Whoever said surveys are dead is dead wrong

This post was written by Cassie Johnson, VP of Customer Success and Services at Luminoso, and was first published by MarTech Advisor on October 3, 2016. The original article can be accessed here.

In a world where customers share their feedback with businesses in a myriad of different ways – through social media, online chat, and even through text messages – are customer surveys still relevant?

Many would argue that customer surveys are overused and don’t provide the value that one might expect. Even Fred Reichheld, the creator of Net Promoter Score® (NPS®), perhaps one of the best-known survey programs, has said that he’s sick of surveys. (Karma’s a you-know-what.)

Specifically, critics of customer surveys complain that:

  • There are too many: As it’s become easier and cheaper to ask customers for feedback, more companies have implemented feedback programs. The result? An almost overwhelming number of surveys.
  • They’re too long: Have you ever been 10 minutes into a survey and realized that it was only 30% complete? If you’re anything like us, you probably quit the survey before you could finish. Lengthy surveys frequently lead to high incomplete rates, which limits their value.
  • They’re rigged: Some businesses pressure customers to only provide feedback if it’s positive, which raises questions about the validity of survey results. After all, what’s the point of customer satisfaction surveys if you can’t be honest?
  • They’re one-way conversations: An all-too-common response to a customer feedback survey question is, “It doesn’t matter what I write – you won’t do anything about it.” Too many companies fail to analyze, take action, and – most importantly – communicate those changes to their customers.

Let’s be honest: surveys are definitely overused and are often poorly designed. How many of us actually choose to fill out a survey when that dreaded pop-up box appears on the computer screen? Even so…

Whoever said surveys are dead is wrong.

There.

We said it.

Customer satisfaction surveys are far from dead. When done well, they help businesses understand their customers’ needs in a way they never could through other feedback channels. So, how are they most helpful?

You can easily spot trends: A benefit of asking the same question of many customers is that it’s far easier to spot trends both within your client base and across a span of time. This enables organizations to more easily benchmark results and measure progress.

You can receive far more detailed and targeted feedback: Open-ended survey questions enable companies to request customer comments on very specific topics. Wondering what your customers think of your new online checkout process, for instance? Directly asking them in a survey is a far more effective than scouring Twitter and hoping that somebody mentioned it. (Guess what? They didn’t.)

You show commitment to your customers: While it can be annoying to constantly be asked to fill out a survey, customers appreciate knowing that companies are open to their feedback. Companies who can close the feedback loop and let their customers know that they’ve been heard will be rewarded with greater customer loyalty.

So, how can you ensure that your company gets the benefits of surveys, while avoiding the pitfalls outlined at the beginning of this post?

  1. Make it short: The shorter the survey, the more likely your customers will be to finish your survey – or even start it in the first place. Many companies are transitioning from asking 20+ closed-ended questions to asking a handful of mostly open-ended questions.
  1. Mix it up: Balance multiple choice, Likert scale, and yes/no questions with open-ended ones. You’ll want to have a blend of quantifiable questions to measure progress, as well as open-ended questions that give you insight into why respondents feel the way that they do.
  1. Test and adjust: Before you unleash your survey, test it on a sample of your audience. Look at start and complete rates and, most importantly, the quality of any open-ended responses. If you’re getting one or two word answers, adjust the wording of your questions so that you focus less on the “what” and more on the “why” and “how.”

Above all, focus on continuing to learn and adjusting your approach to surveys in order to truly understand what their customers think and feel.

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