What a BBC Radio sports programme taught me about customer surveys

BBC Radio 5 Live target tuner. I assume that this dates from some time around the rebranding of the station in 1994 from the original Radio 5. A sticker on the reverse certainly says that the logo is copyright 1994. Despite some old leaky batteries within
Recently on my own blog I wrote a piece called: Is 2% OK with you? Five ways to dramatically improve your customer feedback survey response rates. In the article, I advocated for companies to do five things when asking their customers for feedback.

Here is a summary of the five things:

  • 1. Make it relevant – too many surveys ask too many questions that are irrelevant to the customer and their experience. Eliminate these questions and focus on the customer’s experience.
  • 2. Keep it short – many companies talk about reducing the amount of effort that their customer has to expend doing business with them, yet they still subject them to long and detailed feedback questionnaires. Keep your surveys short. And, once you have come up with a short survey then try and make it shorter as research shows that 80% of customers abandon surveys that they see as being too long.
  • 3. Make it timely – many companies send out feedback surveys in batches. Often this puts too much distance between the experience and the survey. To get better results, move away from batch delivery, make your surveys more timely and tie them to important moments or touchpoints along the customer’s journey.
  • 4. Ask for more than a score – almost all surveys ask customers to provide a score or rating. However, many fail to ask for qualitative feedback. This is an opportunity missed and fails to tap into the wealth of insight that is within the minds of your customers.
  • 5. Make sure you report back – even though most firms know about the power of closing the feedback loop, few do. They, therefore, miss the opportunity to engage their customers, build trust and continue the conversation.

That’s all very well and good you may say.

However, last Saturday I found myself wondering if my own advice was sufficient.

Whilst I was out running an errand, I was listening to Fighting Talk on BBC Radio 5 Live. The show is a comic look at the world of sport, where invited guests compete for points with their sporting punditry.

Towards the end of the show, there is a segment called ‘Any Other Business’, where the guests are invited to share anything, even if it is not sport related, that has been on their minds this week.

Last week, UK broadcaster Lynsey Hooper was a guest on the show and when it came to her turn in the ‘Any Other Business’ section she said:

“Surveys. I am fed up with surveys. You go and get a coffee, you get a survey. You book a hotel, you get a survey. You go on a website, you get a survey. Every single time. All I want to say to anyone in customer service who is in a company out there at the moment ….…take it from me that unless told otherwise, I’m happy.”

That comment made me pay attention. It also made me think. It made me think about the five things that I had recommended.

Perhaps, because it was so out of context.

Perhaps, because it sounded so heart felt.

Now, Lynsey may only be one voice. But, I believe, her comment is worth considering and is a sentiment that may be shared by many.

I’m all for asking customers for feedback and for trying to do it well. But, I’m an even bigger fan of not annoying customers.

With that in mind, I’d like to propose a sixth recommendation to add to my list of ways to dramatically improve your customer feedback survey response rates and that is:

  • 6. Don’t survey your customers too frequently – lots of little asks can quickly add up to a whole heap of effort. Therefore, be very careful not to ask your customers for feedback too often. You may think you are only asking for feedback from your customer two or three times across their whole journey but, remember, your two or three asks are likely to get lumped in with everyone else’s feedback requests. How’s your two or three times looking now? Too frequent?

So, when it comes to asking your customers for feedback make it relevant and timely, keep it short, ask for their opinion, always report back but respect their time and effort and don’t do it too often.

Do that and you will be doing better than most.



This post was originally published on Forbes.com here.

Thanks to Adam Bowie for the image.

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