How often do you receive a letter or email saying something like this?
“Thank you for buying from / staying at / flying with / visting [insert business name]. We love hearing from our customers and would appreciate it if you could take a few minutes to provide us with your valuable feedback by completing this brief survey.”
I’m not sure exactly how many I have at the moment, but I would hazard a guess that I have at least a dozen of those emails in my inbox and four letters in my tray, none of which I have any intention of completing. Why?
The customer satisfaction survey is often a sure sign that my individual opinion is irrelevant. That’s because most surveys are designed for data to be aggregated and give management something to talk about in meetings – not follow up with an individual customer.
Companies and other organisations have become obsessed with with all sorts of ratings, scores, formulas and statistics that help convince them they are doing a great job. Ultimately these figures which rely heavily on data from surveys, never really impact on the actual customer experience at the front line.
So most customer surveys are little more than a means to an end and as a result are poorly designed. Here are six symptoms of surveys that are guilty of this crime against effective customer feedback:
1. They just take too long.
Despite their promise of being brief, it’s not unusual to find yourself barely half way through a survey after ten minutes. If customers were certain that it really would only take a couple of minutes not 15 or 20, they might be tempted to do the survey.
2. The questions are irrelevant.
Often customers who are happy or unhappy will take a survey with the intention of letting the business know their thoughts only to find that none of the questions are relevant to their individual experience or area of concern. What the actual customer is concerned about is apparently not what the business is concerned about, so next time the customer decides not to bother.
3. Participants have to be bribed
“Get 10% off your next purchase” or “Go in the draw for something fantastic if you fill out our survey”. There are only two real reasons why people are motivated to tell you about your service. Because they hate it or they are extremely impressed. If you have to bribe them to fill out your survey then you already have your answer. Your service is neither here nor there. It’s run-of-the-mill.
4. Lack of follow through
In the event that someone is able to express their opinion about an area of concern to them, it is rare for it to be followed up on. Many organisations have a black-hole type void called “Good Intentions” that never seems to be given the time and planning required to be transformed into something tangible for their customers.
5. Ulterior motives
Some surveys are little more than a thinly veiled attempt to sell more products or services which casts serious doubt over how authentic the desire to get valued feedback really is.
6. Lack of empowerment
Related to symptom #4, most of the time the person administering the survey or receiving the information has no authority to act on any concerns or recommendations that you might offer. The issue then gets passed into the chain of command, only to be lost in the void of good intentions.
What’s a better solution for getting meaningful customer feedback?
There are really only two questions that count:
“What are we doing well?”
“What do we need to improve on?”
In theory you could send out a survey with those questions on if you wanted, but all you really have to do is make it easy for your customers to give you feedback. Have an email address and/or a 1800 number specifically for customer feedback. Use social media to get honest unedited opinions. Give them a comment card with a return addressed envelope. Just a few ideas.
Also, make sure the people receiving this information are empowered to act on it, or at least have immediate access to someone who is, so that unhappy customers are followed up with quickly and those who wish to compliment you are thanked for taking the time to do so.
What a great way to build trust and rapport with your customers!
David Wise is a professional MC, speaker, freelance writer, and communication coach from Queensland, Australia.