SurveyMe, Please! Customer research tool is the ultimate empowerment device

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SurveyMe was founded in 2012 out of a near-failed venture. Lee and Nichola Evans were owners of a vibrant teddy bear enterprise and their venture faltered when they forgot who the customer was and what they wanted. This led them to implement a format where an entrepreneur would never embark on a project without asking the shopper their preference first. Their introduction to the U.S. exhibition industry came out of a subtle request from a theatre owner in Pennsylvania. Today, SurveyMe is uniting exhibitors not only with their patrons but equally well with their industry partners and suppliers. Their success rate has already been established via multiple users and growing partnerships from both the exhibitors and vendors enlisted.

Lee Evans, founder and CEO of SurveyMe, recalls the glory days of Bear Factory in Ireland, a company very similar in delivery to Build-A-Bear (later the buyer of Bear Factory). Evans thought he had a great promotional concept for the company’s fifth anniversary. It was a designated anniversary plush in the likeness of an Irish Wolfhound; since the company was established in Ireland, it seemed a natural fit. “Turns out that was the worst idea I have ever had. You see, the Irish Wolfhound is the ugliest dog on the planet! My idea for this cute little plush was to incorporate Irish heritage. Turns out it was so authentic, it was literally scaring the kids away from the store.”

Evans nearly lost his company because he did not ask his customers what they preferred. He realized he placed more emphasis on his concept rather than asking his loyal clients what they wanted.

Hence, SurveyMe was born from a foundation in customer service. Evans confesses he would never again accept seeing his fellow entrepreneurs make the same mistake he made and vowed to help every owner stay in touch with their clients.

His initial experience with the application of SurveyMe was in his homeland. Evans confides that the real growth in the U.S. market arose from Pearl Theatre owner Bruce Taffet. “Bruce had seen some of our initial work and was interested in using a different tool to get comments from his loyal patrons. Bruce told me that while Facebook was an avenue to get feedback, it was unreliable and he wanted to combine consumer opinion with a loyalty factor for their participation.” Taffet was blown away by the insights and delivery of SurveyMe.

“My vision for creating SurveyMe is to build a global network of engaged moviegoers that anyone in the industry can access in order to improve the guest experience, in an effort to make better business decisions quicker, and ultimately sell more product at the concessions,” Evans explains. “SurveyMe is about seeing the guest experience continuously through the eyes of moviegoers in real time. That process starts with continuously listening to guests.”

How does it work? SurveyMe works with the exhibitor to set up a series of five to seven questions when they enter the facility. The user downloads a SurveyMe app on their smart device and any time the user clicks on the app, any survey within a viable radius appears on the screen. If the cinema has a specific set of questions, the patron “clicks on” and answers the few questions posed. At the conclusion, the patron is given some remuneration, typically in the form of a concession item: popcorn, soda, candy, etc. The exhibitor now has data that relates directly to their concerns, and a private dashboard that he or she can review to get immediate feedback. The data can be retained for days, months, even a year. The responses quantify the adjustments a theatre owner might make in seating choices, concession offerings, adult beverage options, pricing, showtimes—an entire gamut of subjects. The app can also be used to interview employees to determine their wants and desires, respect levels, appreciation lines, how to make the job more efficient, etc. The survey can be multi-dimensional, designed for guests, employees, vendors, manufacturers or even advertisers.

SurveyMe is not alone when it comes to challenges. Evans admits that they have to adapt continuously. “Every survey platform suffers from one common issue, and that is low response rates. Low response rates are caused by the platform being inherently disruptive and moviegoers being poorly motivated to engage in the first place.” SurveyMe sees this as an obstacle they can overcome by immediately rewarding the participant. “SurveyMe overcomes the common issues by being mobile and enabling guests to give real-time feedback while at the movie theatre, plus instantly rewarding them with marketing coupons that drive them to the concession. The SurveyMe CX team works directly with exhibitors to constantly share best practices and actionable insights and craft relevant questions.”

SurveyMe is a success story in the early stages of activation. “Our measure of success is the progressive realization of a worthwhile goal and we have achieved that,” Evans declares. “Success is already here, we have a terrific product and the best team! I have a set of talented people as we move together for a meaningful target; for me, that defines success.”

Placed at the corner of insight and incentive, SurveyMe aspires to be the “feet on the street” for anyone in the industry, providing them with answers to the things that they don’t already know, which will ultimately make everyone’s life easier and more profitable.

Larry Etter is senior vice president at Malco Theatres and director of education at the National Association of Concessionaires.