I recently saw the headline of an article on MyCustomer.com called: The Deadzone: Why customer surveys are dead. Having a keen interest in customer service and experience, I was intrigued by the headline so I headed over to take a closer look.
In the article, the Chief Marketing Officer of Clarabridge, Susan Ganeshan, argues that:
Companies know that surveys were effective in the past, and so they adopted this CX strategy online expecting similar results. In the age of instant gratification, though, people are no longer willing to “just take a moment” to fill out a survey.
She goes on to support her statement by quoting Forrester saying that:
response rates are as low as 2% and rarely ever reach 20% anymore.
That’s pretty damning evidence on the effectiveness of customer surveys.
However, whilst the article raised some interesting questions it also made me wonder how it is that some companies still achieve much, much more with their customer feedback surveys and much higher response rates.
Personally, I don’t agree that surveys are dead. In fact, I think that they are very much alive. Yes, there is probably quite a lot of survey ‘fatigue’ amongst many customers but there are also some other underlying causes that explain the poor performance of many customer surveys.
Here are three big reasons why customer feedback survey approaches don’t deliver the returns that companies want and some examples of firms that doing things differently and seeing the benefits:
- Most surveys are too long Troy Thompson, in an article on Tnooz, recounts a story of a time that he received a survey following a visit to Disney World. Now, Disney are traditionally seen as a leader in the customer service world, but on receiving the survey and starting to respond, Troy gave up answering questions after he got to 30 questions. 30 questions! However, in the same article, he contrasted that with a simple survey email that he received from TimeShel, an an iOS photo printing service, who sent him a simple survey email that asked: “Hey, Troy, you backed us on Kickstarter when we first started. We just want to see how it’s going. Do you have any ideas for improving TimeShel?” Given the nature and style of that email, Troy went on to spend 10 mins writing back to Timeshel telling them “Hey, yeah, here is what I like. Here’s what I don’t like. Here’s what I wish you guys could do.”
- Most surveys aren’t acted upon Principality Building Society, a Welsh building society, is using customer feedback as one of the main levers to help them build a more responsive and customer focused organisation. To do that they are empowering their front-line employees to ask for feedback and improvement suggestions immediately following a service interaction. Doing this has allowed them to achieve around 50% response rates on their customer surveys. However, they haven’t stopped there and have built a system where they can review and act very quickly upon customer feedback and suggestions. Damian Thompson, Director of Distribution at Principality Building Society, explains how this was worked, in practice, through a story of one customer that came into a branch with her elderly mother. When asked for feedback she told them that none of the chairs in their branches had holds or arms on them that her mother could use to help her get up out of the chair (her mother has bad knees). As a result of that feedback and it being shared around the organisation, Principality decided to put one chair with arms in every interview room across its branch network and that suggestion was agreed and implemented overnight following the customer’s feedback.
- Most surveys are disembodied from the experience Facing an average of a 10% failure rate for appointments for their service engineers, Virgin Media in the UK implemented a system to help them limit this failure rate by communicating with their customers in the run up to appointments to make sure that they didn’t forget about the appointment (this is one of the main causes of appointment failure). This approach is working very well. However, on the back of this they have also built a Voice of the Customer programme, where following every appointment they send a message to each customer to gauge their satisfaction etc. When they first started doing this, they expected a response rate of around 10%. But, unlike other surveys which can take days or weeks to be sent out to a customer, they have found that surveying their customers ‘in the moment’ has allowed them to achieve response rates of between 50% and 75% as well as a huge amount of verbatim feedback. Moreover, given that, on average, something goes wrong with 3-5% of all appointments that also gives them great insight into what goes wrong, when it goes wrong but also gives them an opportunity to solve any problem very quickly.
These examples show that surveys aren’t dead and can be very powerful when done well. They also show that lazy and selfish thinking on the part of companies is the real problem i.e. designing surveys for their own benefit, to fit into their own processes and for their own convenience.
If you ask customers, many of them do want to give feedback, particularly to the firms that they like. But, the challenge is that they want to do it in an easy and timely fashion and in a way that works for them and allows them to tell you what matters to them.
So, if you want to ask for customer feedback and you want to give yourself a good chance to receiving of receiving useful and actionable feedback that also impresses your customers then get out of their way and let them speak. But, do it simply, do it promptly, do it freely and make sure that you act on it quickly.
This post was originally published on my Forbes.com column here.