Hard to reach customers

There’s no silver bullet or magic potion for how to poll hard to reach customers. But there are several strategies that can be employed to increase the potential for meaningful engagement when we know that the target respondent may be time pressed, disengaged or reluctant to participate for another reason. A number of our projects involve talking to elusive customers, prospects or lapsers, so here we share some ideas (without giving away our secret sauce!). 

At a high level, the key objective is to understand and tap into one or more of the motivations that respondents may have for providing feedback. This could be a desire to be considered a thought leader or to demonstrate loyalty. But it could be that a financial reward or the opportunity to complain is the only motivation needed.  

Once the potential motivation has been identified, the aim must be to engage with respondents in the most effective and appropriate manner. 

Five top tips for maximising engagement with hard to reach customers 

  1. Be relevant  – Ensure you’re asking about the right moments in the customer journey – pain points or areas of delight. John Doerr, founder of the OKR movement which helps organisations set ambitious goals and track progress, told us to “Measure what matters”. The same can be applied to customers: don’t waste their time by asking about things that do not matter to them. Find out the moments of truth and tailor your questions accordingly. 
  2. Be convenient In this digital age, respondents expect surveys to be accessible from any device. Our figures show that between half and two-thirds take part in our surveys on a touchscreen or mobile device. Our responsive surveys make it easy for respondents to participate whenever and wherever they want. Allowing the research to fit easily into the respondent’s daily life means they are more likely to participate. 
  3. Be sensitiveWhen trying to reach hard-to-reach customers who come from different cultural backgrounds, it’s important to be mindful of the cultural sensitivity. This includes using language that is accessible to all potential participants and that takes local cultural norms and traditions into account. On a recent project with respondents with neurological conditions, we ensured we allowed the respondent to set the pace of the interview and allowed them more time to consider their responses, without making them feel rushed. 
  4. Be personalCustomers today want personalised experiences. They want to feel as though their opinion is important and worthwhile and that they are valued contributors. Inviting a select group of participants to share their views helps to engender a sense of purpose by helping to (for example) co-create a product or service that will improve their experience.  
  5. Be trusted – Partnering with a trusted brand, be that the research sponsor themselves, a community group, business network or charitable organisation, can lend credence to the research and encourage participation. 

Tapping into the ‘hive mind’ can help also help to build engagement. This is a fascinating concept, often used to describe collective behaviour in the natural world, particularly among social insects such as bees. It refers to the emergent intelligence that arises from the collaboration and consensus of a group, rather than the actions of a single individual. 

In the context of market research, the hive mind can offer valuable insights not only in analysing collective behaviour and preferences, but also to build a sense of community and co-creation among participants. It represents the power of community, collaboration, and shared intelligence.  

It’s our belief that respondents that feel they are helping business to improve their products and services not solely for their own personal benefit, but for the wider current and future customer base, are far more likely to respond and to engage. This is surely a win win for everyone. 

If you’d like to consider our thoughts on how to maximise engagement with respondents in B2B qualitative research, check out our blog on this topic here  


Written by Nicole Holt, Head of Research


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