Best Practices for Online Customer Panels

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An online panel is a managed survey system in which participants have agreed to provide feedback on products, services and perceptions. The concept is simple, however the implementation can be unique and varied. Segmentation tools and instant access to responses allow organisations to run A/B tests across customer segments and probe further into the particular issues that are relevant to particular groups.

Customer panels are a powerful tool, but must be managed effectively to achieve optimum results. Key panel management issues involve keeping participants motivated, ensuring quality feedback and maintaining engagement. Therefore, we have put together a list of panel best practices to ensure you make the most of your online customer panel investment.

Keep it Simple

A common mistake with customer panel portals is overwhelming participants. It is easy for companies to overcomplicate sites and becoming too focused on the intricate details of the results rather than the overall customer experience. Panels are fantastic tools for customer tracking initiatives – however this requires participants to maintain a long term investment in the project.

By overcomplicating the system, adding too many activities and designing repetitive tasks, it is easy for participants to disengage with the research. So, when designing your research portal ensure that participant experience is at the fore and they enjoy the experience of providing feedback by simplifying the system wherever possible.

Empower Customers

A whole 27% of participants are motivated to take part in research to give feedback that will contribute to brand improvements. Considering the wide range of possible motivations for taking part in market research, including the financial incentive and self-promotion, this is an incredible percentage.

Be sure to take advantage of it and make sure participants are empowered to make real, impactful changes to the brand. This comprises of two key elements: the first is designing management structures that are favourable to research and incorporate research into core business objectives and targets. The second is ensuring there are feedback structures in place that show customers how their opinions are making real, impactful changes to the business.

This tool encourages participants to work towards common goals by providing the latest information on research tasks and progress, in addition to aiding motivation and engagement by keeping participants up to date on the effect research is having within the organisation and new incentives.

Use a Range of Tools

Panels are most effective when a range of tools are used. From quick polls that provide instantaneous feedback to collaborative question boards, forums and diaries – there are a range of tools that can provide relevant, on-going feedback to ensure you are constantly aware of customer opinion and sentiment.

Supplement these tools with our database, which not only provides access to participants 24/7, but also a host of additional features. Participant profiling provides for the creation of demographics and segments that different research tools and questions can be applied to. Bulk uploading, filtering and powerful data analysis mean that access to segmented data has never been easier.

Ensure Brand Consistency

Another point to bear in mind is how your brand is represented across the research portal. Online panels are made up of large volumes of customers and it is therefore important to remember that a panel is a representation and extension of a brand. Try to ensure that your brand is applied consistently across the platform – from the style guidelines to the tone of voice that moderators use.

Panels occupy a unique space by serving simultaneously as both a representation of a brand and a space for customers to interact. Thus it is necessary that participants are given the freedom to express themselves, but moderators and administrators must be representatives of the brand. This does not mean they should defend any criticisms that customers have, but rather conduct the research in a professional, un-biased manner that ensures participants have the freedom of speech they require.

In conclusion, panels are an incredibly useful tool for organisations. The instant access to a dedicated panel of customers provides unlimited opportunity for brands to monitor instant reactions, or track customer opinion over an extended period of time. However, mastering customer panels can be tricky. But follow our best practices and you are sure to improve the quality of feedback and engagement from your customers online.

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