As consumers, there’s no question we are being inundated with surveys, lots of them. It seems as if we are sent a survey after every transaction, online, at the coffee shop, when our car is repaired or at the post office. Most of these surveys claim to have just a few questions, they’ll take less than a minute to complete and some even reward us for taking the survey. This may seem strange coming from someone like me that is a strong advocate for listening to the voice of the customer, but I think we are headed for a revolt if we continue down this path with transactional surveys. We do need to know the satisfaction and loyalty of our customers so that we develop the right products, deliver effective services, fix poor quality and fend off our competition. As you think about collecting data through transactional surveys (not to be confused with relationship surveys which are more in-depth and conducted on a much less frequent basis), here are seven “sins” to avoid when surveying customers.
1. Sending a survey on every interaction a customer has with your organization
It’s true that every interaction could be different but if I’m a frequent customer, getting the same survey from you with each transaction can be annoying and counterproductive. Unless I’m particularly unhappy, I may simply delete it and thereby impact response rates. Having tools to monitor the number of surveys sent to customers is important.
2. Surveying too quickly
Often surveys arrive shortly after a transaction has been completed. There are pitfalls to this strategy. Has the product arrived yet? Has the customer used it enough to know if it’s satisfactory and meets their requirements? Is there an option to provide feedback after several months of use?
3. Pleading for 5’s
Automobile dealerships are notorious for asking, begging and even pressuring customers to give them all 5’s or else! I once gave a 4 on one question and the next time I visited the dealership the service adviser confronted me upset with my 4! Dealers are incented in several ways based on survey results. I did recently complete one survey that asked, did your dealer ask you to provide all 5’s? Biased surveys are indeed useless.
4. Claiming 30 seconds and taking 15 minutes
It’s important to honestly convey to customers how long it will take to complete a survey. Having a customer answer one question that leads to more is also unacceptable and can ruin the meaningfulness of the survey. Instead customers will become frustrated and quit the survey before completion.
5. Lack of follow through on low scores
If you are going to survey customers, then you need a process in place to handle the negative survey. Even if your survey is anonymous, it’s important to give customers the option to be contacted by a company representative to address a low rating.
6. Poor survey structure
You’ve done all the work to prepare the survey and begin the process of collecting data and then fail to execute proper survey structure. It’s important to test and verify links within an email survey to ensure they are working properly. Use customer-oriented language not internal corporate jargon. And lastly, be specific so the customer knows which transaction you’re surveying.
7. Lack of a closed loop system
If you’re going to survey, then know what you are going to do with the data. Establish a closed-loop system for surveying. This entails accurate, unbiased collection of data, analysis of the data and then reporting of results and action planning to improve based on what you’re hearing from the voice of the customer (VOC). Surveying shouldn’t be a feel-good exercise in your company – it needs to be taken seriously by every person to truly make the VOC be alive in your organization.
One of the best transaction surveys I’ve encountered is from Delta Airlines. Delta’s after-call survey asks, “If you owned a customer service company, would you hire the agent you just spoke to?” It’s a great example of a brief, one-question survey using a 5-point scale that provides meaningful results for the organization and the employee.
Surveying customers doesn’t need to be an expensive, resource-consuming adventure. Organizations of any size can survey using well-established practices and existing survey frameworks to obtain the all-important voice of the customer. Remember the seven “sins” above when you ask customers to be a part of how you improve the delivery of your deliver products and services!
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