in their customer experience measurement reflects an actual change in the experience as opposed to random variation or chance.

Now, managers need to understand the causes of variation, specifically common and special cause variation.  Common and special cause variation are six sigma concepts, while most commonly used in industrial production, they can be borrowed and employed to the customer experience.

Common Cause Variation:  Much like variation in the roll of dice, common cause variation is natural variation within any system.  Common cause variation is any variation constantly active within a system, and represents statistical “noise” within the system.

Examples of common cause variation in the customer experience are:

  • Poorly defined, poorly designed, inappropriate policies or procedures
  • Poor design or maintenance of computer systems
  • Inappropriate hiring practices
  • Insufficient training
  • Measurement error

Special Cause Variation: Unlike the roll of the dice, special cause variation is not probabilistically predictable within the system, as a result it does not represent statistical “noise” within the system, but is the signal within the system.

Examples of special cause variation include:

  • High demand/ high traffic
  • Poor adjustment of equipment
  • Just having a bad day

When measuring the customer experience it is helpful to consider everything within the context of the company-customer interface.  Every time a sales or service interaction within this interface occurs the customer learns something from the experience and adjusts their behavior as a result of the experience.  Managing the customer experience is the practice of managing what the customers learn from the experience and thus managing their behavior in profitable ways.

A key to managing customer behaviors is understanding common cause and special cause variation and their implications.  Common cause variation is variation built into the system: policies, procedures, equipment, hiring practices, and training.  Special cause variation is more or less how the human element and the system interact.

See earlier post:

Not All Customer Experience Variation is Equal: Use Control Charts to Identify Actual Changes in the Customer Experience

 

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Taste, Value & Service: Guest Return Intent Drivers

Every time a guest visits a restaurant they learn something as a result of the experience, and depending on what they learn, they adjust their behavior based on the experience.  The guest may stay longer or leave early, purchase more items or purchase less, tell others of their experience, or decide to return for a repeat experience.  This link between the experience and guest behaviors offers managers a clear path to manage the guest experience in profitable ways.

Kinēsis conducted a survey of 800 respondents asking them to recall their most recent experience at a restaurant and rate the experience across the following 16 attributes grouped into five dimensions.

Dimension Attribute
Arrival Greeted promptly and felt welcomed
Greeting friendly and cheerful
Seated quickly
Service Food delivered in a timely manner
Server attentive to needs
Prompt attention of server
Friendliness of server
Food Order delivered accurately
Taste of food
Temperature of food
Overall presentation of the food
Value Good value for the money
Portion appropriate
Environment Server’s appearance neat and clean
Restaurant clean, comfortable and appealing
Table clean, dry and presentable

Additionally, to serve as a dependent variable for additional analysis, respondents were asked to rate their return intent on a 5-point scale.  We then cross tabulated the responses by positive and negative return intent to determine the frequency in which each attribute is positive in surveys with positive return intent compared to those with negative return intent. This cross tabulation yielded the following results:

Attribute

Positive Return Intent

Negative Return Intent

Greeted promptly and felt welcomed

75%

61%

Greeting friendly and cheerful

81%

58%

Seated quickly

74%

65%

Food delivered in a timely manner

79%

58%

Server attentive to needs

80%

58%

Prompt attention of server

74%

66%

Friendliness of server

77%

58%

Order delivered accurately

75%

65%

Taste of food

94%

34%

Temperature of food

76%

61%

Overall presentation of the food

80%

58%

Good value for the money

86%

49%

Portion appropriate

76%

62%

Server’s appearance neat and clean

75%

65%

Restaurant clean, comfortable and appealing

78%

63%

Table clean, dry and presentable

73%

67%

Combining these into one net difference between surveys with positive and negative return intent ranks the attributes in terms of the strength of their relationship to return intent:

Difference Between Positive & Negative Return Intent

Difference Between Positive and Negative Return Intent

Grouping these attributes back into the dimensions described below reveals the following average net strength of change in return intent by dimension:

Dimension's Difference Between Positive & Negative Return Intent

This analysis gives managers an informed view of which attributes in which to invest.  Clearly, the experience attributes that will yield the most ROI in terms of return intent are the quality of the food and perceptions of value for the money.  Next is the human element, how are guests greeted and made to feel welcomed and how they are served throughout the visit.  Finally, the physical environment plays an important but secondary role to the quality of the meal, perceptions of value and service.The quality of the meal and perceptions of value for the money each have the strongest relationship to return intent, followed by the service, greeting on arrival and the environment.

Click Here For More Information About Kinesis'; Guest Experience Research Services