It’s time to take a survey. Ready? Here it goes… Do you, as a marketer, believe that surveys are dead? That in the world of social media, chat, and even text messaging, those pesky surveys are just a thing of the past that today’s uber-busy customer has no time for? (After all, a lot has been written on survey fatigue). Or, do you believe that surveys are still impactful for businesses, and a critical strategy for gathering valuable customer feedback? Well, if you answered the former, I’m sorry to tell you, but you’re wrong.
Before I explain why, let’s explore why anyone would question the efficacy of surveys in the first place. 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 useless: Because open-ended comments have historically been difficult to analyze at scale, surveys are usually structured around multiple choice and scale-based questions. The upside – they’re easy to analyze. The downside – respondents can only provide the answers you’ve preordained, instead of giving you open and detailed feedback.
They’re biased: 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? That said, I have something to say to the people who picked the first answer in our opening survey:
Whoever Said Surveys Are Dead Is Dead 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 and avoids the pitfalls?
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.
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.
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.”
It’s true that the landscape of customer satisfaction surveys is far different than it was a decade ago. But if you recognize the harsh realities of surveys in advance, and focus on continuing to learn and adjusting your approach to truly understand what your customers think and feel, surveys can be incredibly impactful.