Surveys

Intercept Research Reveals the Why Behind Customer Actions

Intercepts can be a valuable way to find out why a customer shopped in your store or bought a specific product.

Intercepts can be a valuable way to find out why a customer shopped in your store or bought a specific product.

One of the most overlooked research strategies is the intercept, where researchers observe or ask for customer comment at the point of sale.

It is one thing to ask someone whether they would this or that product and quite another to ask a customer why she just bought the product in her shopping bag.

In the marketing world, there is an entire universe of metrics to measure whether a marketing campaign is working. But one metric that often is missing is the interaction with a customer who purchased what is being marketed. Failure to use intercept research can lead to a lack of understanding of customer motivation – the why behind the purchase.

Marketers may think customers buy something because of clever messaging. However, intercept research might show customers are actually drawn to a product because its packaging sticks out on the shelf next to similar other products. Good to know. That could influence advertising to focus more on the package and less on the clever words.

My son-in-law runs a large number of Jack in the Box restaurants. The fast food chain has long used a quirky, wisecracking character as its brand mascot. Jack Box has been the dominant feature in the chain’s advertising for years, but after intercept testing, brand executives discovered customers came to the restaurant when they saw food they liked, not because of Jack’s white head or wisecracks. Jack in the Box ads now still show Jack, but give a far more prominent place to the food.

It’s a small difference, but a significant one. My son-in-law said business has been booming since the emphasis in the ads changed.

Jack in the Box TV spots still include Jack Box, the quirky, ball-headed band mascot, but now the food the restaurant chain serves gets more prominent play.

Jack in the Box TV spots still include Jack Box, the quirky, ball-headed band mascot, but now the food the restaurant chain serves gets more prominent play.

Intercept research can take multiple forms – a follow-up phone call or email, a questionnaire at the point-of-sale or an exit interview. The more personal the intercept, the higher likelihood of a response. The closer to the point-of-sale, the most likely you will receive an unfiltered response.

The power of intercept research is that it is based on actions, not reactions or projections. Intercept research explores the realm of past tense, not future tense. You talk to actual customers or, in the case of elections, actual voters. What we call exit polls are in reality just another form of intercept research.

Some people don’t view intercepts as real research. They aren’t necessarily statistically valid as you would expect from a telephone survey. They may be skewed by who is willing to participate and those who don’t want to be bothered. But their saving grace is that the people who are interviewed are connected with the product, service or action being tested. That is its own form of validity.

Intercept research is the research tool to use when you want to measure what someone did or bought and ask the all-important question of why. Knowing why someone did something can be the golden key to encouraging them to do it again.

Gary Conkling is president and co-founder of CFM Strategic Communications, and he leads the firm's PR practice, specializing in crisis communications. He is a former journalist, who later worked on Capitol Hill and represented a major Oregon company. But most importantly, he’s a die-hard Ducks fan. You can reach Gary at garyc@cfmpdx.com and you can follow him on Twitter at @GaryConkling.

Survival of the Biggest in Healthcare

In a case of a survival of the biggest, large health care organizations are getting bigger, raising eyebrows and concerns among Oregon business and government leaders who worry about the impact on prices, choices and even quality.

In a case of a survival of the biggest, large health care organizations are getting bigger, raising eyebrows and concerns among Oregon business and government leaders who worry about the impact on prices, choices and even quality.

Oregon decision makers are raising the caution flag over consolidation in the health care industry. A recent CFM/Oregon Business online survey found nearly three in four (74 percent) are very or somewhat concerned about the ongoing trend of consolidation in healthcare.

The CFM/Oregon Business online survey was conducted in April among 293 business and government managers.

While the media has focused primarily on recent mergers in the pharmaceutical and health insurance industries, a similar trend has been largely overlooked in the healthcare services market, including health systems, hospitals and physician clinics.

In the Pacific Northwest, Providence Health & Services and OHSU have significantly expanded their market footprints through acquisitions, mergers, affiliations and partnerships. Legacy acquired the Silverton Health System and Kaiser acquired Group Health. A few years ago Southwest Washington Medical Center in Clark County Washington became part of the PeaceHealth organization. Similar consolidation is occurring throughout the country.

Industry leaders tout the benefits of consolidation, citing lower administrative costs, improved efficiencies in capital investments and better quality of care and outcomes. However, Oregon decision makers aren’t sure bigger is better. In addition to being concerned about merger activity in general, decision makers think the problems associated with consolidation will outweigh the benefits in the following seven of eight areas: 

A majority of decision makers say consolidation will have a negative impact on:

· Cost of healthcare services (66 percent negative impact)

· Access to routine healthcare services in rural areas (53 percent negative impact)

· Overall customer service (52 percent negative impact)

 Managers think the impact of consolidation would more likely be negative than positive for:

· Ability to schedule appointments for routine care when you want it (44 percent negative impact)

· Overall quality of healthcare (38 percent)

· Level of respect and courtesy patients will experience (37 percent negative impact)

· Access to medical specialists (32 percent negative impact)

At best, managers were evenly divided about the range of services available (30 percent positive, 29 percent negative impact).

So what does it all mean? Healthcare providers face an uphill battle to reduce concerns about consolidation. As consolidation continues, as it surely will, organizations should develop trust and confidence by implementing these five key pieces of advice.

· Deliver on the promise of better quality of care.

· Be transparent about costs.

· Improve operations, like billings.

· Increase access and availability of care in urban, suburban and rural areas.

· Make every patient touchpoint a positive experience.

Tom Eiland is a CFM partner and the leader of the firm’s research practice. His work merges online research with client communications and engagement efforts, and he has a wide range of clients in the education, health care and transportation sectors. You can reach Tom at tome@cfmpdx.com.

 

Voters Express Exhaustion Over Campaign Coverage

A Pew Research Center poll shows a majority of Americans are already exhausted from all the news media coverage of the 2016 presidential election – with four more months of campaigning still to go.

A Pew Research Center poll shows a majority of Americans are already exhausted from all the news media coverage of the 2016 presidential election – with four more months of campaigning still to go.

Voters feel exhausted from media coverage of the 2016 presidential election, but not because of too much attention paid to candidate positions on important issues.

A new Pew Research Center Poll conducted from June 7 to July 5 finds 59 percent of respondents worn out from election news with four months of campaigning yet to go. But almost the same number of respondents say they feel shortchanged by the amount of coverage focused on policy questions.

Forty-four percent of respondents think there has been too much attention paid to candidate comments and 43 percent say the personal lives of candidates has also gotten too much ink and air time.

Some 45 percent of respondents believe the candidates' experience level has been overlooked. That view is especially strong among respondents identifying themselves as Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents.

Those expressing the most exhaustion with election coverage are younger adults, women, whites and independents, Pew Research says. Almost two-thirds of 18 to 29 year olds said they are worn out.

A separate Pew Research poll in June gleaned that 65 percent of registered voters felt the presidential campaigns had failed to focus on important policy issues. That view held across party lines. So it is little wonder that Pew Research found 55 percent of respondents thought media coverage of the actual issues was thin.

Respondents had mixed views about coverage of candidates' moral character (30 percent too much, 34 percent too little, 33 percent just right) and who is leading in the polls (37 percent too little, 46 percent just right, 13 percent too little).

An earlier Pew Research survey found relatively strong interest among voters in the 2016 presidential campaign. The amount of coverage is less likely to weigh down close followers of the election (41 percent) and more likely to fatigue those who are barely paying attention (69 percent).

The next few weeks will be chock-full of political coverage as Republicans and Democrats hold their national conventions to nominate their standard bearers. But the 2016 Olympics start in August, which could provide a short reprieve before a barrage of political TV ads begin in the fall.

Online Quizzes: Recreational and Informative

Online quizzes, like this one from  AARP , are all the rage because they are an entertaining form of customer engagement. But of course, they also can be engagingly informative.

Online quizzes, like this one from AARP, are all the rage because they are an entertaining form of customer engagement. But of course, they also can be engagingly informative.

People shrink from responding to phone surveys, but they trip over themselves to participate in online questionnaires, like BuzzFeed’s personality quizzes

While public opinion pollsters have to make more calls to achieve a representative sample on a phone survey, people eagerly take online quizzes on anything and everything from personality types and careers to celebrities, dog breeds and sex. As changes in the marketplace are complicating traditional polling methods, maybe now is the time to consider the potential of online quizzes as an alternative.

Yes, the two have some big differences. Where public opinion polls dig for people’s views, online quizzes often only offer a chance for a few minutes of pleasurable escape. Public opinion polls, of course, are intended to produce findings. Online quizzes, on the other hand, are about fun and engagement, not hard numbers.

So yes, online quizzes may not generate “data” in the truest sense. However, they do reflect popular themes and gratify people’s narcissistic obsessions, especially those of the “me” generation. Why do people love me? What career should I pursue? Which superhero do I resemble? Who am I really?

Online quizzes aren’t just for the kids, though. AARP posts trivia games and online quizzes about entertainment, leisure, money management and dementia symptoms. In its effort to protect against elder financial abuse, AARP created “Catch the con quiz” featuring Frank Abagnale, Jr., whose story of outsmarting victims and the FBI was told in the Steven Spielberg movie Catch Me If You Can.

Ultimately, quizzes are just a cheaper version of contests to stimulate interaction. There usually aren’t any prizes or judges involved – people judge for themselves. But if a brand can glean tidbits of information about people from their quiz answers, it is engagement with a purpose.

In some cases, online quizzes can have an educational value. Participants can discover some unknown facts about subjects that interest them. And they can learn what they don’t know.

BuzzFeed is one of the leading practitioners of online quizzes. The site posts just about any kind of personality quiz imaginable, with fetching headlines that resemble a call to action. Data indicates BuzzFeed’s quizzes have drawn millions more page views than the company’s other content. 

The bottom line is that as polling faces participation challenges, online quizzes are enjoying unprecedented popularity, and they can help turn your electronic platform into a game board. While many topics are mostly for just fun, online quizzes can be a gentle introduction to more serious topics.

Online quizzes are more recreation than research, but that doesn’t diminish their value as an outreach tool that gets people talking.

Polling Misses Mark in Oregon Presidential Primary

A major public opinion poll conducted before the Oregon primary showed Hillary Clinton outpacing Bernie Sanders by double digits. Actual election results were almost the exact opposite.

A major public opinion poll conducted before the Oregon primary showed Hillary Clinton outpacing Bernie Sanders by double digits. Actual election results were almost the exact opposite.

A well publicized public opinion poll conducted between May 6 and 9 showed Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton leading challenger Bernie Sanders in the Oregon primary by a 48 to 33 percent margin. Actual election results were almost the opposite, with Sanders carving out a double-digit victory.

How could a poll be so out of whack? One frequent reason is failure to account for voter turnout. However, the Clinton-Sanders poll took higher-than-average turnout into account, which showed Clinton’s lead narrowing to 45 to 38 percent. Still wrong, by a wide margin.

The same poll, which interviewed 901 likely Oregon voters, under-predicted Donald Trump’s vote count. He received 45 percent of the GOP presidential vote in the poll, but almost 65 percent of the actual vote. Another big miss.

Telephone surveys have become somewhat less reliable if they don’t include a percentage of cell phone users, which ensures that younger and minority voices are heard. While that sampling flaw might understate the vote in Portland or college towns like Eugene, it doesn’t explain Sanders’ strong showing in rural Wallowa and Lake counties or his dominance in all but one of Oregon’s 36 counties.

Candidates usually do better in states where they campaign in person. Sanders appeared in Oregon four times before the primary. Clinton made no appearances, but did send Bill Clinton to campaign. That’s a hard factor to capture in a public opinion poll, but it is a question worth asking to see if being here breaks someone’s vote one way or another. 

The Los Angeles Times carried a story over the weekend about the intense Democratic push in Oregon to register new voters as Democrats before the April 26 deadline. Many of the new voters were automatically registered as a result of Oregon’s Motor Voter law, but not affiliated with any political party. Secretary of State Jeanne Atkins reported a larger than normal registration switch, which favored Democrats. These factors would have been hard to track in a poll, but they may have been worth asking about to gauge the velocity of a late shift toward Sanders, who predicted he would win if the turnout was large. He obviously knew what he was talking about. 

Polling is a tough business, and it is getting tougher. Fewer people are willing to be interviewed by phone, which means pollsters need to make more calls to achieve a representative sample, which is more costly. Respondent reticence means polls have to take less time and include fewer questions, sometimes the questions that would be useful in improving confidence in poll findings.

While Sanders’ success in Oregon is not a huge surprise, it may be more telling than at first glance. His victory points out the foibles of one-off polls and the political benefits of an intensive ground game. 

More significantly, the results in Oregon show Sanders’ message packs some punch, and not just where you would expect.

Why Representative Samples Really Matter

If you want market research that matters, make sure the sample of people in your survey matches the audience you want to reach with your product or message.

If you want market research that matters, make sure the sample of people in your survey matches the audience you want to reach with your product or message.

A favorite story involves meeting with a client interested in promoting first-time homeownership. I mentioned the need for market research. No problem, the client said, we have that covered. I was handed the research summary and, as a matter of habit, jumped to the page about the telephone survey sample. It was very revealing. 

More than 50 percent of the respondents were 65 years or older. They were the majority of people who answered the phone and were willing to spend 15 or 20 minutes talking to a stranger about owning a home. Unfortunately, they weren’t the people the client had in mind as first-time homebuyers. 

Survey data is worthless unless the sample of who you interview reflects the audience you seek to reach. The sample in my client’s survey would have been terrific if the subject was reverse mortgages. It stunk as a reflection of who to address potential first-time homebuyers. 

Conversations between clients and research professionals must start with who to interview. If you have the wrong sample, the answers you get from the questions you pore over won’t matter a lick. 

Too often, the question of who to interview is glossed over. Sometimes the most obvious sample goes overlooked. When I was a lobbyist, a client hired me to “fix” his message that wasn’t gaining any traction with legislators. I started by interviewing about a third of the legislature, including virtually all of the lawmakers on the committees that were most engaged on my client’s issue. 

The interviews produced a wealth of insight. My client’s issue had latent support, but needed to be explained and demonstrated in a far different way. Lawmakers basically wrote the script my client and I used to lobby them. And it worked. 

Representative samples are harder to achieve for a mix of reasons. For example, increasing numbers of people don’t have landline phones and, if they do, they shield themselves from unsolicited calls with Caller ID. It takes a lot more calls, at greater expense, to collect a representative sample. Market research must cope with growing segmentation, which adds extra layers of complexity in selecting the right group of people to survey. 

The value of representative samples goes beyond quantitative research. Focus groups must be representative, too. And why would you do a customer satisfaction intercept survey for Nordstrom by interviewing people coming out of a rival department store? Representative samples matter in public opinion polling. A poll of New York voters wouldn’t be all that useful in projecting election results in Indiana. 

Despite the difficulty, solid research is grounded on good samples. Who you talk to matters if you want findings that mean something for your marketing.  

Gary Conkling is president and co-founder of CFM Strategic Communications, and he leads the firm's PR practice, specializing in crisis communications. He is a former journalist, who later worked on Capitol Hill and represented a major Oregon company. But most importantly, he’s a die-hard Ducks fan. You can reach Gary at garyc@cfmpdx.com and you can follow him on Twitter at @GaryConkling.