Every time I research the topic of customer surveys, I notice consistent reasons why business leaders are dissatisfied with their programs. They receive too few responses, the data isn’t helpful, or they’re unwilling or unable to act on what they learn. Whenever I’m asked how to get better results from customer survey programs, I provide five pieces of advice. This blog post covers the top ways I know to improve the number and quality of survey responses.
Have a Clear Goal
Establish a highly focused purpose for your survey. This is the first and most important step. I’ve encountered too many surveys that are trying to accomplish too much or not accomplishing anything at all. It’s better to have many focused surveys than one epic survey that attempts to capture all insights for all time. At the same time, you don’t want to be brief to the point of gaining no meaningful ideas.
Establishing a clear and pointed focus enables you to ask the right questions at the right time to the right people in the right way. Then, and only then, will you get the caliber of insights that enable you to drive real change.
Keep It Brief
I’ll spare them the embarrassment, but a famous brand using a popular consumer research firm recently put me through survey hell. I was genuinely excited to give them feedback following a great experience. However, after their 46-question gauntlet, I felt no shame for making up half of my answers and wondered if my survey experience was worth becoming a detractor. Their attempt to learn how to serve me better turned a good situation sour. Why did this happen?
In my example, I’d interacted with a few aspects of their customer experience, including a mobile app, website, and contact center. They felt obligated to compound all those interactions into the survey, and the result was expecting me to remember things like page load times, navigation menus, offered services, and more. (But more on that later.) To make matters worse, my recollection of interactions was a bit fuzzy as this survey came a few days after my last exchange.
The risk of a long survey isn’t just fatigue – it’s data integrity and actionability. The longer the survey, the more likely your response quality will diminish. Then comes the decision of what items from the survey are worth addressing and which aren’t. Depending on the extent of your feedback, you may have too many areas to address and be in a situation where you can’t act on everything, or items are deprioritized and create more significant problems later.
The survey should be as brief as possible to provide the insight you need to uncover and act on your highly focused goal in step one. There’s no perfect answer here, but it’s probably closer to three to five questions than 46.
Offer It Appropriately
Understanding your audience and where they are most likely to engage with your survey is critical. Once you have a goal for your survey and the questions created, you must deliver it in the right channel to the right person at the right time. For instance, if you want to capture recent customer service interaction feedback, you should offer your survey in the same channel as that interaction. Alternatively, if you’re looking to gain customer feedback proactively, you may want to use a variety of channels such as SMS, social media, or outbound phone calls.
Timing is also essential. Sending a survey too soon or too late can significantly impact the response rate and quality of feedback. If you send it too soon, your customers might need more interaction with your product or service to provide meaningful feedback.
For example, if you’re using a survey to measure first contact resolution, you’ll want to wait until the customer can validate whether their issue was resolved before sending the survey. After my wife and I were married, she contacted one of her credit card providers to get her name changed. The agent was amiable and confidently assured her that everything was resolved. Following that interaction, my wife completed a survey and indicated that her issue was handled. Guess what? Thirty days later, a statement arrived with her old last name. The company thought they had achieved first contact resolution when they had not!
Conversely, customers might forget their experience if you wait too long to survey them. So, aim to strike a balance between sending the survey out soon enough to gather relevant data and pausing long enough to let your customers fully digest the experience.
Ask Actionable Questions
Here’s a perfect example: NPS, as a number, isn’t actionable. What’s the reason for the rating? What do you intend to do with the data? Go back to the goal. Once you have a clear plan, it’s time to craft questions that will provide the insights you need. When creating survey questions, use language that is easy to understand and free from jargon. Ambiguous questions or those that require too much thought can lead to inaccurate responses.
It’s essential to ask actionable questions. For instance, asking customers to rate your product or service on a scale of 1 to 10 might give you a general idea of customer satisfaction, but it doesn’t explain why they feel that way. Instead, ask open-ended questions that encourage customers to provide detailed feedback. Questions like “What did you like about our product?” and “What can we do to improve?” can help you better understand customer needs and expectations.
Share Results Openly
After you’ve collected and analyzed your data, sharing the results with your customers and employees is essential. Transparency helps build trust and shows that you take feedback seriously. When sharing results, explain what you learned from the data and how you plan to act. For instance, if you received feedback about a particular feature that customers find difficult to use, explain how you plan to address the issue. This shows customers that their feedback was valuable and that you’re committed to improving their experience.
This visibility around the results and your actions will create a force multiplier for future surveys. People will see that feedback is considered and addressed and, as a result, will be more willing to contribute regular and meaningful feedback. It establishes trust, builds credibility, and becomes a powerful word-of-mouth marketing engine for your focus and investment in improving the customer experience.
To Sum Things Up
Customer surveys are an excellent tool for businesses looking to improve their products and services. However, to get the most out of them, you need to have a clear goal, keep the survey brief, offer it appropriately, ask actionable questions, and share the results openly. By following these strategies, you can gather meaningful insights that help you better understand your customers’ needs and expectations and drive real change. Remember, the goal is to provide an exceptional customer experience, and surveys can help you get there.