Not a news flash: Automation is kind of a big deal. As soon as we get the hang of something, we’re trying to figure out how it can get done with the minimal amount of effort. That’s just smart, right? Working smarter rather than harder has become a modern mantra, and the expectation that “there must be an easier way to do this” is everywhere.
From the magical time-savers in survey design (Get it done in one step with a complete template from the survey bank!) to the one-click wonders in reporting (Hello, Omni!), the world of online research is well suited for convenience. But what about that step in the middle — actually inviting people to participate?
Yes, researchers, there is automated distribution, too.
The case for automated survey distribution
With the shift from one-off data collection projects (think event registration forms and potluck planning) to ongoing research throughout the customer journey or employee experience, actually figuring out who should get what invitation when has become more complex. Plus, with all of those pre-populated fields of critical details to be filled in, there’s mapping to do, too.
Take the example of a bank. Every day (hopefully!) new customers sign up, existing customers complete transactions in person or online, loan applications come in, and perhaps (though hopefully not as often) some customers leave to bank elsewhere. Each of these interactions is an important touchpoint on the customer journey, but the sheer multiplication involved across multiple branches and multiple days can be mind-boggling.
In the event that the bank doesn’t employ a full-time survey distributor (Is that a thing?), automated survey distribution may be the answer to sending the right email invitations to the right prospects or customers at the right time to get the right information on an ongoing basis. Magic!
Getting started with automated distribution
One important consideration: Are you tracking all of those contacts in the first place? Before you start planning how to send feedback surveys to everyone you’ve been interacting with, you need to make sure that your team can pull those lists together.
For some organizations, it’s a point-of-sale tracking system that’s managed by a third-party vendor. For others, it’s an internal database that keeps all the details in order. If this is a new idea for your team, you might need to ask around to learn a few more details about how this information is collected in the first place.
Before you have these answers, there’s only so much an external partner (like us!) can do to help. Once you’ve clarified the system on your end, it’s time to figure out how to make automation work for you.
Once you know how your critical data is being collected (think account numbers, email addresses, product types, etc.), it’s time to finalize your surveys. Whether you’re measuring customer experience or employee experience, pre-filling answers that you already know can make for a much better survey participation experience.
It’s not uncommon for the team designing the survey to plan for certain fields to be pre-filled only to learn from the team managing the lists that this information can’t be filled as planned. For example, perhaps your survey asks for an employee’s department as a single-select question but your database identifies some employees with multiple departments. In this case, change the question type and pre-fill the multi-select answer, or consider asking employees to identify their “primary” department, if that’s important to know.
Another common issue to review is whether the answer options given in the survey match the answer options given in the distribution list. If your survey lists departments as “HR” and “IT” but your distribution list identifies them as “Human Resources” and “Information Technology”, trying to publish will highlight these as a pre-population mismatch.
Beyond the survey, remember to finalize your email invitation and reminder(s), too. Every piece of the puzzle should be good to go before you start putting it together.
Prep the source
Once you’ve got your survey, email invitation, and reminders finalized, it’s time to ensure your files are in order. Once automated distribution has been enabled in your account (Contact your account manager if you’re not there yet!), we’ll give you the details you need to access your own secure folder on our SFTP server. If SFTP (Secure File Transfer Protocol) is new to you, here’s the basic idea: Your team drops the distribution lists into this secure folder and our system picks them up and sends the right invitations to the right contacts — automatically.
Again, prepping the drop-it-in-the-folder process takes place on your end, but once you’ve got access to the server, you’ll create a specific folder for each survey you’re sending out. This makes it easy for our system to know which invitations to send to which folder.
Prep the rules
To set up your distribution rule, you’ll need a sample file. This file must be in exactly the same format as the rest of the files you’ll be getting from your database. If you have the email address in the first column in your sample file, it needs to be in the same position in every other file you upload for distribution. If you have fields for account number, email address, and product type, those fields need to be in the same order for both the sample and future files.
Upload the sample file into the matching project folder on the SFTP server, then validate the connection in your SoGoSurvey account. From here, the system will recognize the sample file and ask you to set up the rules that will determine the rest of your distribution. Do you have mail merge or data population to map? Which files are you sending from the folder? When are you sending the invitations, and are you sending reminders? What happens if there’s a mismatch? Set the rules to determine what should happen for all future distribution.
Test, track, and go!
Once you’re all set, run a test distribution to ensure everything functions as planned. You’ll be able to track automated distribution from within your account so you’ll always know what’s going on, and you can pause or edit the rule at any time. Remember that you can also set alerts to be notified if something unexpected pops up.
Then, set it and forget it! Watch the data roll in and keep improving experience — for your customers, your employees, and yourself!
Ready to learn more about automated distribution? Connect with your account manager or request a demo today!