When you are developing your plan for a dealership customer experience research project, (see Dealership Discovery), you will need to make some decisions about strategy before you can plan in any detail about what exactly you will do. As with any field research, you need to make some ‘higher level’ decisions before you will be able to work out who will do what, where, when and for how long.
With these decisions in mind, we have listed some questions that you can use to prompt discussion with your team. With each question, we have given you our thoughts on what to think about, along with some tips and tricks that we have learnt along the way.
What should we focus our dealership customer experience research on?
Your study should identify opportunities to solve problems, make improvements or reduce waste. At dealerships we have developed studies to improve wayfinding, forecourt browsing, queueing, parking, facilities utilisation (such as service bays), employee efficiency and reducing waste.
If you don’t already have problems or improvement priorities to focus on then you should make some hypotheses to work on. To do this you could always brainstorm ideas with your team. You should also look at any customer complaints and employee feedback that is available.
A valid hypothesis you can use is that there is always ‘waste’ in customer journeys. You can then plan to find ways to find and minimise it. A study that focuses on identifying and quantifying this type of waste will always deliver actionable insight.
Whatever information is already available we find it is best to get out ‘into the field’ at this point and see for ourselves what is happening. To get ideas to focus on for a project, and also to start to work out how we are going to run it, we often spend half a day observing what happens in the environment we plan the study.
Who should make up the customer experience study team?
For most projects, our field research teams will be managed on site by two senior researchers. One of the senior researchers will be skilled at interviewing. Her role will be to manage the face to face interaction activities with customers and employees. The other will be experienced in observational data collection techniques. His role will be to manage the observational study activities.
The other team members can be new or junior researchers, and ideally, client team members. We always encourage our clients to take a ‘hands-on role’ in study activities. Gaining insight at first hand always increases advocacy for customers and employees within the client team. Joint ownership of the research data and findings will help everyone focus on identifying opportunities and developing solutions.
We always plan some time in our study programmes to undertake some initial training specifically for that project. This ensures that our junior team members and any client team members understand what the study goals are and how the activities will contribute towards meeting the goal. By doing this we can be certain that everyone is happy and competent in their roles so that we make an effective start when we commence the study.
How many field researchers do we need?
We have successfully undertaken studies at dealerships with four team members on site. We always recommend at least two team members on any project, for safety and as you won’t want to miss anything significant when you are grabbing a coffee. In most cases, the more team members you can enlist the better. There will always be something that you can think of that an additional team member can do to add detail or another dimension to your findings.
However, for observational studies, it is best not to deploy too many team members in the field. If it is obvious a study is taking place then this will affect how customers and employees behave and bias your findings.
How many and which dealership locations should we study?
We suggest studying three sites initially. Ideally, this will be a high, medium and low ‘performer’ so you can make meaningful comparisons. ‘Performance’ should be at something the organisation is already measuring and considers important. This could be customer complaints, sales, or staff turnover.
How many days should we study for?
As a minimum, you should plan two days at each new environment. It can be hard to hit the ground running and collect accurate data when you are not yet familiar with an environment and its activities. Follow on studies at similar locations may only need one day of study for you to capture the information you want.
If there are consistent daily patterns of predictable activity then studying for too long will see you collecting repetitive information at some point. This can often happen after the second day and you will sense that the information you are getting is not adding value. If daily activities are not consistent then you will need to add additional days so you don’t leave gaps.
What time of the day should we study the dealership?
You should include peak times for footfall, service transactions or any activity you focus on. It is normally at peak times when demand is high that systems and processes ‘fall over’.
At dealerships the ‘peak’ you study could be early in the morning when many service customers arrive. Alternatively, it could be midday when there is the highest number of vehicles on site. For sales activities, the peak could be at the weekend when most browsing customers visit.
If you can predict quiet times when there will not be a lot of activity then these can be avoided. However, you may wish to include them so there are no ‘gaps’ in your data and so your reporting is more ‘complete’ for your audience.
How many customers should we track and interview?
You will find that information may start to get repetitive after 25 to 30 interviews. As a rule of thumb, plan to track twice as many customers as you want to interview. Therefore track a minimum of 50 customers if you can.
Our clients often want to compare study data with quantitive data they have from other research processes. If this is the case you can get more quantitative data from additional shorter customer intercepts. You could also arrange to hold follow-up telephone interviews.
To make quantitative comparisons then plan for a minimum of 100 interviews. Above this number of respondents is generally accepted as a reliable sample in ‘normal’ circumstances for customer satisfaction surveys.
You may want to analyse segments of your findings. To do this you will need to add to your samples to ensure you have the minimum numbers we have discussed for each segment you wish to look at in detail.
At what intervals should we collect data in a longitudinal study at a dealership?
The more data points you can collect the more detailed the ‘picture’ you can create for your audience. We like to compare this to pixels in a digital photo. The more there are the clearer you can see what is happening, and the closer you can inspect the detail.
Do a trial run and start by collecting data points every 30 minutes. Then you can make an assessment of what is being captured and compare it to the level of detail you think you need. You can then make adjustments.
We find that trying to capture longitudinal data at intervals of less than 15 minutes can prove difficult and is not worth the extra effort. However, if you take recordings at intervals greater than 30 mins then certain types of event can easily be missed. You could find that sales consultations, meetings and lunch breaks can take place without you noting anything. This will make your data seem unreliable.
Anything else to think about?
Think about the practical things your team will need as well as their comfort:
- Scheduling breaks
- Relieving boredom – (try rotating tasks?)
- Weather – (think about sunburn, rain, extreme cold)
- Checking and safely collecting survey sheets
- Lines of sight
- Task handovers
- Moving vehicles
- Missing team members- (Latecomers, absentees)
Think about all the things you need to do the study – and bring spares!
- Proforma survey sheets
- Large scale layout plans
- On-site printer
- Voice recorders
- Spare paper
- Document wallets
- Incentives for interviewees
For more information about the techniques we use when we study customer experience and efficiency at a dealership get our free Dealership Discovery Guide