customer engagement

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.

Use Research, Make Smart Decisions

Trying to figure out why your customers are unhappy? Try talking to them directly.

Trying to figure out why your customers are unhappy? Try talking to them directly.

Quality research can reveal problem areas in your operations, as well as provide clues on how to fix them. Research also can point out what your customers like about your operation.

Seeing the good, the bad and the blah becomes an invaluable decision-making tool. You know what needs improvement, what is going well and what is just sort of meh. You have a basis to make smart decisions with confidence.

Customer satisfaction research or authentic engagement with a web-based panel of your customers can yield insights that might reinforce what you already know or totally surprise you. Either way, you aren't operating in the dark. Your customers shine the light.

Organizations can convince themselves of a problem area, but without solid data, they are simply guessing. Blame lagging sales on your sales reps, only to discover your customers love the sales reps, but don't like erratic delivery of your products. Instead of shaping up the sales force, you should be taking a hard look at your fulfillment department.

In a marketplace full of choices, it is smart business to know what your customers think of your business. For all the nest efforts to brand yourself, in the end customers determine your brand, so it's better to find out from them sooner than later.

Many leaders resist research because somewhere deep down they don't want to know what's wrong. If they don't know, they don't have to undertake the hard work to fix it, which can mean anything from personnel moves to culture change. But it is getting increasingly tricky to skate by problems, which can be an iPhone image away from going viral.

This kind of research comports nicely with the emerging trend of customer relationship management. It is hard to have a relationship if you never talk to your customer. Asking questions, in formal research or informal contacts, can be an excellent way to build those relationships.

You wouldn't make a financial decision without looking at business numbers, so why make decisions about your operation without checking in with your customers? At times, checking in with customers can be a humbling experience. But better a little humiliation than a disastrous decision.

Make smart decisions by soliciting and acting on advice from your customers, who in many ways are the business partner in your enterprise that really counts.

Making Customer Engagement Simple

Fears about customer engagement are due primarily to not knowing how or where to start. 

Fears about customer engagement are due primarily to not knowing how or where to start. 

“Customer” has become a key word in marketing plans. Efforts to improve customer service, analyze customer touch points, understand the customer experience and develop better customer relationship management are widespread.

Why then do conversations about customer engagement make marketing managers turn into deer in the headlights: big eyed, frozen in fear and totally confused? 

Fears about customer engagement are due primarily to not knowing how or where to start. Here are some simple steps to get the customer engagement ball rolling. They also can serve as the foundation for a long-term, effective program with measureable results.  

  1. Get to know your customer by asking them to participate in an online survey. Use the Net Promoter Score (NPS) question that will measure how likely customers are to recommend your product or service and  identify Promoters (your biggest fans who will recommend products and services to others) and Detractors (dissatisfied customers who will complain to others). Ask open-ended questions to determine why some customers would recommend and others would not.  
  2. Send thank you emails to survey participants. Share some information about what you learned and what you plan to do with the results. Customers now know you are listening and plan to take action based on feedback. 
  3. Send another email to customers who did not participate in the survey. Share some information about what you learned from the survey. Include a hyperlink to the survey so these customers can share their opinions, too.  
  4. Periodically let your customers know about the changes you have made in products, services and operations. Remind them changes are based on customer input and ideas. 
  5. Invite customers who participated in online surveys to participate in web-based or live customer advisory panels. Use the panels to help make decisions about products, services and operational changes. Let other customers know about the advisory panels. 
  6. Use comments from online surveys to develop content for newsletters and social media postings. The topics will be relevant to others as well and will increase readership.  
  7. Get customer service to call Detractors. Dissatisfied customers will explain specific problems with products or poor customer service experiences. Offer to make amends. You will be surprised how many will temper criticism. Not only that – they will tell others that your company responded to their complaints. 

Every six to 12 months, conduct another online survey among a different group of customers and repeat the entire process. 

Customer engagement programs don’t need to be complicated. By keeping the process simple, companies can engage a wide range of customers, get actionable information, utilize communication tools already in place and develop stronger relationships.

Open-Ended Survey Comments = a Content Treasure Chest

There are many uses for open-ended survey comments. 

There are many uses for open-ended survey comments. 

Open-ended responses in surveys are a treasure trove of information, but usually the marketing team doesn’t review the verbatim. Instead, similar comments are combined into short-worded themes, such as on-time delivery, great customer service or product doesn’t perform.

Combined comments are easy to read and give managers overall concepts. However, combined comments are the Cliff’s Notes of research – short, succinct and to the point, but without depth, nuance or insights.

Marketing and communications managers should read and use verbatim to provide food for thought and action. Here are some suggested ways verbatim from open-ended survey questions can be used to support marketing and operations.

Topics for articles

Open-ended remarks are full of new ideas or angles for articles, tweets, speeches and case studies. Use quotes to highlight themes or emphasize why actions will be taken.


Open-eneded remarks can be converted into quotes for newsletters, press releases and social media. The phrases are genuine and will be recognized as such. Remember to get permission from respondents if you want to attribute the comments to an individual.

Improving the Customer Experience

When customers write: “I love this product but...,“ take note. It is that additional information that identifies where your customer service or operations team are falling short of expectations. Once changes are made, prepare an article about what you heard and what you did.


Nuggets about why people buy or recommend products can be found in open-ended remarks. Encourage the PR and advertising team to incorporate the features and benefits that customers say are important into promotional materials and advertising.

Customer service

Don’t ignore complaints found in surveys. Customers who have bad experiences will complain to 20 people. Ask customer service to follow up with people that had trouble navigating customer service, a website or simply weren’t treated well. The people you call will be surprised you read their feedback and impressed you want to make amends.


Use questions found in open-ended remarks to develop FAQs. The responses provide information about real concerns and problems.

Thought Leadership

Organizations in crisis will conduct research to understand how customers may react to communication about the issue. Encourage senior managers to use quotes from surveys in speeches and articles to highlight that customers are heard and help in providing direction. Don’t forget to include the changes that will be made as a result of the comments. For more information about handling a crisis read CFM Crisis Ebook.

Research can be much more than statistics. It can provide the foundation and content for communicating and engaging with customers, communities and stakeholders.

The Changing Office Environment

Everyone senses the office environment is changing. Just look around. People wearing casual clothes. Or just look around and notice a lot of people are absent and working somewhere else.

Gordon Plutsky of King Fish Media, writing for, provides a provocative look at the office world just around the corner. He contends the emerging office will be a fluid place, with as much work done on people's patios as their office desktop — all because of exploding use of mobile technology.

The fragmentation of roles, Plutsky says, will solidify into a common marketing function with a single aim — revenue generation. Next to the CEO, the most important person in the shop will be the chief marketing officer, whose job will center on perfecting the consumer or client experience to maximize revenue potential.

Here are some of Plutsky's other predictions:

1. Backslapping salespeople will disappear, replaced by people who have the industry experience or special expertise to be valuable resources for customers, who mostly will place orders online. 

2. Cold calling or other disruptive sales tactics will become obsolete. You will need to establish an online reputation for offering insight of value that attracts customers.

Frontline Fact-Finding and Engagemnt

Talking to frontline workers, listening online and holding open houses can produce valuable consumer and stakeholder insights, just like any other form of solid research.One of the most powerful, yet under-utilized research techniques is talking to the frontline people who talk to your customers.

Salesmen, cashiers and receptionists can offer insights based on first-hand experience. They are eager to offer what they know, but seldom are asked.

This omission is odd because chatting with frontline workers is a cheap form of research. It costs 30 minutes and a cup of coffee.

Debriefing frontline workers isn't a substitue for more formal customer satisfaction surveys or consumer perception analysis, but it is a useful supplement that can put a face on statistics. Think of frontline worker conversations as a specialized focus group.

It makes sense to tap other frontline outposts, such as social media sites, for customer insights. Monitoring online conversations about your organization gives you a chance to address problems immediately, as well as to engage customers in a comfortable format.