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Webinar recap: how RICS uses text analysis for surveys

RICS's Rachel Waterson discusses text analysis for surveys in our Spotlight Series webinar

“It’s all very well seeing a number on a document, but it’s about being able to tell that story.”

This quote from Rachel Waterson, audience insight senior specialist at the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), summarizes why RICS and other membership organizations are pivoting to derive insights from text – particularly when it comes to text analysis for surveys.

Rachel was joined by Relative Insight’s Jasmine Cheung and Charli Page for a fireside chat which explored the reasons behind RICS using Relative Insight’s text analytics software, what the organization learned through analyzing its membership surveys and using insights to take action. Charli introduced the session by highlighting how membership organizations can use text data to understand and engage with their members. You can watch a short summary of Rachel and Jasmine’s conversation in the video below.

The ‘so what?’ factor

Conducting text analysis for surveys has offered RICS a great opportunity to understand its members better. However, Rachel is fully aware that persuading the organization to act upon these insights is the real key. She noted that being able to tell a story using text data was an excellent way of influencing key stakeholders at RICS.

“Being able to tell a story with that data really makes a difference,” she said. Rachel added: “It helps people to understand – particularly those people who aren’t into numbers – it creates a better pictures and makes sure people keep those key messages in their heads.”

She highlighted that this was known as the ‘so what?’ factor within the organization. One example of how RICS put survey analysis insights into action was around its provision of continuing professional development (CPD), as Rachel explains:

“In the first survey set we really dug into, the big thing was engaging and supporting our members. This uncovered three key facets of member engagement: visibility on the ground, visibility within regions and the provision of CPD in terms of value for members.

“Historically members have always had to pay for their CPD, so I would say the biggest change in strategy is that we now deliver a package of CPD which is free for our members to use. That was a big strategic change and members are keen to take up that offer – we’ve had really high booking rates for free CPD.”

Using open-ended survey questions and member segmentation to learn

Given that the organization receives in excess of 10,000 responses to its biannual membership satisfaction survey, differentiating between open-ended responses from different member segments is almost impossible to do manually. By using the Relative Insight’s text analysis software to analyze surveys, RICS has developed greater understanding into the contrasts in feedback from different audiences.

For example, the organization segmented members in different regions – revealing a big difference in feedback between European and APAC members – as well as comparing members in different roles, at varying seniorities and based on the amount of time they’d been a member.

RICS also used satisfaction scores from its surveys to segment satisfied and unsatisfied members. However, it was only when the organization analyzed open-ended responses that it found ways to improve its offering, even to members which gave high satisfaction scores.

“Even where members were scoring high, that opportunity to share their feedback quite often would still be negative. That was their chance to say ‘overall I’m fairly happy with you, but you need to do these things better’.

“To me, that drives home the importance of giving people free text. If we were just taking the topline score, it doesn’t really help us to know where we are. Even if people are generally happy, if they have some underlying things which are annoying them, we want to know about them and take action.”


At the beginning of the webinar, Charli discussed a multitude of examples where organizations could use text data to understand their members, including online comments and social data. However, her main focus was the value of text analysis for surveys.

She highlighted the strategies membership organizations can use to ensure their surveys generate data from which they can extract actionable insights. These included providing a good mix of closed questions – which provide excellent initial data points for segmentation – combined with opportunities to provide open-ended responses.

“This is super important,” she said. “Once you do this, you can learn how to engage with members in a really personalized way, which will ensure they want to remain members of your organization.”

You can view the full webinar on the video below. If you’re interested in finding out more about how you can tailor our membership surveys to retain and attract members, download our ‘Understanding your members’ ebook now.