Influence is one of those words that can be very confusing to a non-native English speaker. It can be used in a lot of contexts, and as different parts of speech. “I was influenced to vote No on Prop 30 by that scary commercial;” or “The teacher’s influence over his students waned after he tore his ACL walking to the chalkboard.” But the most ephemeral, and probably most important way, is to say something like “She is a woman of influence,” which means, what she says goes, and what she does people imitate.
In other words, in this sense, “influence” is the same as “power,” the ability to get things done. It is a mysterious quality that’s fairly hard to define. And, for most of us, it’s something that we don’t have. Sure, in certain spheres, we can influence things, but those are narrow and restricted. It’s much harder for us to exert our influence outside of these limited areas. We have some impact on elections, and some impact on stores based on our shopping habits, but it takes a lot of people to move something in one direction, or another. Your direct impact could be almost immeasurable.
It seems like it is changing though. As the $2.3 million Series AA investment in San Francisco’s getfeedback.com showed, companies are more and more concerned with trying to decipher the exact needs and wants of their consumers. They want to know how their experience was, and how to improve it. It is the kind of immediate impact that so many people wanted, and one that could shift the relationship between store and consumer.
Not quite a one-way street, but not far off
The very nature of capitalism is, in theory, that the market will always correct itself and that a shoddy product or service will fall by the wayside. A perfect meritocracy. We know that’s not the case a lot of the time. A need filled poorly is still better than a vacuum. How many times have you been to a store, looked around at terrible merchandise, sullen staff, and blinking fluorescent lights and wondered how it was still open? Well, because you needed a hoodie, and this place was close and cheap. In this way, not only does the market not correct itself, but the owners see little reason to change. They can eke out a living by being convenient. They influenced how you shopped; you had little influence over their day-to-day operations.
However, what if they wanted to develop, but just didn’t know how. How does a business connect with their consumers, and ward off the entropy of stagnation? Nobody fills out cards anymore. Those are not fast enough, and even if they do fill them out, they aren’t comprehensive. That’s what every business needs to figure out how to engage an audience in feedback in a way that isn’t inconvenient for them, but that still provides enough data to be meaningful?
Getting the right kind of feedback
This isn’t just a question for our hypothetical terrible store. It’s an important one for any business. No company can afford to rest on their laurels when you have sites like Yelp! ready to take them down a peg. Just reading review sites won’t do much for you, because people who review things, as important as they are, are also a very self-selecting group.
There needs to be more feedback in order to understand the experience fully from a consumer’s point of view. That’s where getfeedback.com comes in. It has created a multi-platform user experience suite of applications that works on all sorts of mobile devices and offers its clients the tools to figure out exactly what is important for their business and their customers.
The biggest difference between an old-style survey, even online ones, and one that takes advantage of the power of mobile technology, and is designed with both the client and their customers in mind, is that it doesn’t just allow for reactive responses, but predictive ones. If you are at a clothing store, and buy a suit, an older type of survey might have asked you how the suit-buying experience was and if you are happy with it. If it was really elaborate, it might ask if you planned to buy a suit in the future. That was all well and good, but doesn’t give enough information to be all that useful.
A better survey doesn’t just ask if you intend to buy a suit in the future, but gives you images of dozens of kinds of suits, asking which ones you really like. It can ask “If you hadn’t bought the suit you bought, which of these would you be interested in?” A hotel with a few different choices of what to eat can ask you to rank your choices.
The impact of this can be huge. Say a type of suit, to stick with clothes, isn’t selling at all. When using a more interactive customer satisfaction and response application, the business finds out that the suit they thought wasn’t selling was almost everyone’s second-favorite choice. Instead of discontinuing it and taking a loss, they can tweak it a little, or play with the price, or even just its position in the department. This kind of focused data can help your company figure out what to do with more precision.
The nature of influence
That’s why we seem to be entering a new era of consumer influence. Companies are competing with each other to get your insight, and are eager to pay innovative companies like Getfeedback to help them craft interactive and progressive surveys just to find out what you think about their salad bar. The old cliche was that consumers could vote with their pocketbook, but your individual pocketbook barely made a difference. Now, you can generate the kind of precise feedback that can change the way a business does business. Your voice is not just limited to “Rate Satisfaction 1-5,” just one penciled-in card among thousands. Thanks to the immediate power of mobile technology, you have the kind of influence you always knew you should.