More than two thirds (41%) of best-in-class organizations incorporate Voice of the Customer (VoC) as a formal part of their business plans, according to Aberdeen Group research. However, integral VoC strategies, such as email surveys and customer research, can sometimes become too expensive and time consuming to execute successfully.
With more than 150 fragrances, and a wide range of products, including scented candles, car fresheners and candle accessories, Yankee Candle has streamlined its customer feedback and survey strategies with help from Qualtrics, a survey technology provider. By automating the process, the retailer is able to more easily engage with loyal customers on a regular basis. With the Qualtrics Research Suite, Yankee Candle has “increased the amount of feedback we’re getting from customers exponentially,” according to Allison Bleyler, Director of Consumer Insights at Yankee Candle Company.
Although the Consumer Insights division of Yankee Candle is small in comparison to its organization, it supports three key pillars of the business: The brand, product development and innovation. Previously, the Consumer Insights team focused on new fragrance development, and used manual processes to create surveys and communicate with customers in store. “We would literally draft a survey or questionnaire in Microsoft Word, print it and take it out to our stores, interview consumers, then go back to the office and key it all up in Excel,” said Bleyler in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “If we wanted any additional feedback on a new product concept we would have to outsource a research company to do the heavy lifting. But because our budget wasn’t that large we would rarely do that kind of work.”
Harnessing Brand Fans And Advocates
Shortly after implementing Qualtrics in early 2012, Yankee Candle created a panel of customers to participate in ongoing surveys and answer ad hoc questions throughout the year. This group of 2,400 consumers are now “incredibly engaged,” and “have a voice at the table,” Bleyler explained, “whether we’re looking at new promotions, graphics, catalog cover designs or even new fragrances or story board ideas.”
Yankee Candle’s survey strategy has become so popular with consumers that members of the consumer panel are asking if friends and family can also join, Bleyler revealed. “We already knew we were a part of their lives and family as a brand and this is juts really taking it to another level for them. We’re really building that relationship.”
Email surveys are created within the Qualtrics platform, so Bleyler can upload all email addresses and create profiles of ideal panelists. For example, Yankee Candle can design an email within the tool and pull a sample of 500 women that fit specific criteria, she noted. The email is then delivered to that specific sample group, and Qualtrics tracks how many members open and complete the survey in real time.
“There’s this mindset that research takes a really long time,” Bleyler said. “While Qualtrics doesn’t eliminate all of the work, surveys so they can be turned around within 48 hours.”
Questions can easily be created and changed so surveys are more interesting and relevant for consumers. Bleyler has created surveys that are more image driven, so customers can rank photos they like and dislike. “This makes surveys more interactive and fun so consumers will want to be a part of the process.”
Expanding Survey Samples
Yankee Candle also now has the ability to tap into thousands of prospective customers, a venture that would typically add up to thousands of dollars in research outsourcing fees, according to Bleyler. Using the Qualtrics Panels solution, Yankee Candle can go outside of its consumer base and get a broader sample of shoppers who may not have a relationship with the brand.
“This allows us to get more category perspective on new products,” Bleyler explained. “It gives us a different perspective of customers who use our products less frequently or are even lax users. We use the Qualtrics Panels if we want a more representative view of customers.”
Yankee Candle is now executing up to three surveys a month and also is integrating in-store surveys and campaigns, Bleyler reported. Team members conduct interviews with shoppers by accessing the Qualtrics platform via iPad.
“We’ve eliminated pencil and paper, and manual Excel management,” Bleyler said. “Creating a survey in Qualtrics enables our shoppers to give us feedback right there in the store, so we can have follow-up discussions face to face.”