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Five core principles to improve [customer] participant experience

Jennifer Serrano explains how five principles of Behavioural Economics have the power to transform the research experience for participants.

Jen Clinehens, who is head of experience at The Marketing Store (Europe), shared five principles of Behavioural Economics, when writing on UX Collective, that she believes drive breakthroughs in marketing, customer experience and design.

I believe these same principles have the power to transform participant experience in our world of market research, so I’ve taken her five principles and applied them to survey design.

1. Simplicity trumps complexity

Simplicity theory states that people are predisposed to choose products or services that minimise their cognitive load.

According to Siegel+Gale’s Simplicity Index, an annual study that ranks the world’s least complicated brands, simplicity inspires deeper trust and strengthens loyalty. The study further shows that ‘the worlds simplest brands are ones that put clarity and ease at the heart of customer experience.’

This is also at the core of survey questionnaire design – asking questions that clearly communicate their meaning and make it easy for participants to provide their answers.

The use of jargon, abstract concepts (or too many concepts) can confuse and intimidate participants. Question and answer wording must be clear, precise and use plain language whenever possible. In survey design, if you confuse people, you will still get answers, but you won’t necessarily know what question they answered.

2. Too many choices spoil the experience

Behavioural scientists understand the negative effect of having too many options. They know there is a limit to the number of choices offered before people start to feel anxious, experience mental fatigue, and disengage, a phenomenon known as ‘choice overload’.

In a study conducted at Columbia University, Professor of Business Sheena Iyengar found that when 24 jams were displayed, lots of customers came to see but hardly anyone chose to buy. When there were only six jams, fewer people visited but 10 times as many jams were sold.

So, if you believe a 100-point scale is better than a 10-point scale because it allows for more answers, you might want to reconsider. Academic research supports the argument that a five-point scale is ideal for a unipolar scale and seven for a bipolar scale.

3. ‘Peaks’ and ‘ends’ create memorable experience

Psychologist and Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman describes several heuristics or mental shortcuts that people tend to use in decision making. One of them is the Peak-End rule, which states that people tend to judge their experience based on the intensity (peak) and the recency of the event (end), and not the entirety of the experience.

That is why providers of both goods and services are focused on creating memorable end experiences. Think about the express checkout in a hotel or how a store employee almost always thanks you and makes eye contact as you leave the store.

In online surveys, gamification has been used to improve user engagement. By making a survey question into a game, we can increase the challenge and move participants in a state of flow; a state where they experience intense concentration and feel a sense of control over the task, resulting in a ‘peak’ in experience.

The addition of motivational phrases written at the end of the survey, or at the point of screen-out or quota fail, can all leave the participant with a positive feeling at the end of their experience.

4. They do take it personally

In 1953, cognitive scientist Colin Cherry coined the term ‘cocktail party effect’ to describe people’s ability to selectively focus their attention on a particular stimulus amidst other voices or noise, just as a partygoer can focus on a single conversation in a noisy room. He found that people are able to detect words of importance like their own name amongst a wide range of auditory inputs.

In survey design, how you phrase the first few questions in your questionnaire (or screener) is important to ensure the relevant people take your survey and allow those who you do not need to understand that and ‘exit gracefully’. When people do not fit your target audience, they cannot answer your questions accurately, even if they do answer to the best of their ability.

5. If they do it, so will I

In his book Influence, Arizona State University’s professor of psychology and marketing Robert Cialdini talks about the principle of social proof, which can be described as people’s tendency to look to the actions of others to help them undertake a behaviour in a given situation.

In surveys, we can also create a similar sense of relatedness and help encourage people to take part in completing the survey by simply inserting motivational phrases into the introduction or transitions to convey that ‘people like them are doing this.’

When we create a positive participant experience – one that asks questions that are relevant and clear, provides precise answer options, and motivates to get full and well thought out answers – everyone wins. It takes work, but it’s worth it. In the words of jazz musician Charles Mingus: ‘Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.’

Author: Jennifer Serrano, Knowledge Manager APAC, Dynata

This article also appears in the February – April 2020 edition of AMSRS publication, Research News – CX, UX & Research Design. Check out the rest of the articles in this edition.

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