Customer Feedback in a Digital First Education World


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Last week I had the privilege of speaking at the #PSEWEB conference in Montreal. My talk focused on the importance of collecting feedback in a “digital-first” world. Today we live in the age of the empowered student. Thanks to the rapid adoption of technology, students are in control and they are calling the shots.

According to the Guardian, when asked, many students say going to university is more about the experience than the specific degree. When targeting students, success comes from knowing how a young connected consumer behaves rather than restricting yourself to the confines of a traditional educational approach.

Diverse and empowered audience

But students are not the only target audience for colleges and universities. In fact, colleges and universities have one of the most diverse online audiences ranging from prospective students to staff to professors to alumni to donors. According to Hubspot, A higher education website is the virtual front door of your campus and it needs to attract and inform each individual persona. It has to be user-friendly, convey value and guide visitors to different sections of your website. But how do you reach and satisfy an empowered and diverse audience online?

Download the slides from my presentation

Default is to turn to web analytics

The default is to turn to web analytics. The reality today is that digital strategy and execution are anchored in web analytics from page views to bounce rates to time on site. But web analytics only tells half the story. It can tell you what happened but it can’t tell you why it happened. As Avinash Kaushik said, “Web analytics cannot, no matter how much you torture the data, tell you why something happened.”

At iPerceptions we like to say, web analytics has a blind spot. In reality, behavior is ultimately a product of a thought process that begins with a visitor’s intent. To understand a visitor’s behavior, you need to understand their intent. For example, offline we can read body language, observe people and ask questions; but online the task of understanding what your visitors want and need is much more challenging. Only by collecting feedback can you fill this void.

Feedback explains the why

The only way to get into the heads of your visitors is to ask them. Collecting feedback or what is commonly referred to as Voice of the Customer (VoC) helps you understand the “why” behind the “what” of your visitors’ behavior. Voice of the Customer (VoC) is a research technique that encompasses the collective insights of customer’s needs, wants and expectations across digital platforms. One of the most effective approaches to collect the voice of your customers is through a random intercept survey. This approach obtains a representative sample of visitors’ intent, needs and satisfaction to help better understand strengths and weaknesses of your web properties from your visitors’ perspective. By collecting visitor feedback you can better understand who is coming to your sites, why they are coming, how the site is doing and what needs to be fixed to ultimately improve the online experience. (To see this approach in action on you website – check out our live demo)

In a “digital-first” world where strategy is anchored in web analytics, it’s more important than ever to collect feedback across your digital properties. Below are three examples of how customer feedback can help you create a better visitor experience for your diverse and empowered audience.

Example 1 – Customer feedback is an essential part of a website redesign

As Co-founder of iPerceptions, I have had the opportunity to help countless Fortune 500 brands re-design their website. And I can tell you that they face similar challenges to you. Feedback is essential in a redesign as it tells you what is working and what is not working from your visitors’ perspective. With the substantial internal pressure that is ever present in a university and college environment, visitor feedback provides a common language and baseline metrics that help you structure and measure the redesign process. These baseline metrics provide a clear vision of how you are going to align your internal resources to support the experience and measure the success of the redesign. With a diverse audience, visitor feedback collected through a random website survey is essential to define and develop personas and is particularly effective since you are engaging with real visitors in real situations. For more details on how to go about a redesign check out my post – 6 Steps to a Customer-Centric Website Redesign.

Example 2 – Customer feedback can help you optimize your content marketing

The tone, voice and content that resonate with future students are very different than what will resonate with alumni, donors, parents and professors. The only way to actively determine whether content is effective in your readers’ eyes is to involve them in the process. Great content resonates with very specific groups of people that react to it in very specific ways. An effective content marketing strategy must begin with those groups of readers. By directly engaging with your visitors for feedback you uncover your audiences’ interests, concerns and pain points. This allows you to create specific content by target audience to ensure the content on your site is effective and gets the job done. For more details on optimizing your content marketing efforts check out this post – 3 ways to solve content marketing conundrums.

Example 3 – Customer feedback increases the effectiveness of retargeting

Today, retargeting is regarded as one of the most powerful tools of digital marketers. Retargeting is a form of online advertising which encourages previous website visitors to return to your site, and could be very effective in staying top of mind with future students who are researching schools, particularly international students. Digital marketers turn to retargeting because it delivers results, 26 percent of visitors will return to a site through retargeting. However if retargeting is not done correctly you could waste budget and potentially impact your reputation by retargeting potential or existing customers with the wrong message. This is where feedback comes in. At iPerceptions, we are changing the way companies leverage customer feedback. With our innovative Active Recognition Technology, you can use visitor feedback from website surveys, to recognize the intent of anonymous website visitors and then retarget them accordingly. For example, you can recognize a prospective international student coming to your site to research your school, when they leave your site you can retarget them with an ad that reflects their interest. To learn more about creating more effective retargeting campaigns see – Top 3 ways to improve your retargeting in 2015!

There were many great sessions at #PSEWEB, including a few that highlighted the importance of collecting feedback. By understanding what prospective students, international students, current students, staff, professors, alumni, and donors need and want, you can better optimize your digital properties. I was honored to speak at the event and I look forward to seeing many of you at next year’s conference.

For a recap of what happened at this year’s conference please see my colleague Lisa Waizmann’s blog post here.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Duff Anderson
Duff Anderson is a visionary in digital Voice of the Customer research with over 20 years' experience. As SVP and Co-founder at iPerceptions, Duff is responsible for providing expert advice to organizations on how to gain a competitive advantage across the digital customer lifecycle and become more customer-centric.


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