There’s little doubt that the customer experience (CX) and employee experience (EX) connect tightly to ROI. Nothing dissolves profitability more conclusively than employee or customer churn. A loyal customer is likely to try new products, forgive hiccups or other small issues, and sing your praises, and the costs of keeping loyalists engaged far exceed recruiting new customers. The facts support this from every viewpoint. Losing such a person or entity to the competition can be devastating to your bottom line.
All the above applies to HR as well. Replacing an employee can cost the company conservatively anything from 100 percent to double the parting individual’s annual salary. And that doesn’t include project disruption, time delays, risks from data leaks, and more.
So, what has all this got to do with open-ended questions? Here’s a clue: If you’re not asking employees the right questions in a non-threatening way, you could find your company is in the midst of a churn crisis and not know why. Open-ended questions in well-structured surveys get to the heart of EX and CX disruptions. Savvy marketers everywhere rely on open-ended questions to unearth micro-movements in the market, and disruptive ones — left unaddressed — can blow up entire relationships.
Open-ended questions: The path to employee and customer experience touchpoints
Managers should use open-ended questions as a tool to help them keep a finger on the pulse of both customer and employee sentiment.
Companies expect CX and EX to be hassle-free. Indeed, HR and marketing professionals can trace every CX or EX lifecycle back across an integrated chain of touchpoints. Thinking about it in that light, it’s pretty scary. Why? Because a single cancerous touchpoint can create customer or employee emotional discomfort, confusion, and frustration, ending with customers flipping over to a competitor or employees handing in their resignations. Here are a few examples of destructive touchpoints.
In the HR arena:
- Exerting extra effort with no recognition
- A boss exercising unwarranted behavior toward the employee
- Facing challenges without in-house training
- Contradictory communications
- Conflicts with management for any number of reasons
- Expected promise fulfilment fails to occur
In the customer arena:
- Impatient client support
- Incompetent client support
- No brand loyalty recognition
- Seeing better competitor offers
- Brand visualization slipping at important moments
The examples above are just the tip of the iceberg. Obliviousness to all the CX and EX touchpoints that go wrong (and frequently do) can stall strategies and downgrade profits. Customer and employee feedback is a vital requirement to keep a steady course — and feedback from open-ended questions can help to keep the corporate ship sailing smoothly.
Feedback and open-ended questions
What is open ended question? The simple answer is that it’s one that you cannot answer with only a “yes” or a “no.” It’s not to say we can’t couple it with a yes/no question, but what you’re looking for here is elaboration, a probe into the minds and feelings of your respondents.
For example, one of the most important survey questions arises in the Net Promoter Score (NPS) survey question: Would you recommend our brand/company to friends and family? This is a closed-ended question where the researcher gives the survey participant limited response options. It could be confined to a “Yes” or “No,” or a score from one (i.e., definitely not) to 10 (i.e., I definitely will) with variations in between.
A closed-ended question refers to any question for which a researcher provides research participants with defined response options. It’s evident that a closed-ended question isn’t at all penetrative; it only establishes an assent, dissent, or neutral. For that reason, open-ended questions can slot into NPS surveys by asking, “Why did you answer the way you did?”
In other words, if you would or wouldn’t recommend it, what’s the reason? The two questions together can open valuable insight into touchpoints the company doesn’t fully understand.
The example above explicitly shows us the difference between qualitative market research and its output — qualitative data — versus quantitative research, where you can apply ratios and percentages to your results. Once a survey concludes, surveyors can assess the Net Promoter Score by deducting the company/brand detractors (i.e., the No responses, or scores below five) from the promoters (i.e., the Yes responses, or scores above five). In short, they can numerically rate the degree of positive to negative sentiment.
However, it’s impossible to quantify data extracted from the second question — “Why did you answer the way you did?” This is qualitative, providing a look into behavioral reasons for the quantitative results as they may emerge. Open-ended questions drive qualitative research methods by soliciting reasons for closed-ended responses.
Examples of open-ended questions
Designing surveys without carefully placing and wording your open-ended questions amounts to a lost opportunity to connect with customers and employees. It matters little whether you are conducting research physically or deploying an online survey: Open-ended questions are a crucial ingredient in getting to the bottom of brewing issues.
Examples of CX-centric open-ended questions:
- What brought you to shop here today?
- How did you feel about the technical assistance you just received?
- In what way did anyone influence you to contact us today?
- What happened on our website that caused you to leave so quickly?
- What did you see on our website that kept you there for so long?
- Who or what influenced you most in your purchase and why?
- Why have you not bought from us over the last three months?
- We’re grateful you’ve stepped up your purchases. Can you tell us why?
- What can we do to help you navigate our online store easier?
- We notice you disconnected a chat. Can you tell us why?
- Out of everything we offer, what attracts you the most and why?
- Out of everything we offer, what attracts you the least and why?
Examples of EX-centric open-ended questions:
- What interests you most about your job?
- How is your boss helping you to grow, and why?
- How is your boss holding you back, and why?
- Do you see true meaning in your job? If so, why?
- What are the biggest challenges you face in your work?
- Do you feel appreciated or under-recognized? Either way, explain why.
- Are you a welcome member of the team? Yes or no, please tell us why.
- How do you feel about management following through on promises made?
- What is there in corporate culture that makes you feel comfortable?
- What is there in corporate culture that makes you feel uncomfortable?
- To what extent is the company meeting your growth objectives?
You may have noticed from the examples above that open-ended questions can be extremely sensitive. In many cases, unless respondents answer them anonymously, they may show reluctance to respond truthfully. Fear of a backlash often overrides honesty.
Regardless, open-ended questions can help you get to the root of issues with either CX or EX touchpoints. If you’d like assistance with rolling out a comprehensive CX or EX experience management program, or would like to learn more, contact Sogolytics for a free demo.