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How to navigate the fine line between stability and evolution in tracking studies

After a decade of consistency, we decided to turn Human8’s oldest syndicated tracker upside down. Here’s what we learned.
How to navigate the fine line between stability and evolution in tracking studies

A decade ago, when Human8 was known as Columinate, South Africa was not short of great syndicated studies evaluating customer satisfaction, however, back then there was a gap in the market for a study specifically around digital banking satisfaction. We felt that launching such a tracker would not only fill a knowledge and insight gap in this area but also provide an opportunity to learn. We wanted banks to be actively involved in the conversation around digital evolution, to track their performance and help them understand what works for them, and more importantly, what customers wanted. The decision to launch our syndicated study came from a desire to improve both the research and banking industries at once. And so, SITEisfaction® was born.

In 2012 our goal was clear: empower and learn. We shared a single metric score per bank publicly, along with some digital banking statistics. Clients who opted for the full report received a detailed analysis of their performance as well as that of their competitors. This deep dive enhanced banks’ understanding of customers and competitors, while teaching our agency valuable lessons in managing syndicated work. But as with anything else in the fast-paced world of consumer research and insights, we reached a point in the study where change was needed.

Understanding change

How to navigate the fine line between stability and evolution in tracking studies

We found that change is in fact on a spectrum. On the one hand we have organic change which is dynamic, this type of change might change direction as it grows. It’s usually more subtle and reactive, an adaptation in the study as and when a need arises. An example of organic change in the world of quantitative trackers could be when a new competitor or brand enters your sector. You can try to avoid it, but it’s probably not the best idea, so you rather embrace this dynamic change in your category and add that brand into your tracker. You’re unlikely to receive much resistance to this type of change as it’s simply a function of the category growing. On the other end of the spectrum, we have mediated change, which is shaped and direct. With this type of change we’re approaching a challenge or opportunity for improvement within a tracker head-on and with an informed, intended outcome. This change is about applying deep knowledge and utilising expertise. It’s also the type of change that can be more difficult for stakeholders and clients to accept.

Evolutionary change

As with most good, syndicated trackers, SITEisfaction® has evolved over the last decade. In 2012 it was launched as a survey to assess user satisfaction with internet banking platforms. It arose organically as a solution to an unmet need in the market. The study experienced its first organic change in 2015, when as a reaction to the growing popularity of mobile banking, we included a second survey on that topic with a focus on smartphone and tablet banking apps as well as mobi-sites. In 2019 we took this further, again in response to changing market trends, the mobile banking survey became exclusively focused on smartphone apps. In 2020, set against the countrywide Covid-19 restrictions, the exclusively digital bank, TymeBank, drummed up a large enough userbase to be included among the five big banks in the ranking. In 2021, with the incidence of multi-banked users on the rise, the tracker again took on an organic adaptation by focusing just as much on secondary user satisfaction and drivers thereof. Finally, in 2023, Discovery Bank’s userbase also grew to the point where we could include it in the measurement. All this to say that, while the study has certainly evolved over the years, it was all a natural and expected evolution and at the centre of it all, the core metric of SITEisfaction® remained constant.

Drastic change

Looming on the horizon of course was a more drastic change. By 2018 we had started to be questioned by clients regarding the SITEisfaction® score itself, implying that there should be more to it than a single variable calculation. By 2020, clients were asking for greater depth from the study, such as practical and tangible direction and steps to take to improve their score. Despite having always defined areas of focus through a simple regression calculation, identifying the drivers of SITEisfaction® that would help our clients to improve their score, over the years the drivers and the score felt increasingly disconnected. We needed a clearer link. By 2022 we had hit a wall. Digital banking was no longer shiny and new, so the insights gleaned from past studies, as well as the growing wealth of expertise in digital banking among our clients, meant that we weren’t finding anything new. So, in 2023, we bit the bullet and blew it all up, figuratively speaking. We completely rethought the way we measure SITEisfaction®, using structural equation modelling where we fully integrated the drivers, thereby enabling banks to better see how shifts in the drivers are reflected within the main score and identifying meaningful actions. Needless to say, we informed our clients of this change in advance.

So, how do you know when it’s time to make a change to your tracker? If you can answer ‘yes’ to these four questions then the answer is, well, yes:

  1. Are you confident that a change would bring about a net-benefit to your, your clients and your study?
  2. Is your study ready to undergo an evolution right now, as opposed to later?
  3. Are you and your team ready to navigate this change, with a clear plan in place?
  4. Are your clients ready?

Implementing change

Talking about change and implementing change are two very different animals and navigating real and effective change requires a solid and structured plan of action. In creating our plan of action, we turned to the ADKAR change management model developed by Jeff Hiatt, which encompasses five outcomes of a successfully navigated transition - Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability and Reinforcement. As one size doesn’t fit all, you might want to adapt this action plan to suit your clients. Success here isn’t just about the change itself, but the performance as a result of the change. In our case, the methodological changes we made didn’t alter the leaderboard of banks, however, the reaction of the banking clients to the change was quite varied. This allowed us to define four distinct personas across the axes of ‘performance’ and ‘acceptance of change’: the Resistant Struggler, the Malleable Underachiever, the Humble Adapter and the Prosperous Transitioner. Depending on which persona each banking client identified with, we tailored our engagement accordingly.

This journey is still underway for us, as we continue to reinforce the change and empower clients to internalise the changes based on our personas. We’ll continue to listen to feedback as we embark on SITEisfaction® 2024 so that we ensure stability whilst also continuing to make meaningful change.

To learn more about our personas or register your interest in SITEisfaction® 2024 (available from October), please contact moc.8namuheraew@irennA or moc.8namuheraew@nywnorB.

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