I'm worried about you; I'm worried about your brand and your customers! I'm worried your customers have enthusiastically opted in to a research platform because they want to have their voices heard.
The Consumer Panel Problem
These customers want to improve the products and services that are available to them. They do in fact want to be your brand ambassadors and spend more of their hard-earned money on the products they want FROM YOU! But, what has happened to them?
They completed survey after survey (yawn), rate on this scale (yawn!), answer another unrealistically general question about some kind of very context specific behaviour, and even worse - had to log onto a PC to do it after opening the email invite on their phone!
Your customers did all this for you and now feel they have been a little misled. They thought they were going to have some fun, help in shaping your brand and be listened to. But, all they have been invited to do is a list of surveys that test their concentration span. Sure there is a forum to comment in, but it isn't providing much inspiration.
These are your valuable, committed customers, what are you doing to them? Even worse what impression do they have of your brand after the disappointment of these few research activities?
What Can You Do?
Liberate them from the panel straight jacket and allow them to express themselves creatively through a broader range of research activities and community tools such as scrapbooking and brainstorming. These sort of activities enable two things - for each customer to interact with each topic more than once (which helps get to their real motivations) and to interact with each other (which helps to uncover the key details that you may have discarded or perhaps, not even considered).
Enable them to talk to each other freely within your research space, in private or public through messaging and allow them to start their own threads. The immediate benefit of this is happier customers who have more reasons to join in with your research. And, in the longer term you may also see that running your research becomes easier because your customers interact naturally, asking each other questions without you needing to and taking care of each other.
Optimise your research for mobile - there really isn't any excuse for dragging your customers back to the PC, use the right task and the right technology to empower them to take part however and wherever they wish.
It's time to switch on your community, it is not a big commitment - it could be self-moderating with the right tools, and it is the ideal way to give your customers the voice they really want. Customers need to be liberated from the panel straight jacket and allowed to express themselves creatively and openly through a range of research and community tools.