Not another pesky customer satisfaction survey!

It seems that you can’t go anywhere without someone asking you to complete an online, phone or text survey detailing your experiences of their product, service or company. Two recent examples make me shake my head with frustration.

Firstly, after a recent doctor’s appointment a text arrived asking me whether I would recommend my doctor's surgery and secondly, after a coffee in Costa, along with my receipt, came another piece of paper which advised me to go online and “take a moment” to fill out their survey. And the cashier assured me, after she had told me her name, that if I did do the survey I would be entered into a draw to win £500.

Needless to say, I didn’t do the survey. And my reasons were not churlish or centred around a lack of time. No my reasons for not wanting to take part were quite practical. I saw a doctor and ordered and all was as it should be. I didn't feel that either activity needed to be over analysed and rated. I had a need and it was met, that is basic market economics, not a cause for interrogation.

Welcome to the survey train

So why has everyone got onto the survey train? And are the benefits of customer surveys suffering because of the overuse of them for the most basic of transactions? I say yes, but I can’t help but feel I am in the minority. Because if everyone was as annoyed as me, then I’m sure that the pop-up windows, random texts or emails and pesky bits of paper would quickly disappear.

According to global survey company Survey Monkey, they help their clients to collect more than 2 million survey responses daily. That translates to billions of surveys per year. But it seems as if there is an awakening of consciences amongst some companies who feel that customer surveys might not be as helpful as initially thought and they could actually be damaging their brand and here’s why:

Recent research found that:

  • Response rates have dropped over the past 20 years, from an impressive 20% to a paltry 2% today
  • Surveys annoy customers and in most cases you don’t  get the answers you want
  • When offering incentives i.e. free things or prize draw entries, data quality decreases and engagement levels fall
  • 66% of customers prefer to give feedback by actively reaching out
  • 72% of consumers said surveys interfere with their overall buying experience
  • 80% of customers have abandoned a survey halfway through
  • 52% of customers would not spend more than 3 minutes filling out a feedback form

Is your survey marketer or customer centric?

Essentially, many surveys are executed poorly and are often not the right vehicle for establishing dialog and involving customers in positive brand building, plus most surveys are marketer-centric, and designed to satisfy business curiosities and justify marketing spend rather than illuminate the hearts and minds of customers. So with customers suffering from survey fatigue and wanting to see a clear connection between survey responses and subsequent business changes, what’s the solution?

In my opinion, it’s time for some serious changes and a different way to collect customer feedback and monitor satisfaction levels. For a start, you need to look to prioritise opt-in participation; dramatically reduce the number of questions asked; refocus on open-ended feedback and, most importantly, respond and prove that you are taking feedback seriously. Or you could do that old-fashioned thing of just asking people face-to- face or over the phone!

Online is not the answer!

And don’t think that because you are offering feedback opportunities via social media channels that you’ve got it sorted. Research indicates that customers would much rather share their opinion directly with a brand than on social media.  Nearly 75% said that, following a bad experience, they would first tell the company itself using email, phone or feedback. Less than 3% would go directly to social media.

This indicates that people are more discreet than we often think, and that they don’t like to be seen as whining or complaining. They are willing to give brands a chance to make it right before they start to make their complaints public. In many ways, social media is a forum of last resort. It is a customer service channel designed to put out the most burning of fires, and doesn’t serve the same function as direct customer feedback. So next time you want to ask your customers what they think of your product, service or company, think about different ways to ask them directly and maybe you'll yet the responses you want!