What’s wrong with customer satisfaction surveys?

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Jun 26, 2015
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Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a series of recent articles from Lenati’s blog.

On a scale of one to 10, how satisfied are you with your company’s satisfaction surveys? Chances are you are less than satisfied, and you are not the only marketer with these qualms. To boot, it’s not just marketers that are frustrated with their company’s feedback process; it is also frustrating for the customers providing the feedback.

Lenati’s customer experience expert, Brian Clark, was recently interviewed by Pamela Hermann and Dr. Carrie Rose of Paragon Effect for their "Customers for Life" podcast series. The key question posed: "Do customers really care about customer satisfaction surveys?" The short-answer: Yes.

Today’s customers expect a more than satisfactory customer experience, and most are willing to provide feedback about their experience if the feedback process is done well. However, the truth of the matter is that most companies do not perform this task well and customers have become cynical about providing feedback.

Customer satisfaction survey

To avoid this, here are a few customer feedback best practices:

Survey design:

  • Ensure the questions allow for constructive feedback to inform and improve the customer experience.
  • Don’t ask everything of the customer; stay focused on the objective of the survey and be brief (three to five questions).

Feedback loop:

  • Communicate to customers how their feedback will be used so they understand how they will help improve the customer experience.
  • Start a dialogue and start building trust with your customers. Think holistically about how this process can build customer loyalty over time.
  • Make sure to say thank you! A simple thank you can go a long way.




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Survey incentive:

  • Companies don’t always need to provide a sweepstake or coupon for survey completions.
  • Customers will respond to authenticity and transparency about how this feedback improves the customer experience. Posting survey results, and any subsequent CX improvements, to your website or social media can be enough incentive and gratification.

Net-net: Ensure your company has a clearly defined survey objective. Ask questions that allow constructive feedback to inform and improve the customer experience, and be sure to incorporate a solid feedback loop for service recovery and to thank customers for their feedback. If you can accomplish this, you and your customers will be more than satisfied with the feedback process.

How important is it for retailers to conduct customer satisfaction surveys? What would you add to the suggestions in the article to improve customer satisfaction surveys for retailers?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"This is an important area. Feedback is vital to retail associate training and business improvement. For surveys, give the responder a choice of survey style they like, be it a one to 10-style or a verbal. Make them short and all have open text space."
"Customer satisfaction surveys are just another data point. However, they should be weighed far less than observed data or data collected by other methods."
"As an expert in questionnaire design I can’t help but jump in with a tool to insure better surveys. Read the questionnaire out loud and try to answer the questions yourself. Better yet, ask a colleague to answer the questions as you read the questionnaire out loud."

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13 Comments on "What’s wrong with customer satisfaction surveys?"


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Chris Petersen, PhD.
Guest
5 years 6 months ago

In this age of Twitter and other instant media, consumers will definitely voice their opinions! Trouble is the Twitter feedback is often one sided, and there is not enough structure to get constructive ideas for change.

The challenge with many consumer satisfaction surveys is that they are too LONG! Twitter is only 140 characters. Evelyn Bozak has it right — three to five questions with 140 characters to comment.

The biggest take away from this post is the “feedback loop.” If consumers take the time to respond, they want to see that someone is listening and, more importantly, using their feedback to improve/reinforce services.

Tom Redd
Guest
5 years 6 months ago

This is an important area. Feedback is vital to retail associate training and business improvement.

For surveys, give the responder a choice of survey style they like, be it a one to 10-style or a verbal. Make them short and all have open text space. Ask a question: “How would you have changed your experience?”

Gajendra Ratnavel
Guest
5 years 6 months ago

Customer satisfaction surveys are just another data point. However, they should be weighed far less than observed data or data collected by other methods.

For example, tracking complaints, errors, even deploying facial recognition to determine a person’s mood on entrance and exit all provide better data.

Having said that, customer satisfaction surveys do allow for specific questions to be asked even though the answers may not be accurate.

Ralph Jacobson
Guest
5 years 6 months ago

Surveys have always been and will always be required. Social media sentiment analyses are augmenting the insights, however direct feedback vehicles provide targeted, actionable opinions. The challenge is to ask the right questions, of course. The surveys need to be brief and actionable. Several questions often produce responses, however those responses do not always lead to remedial activity. Each question should have a specific strategy executed in order to drive more true satisfaction of future shopper visits.

Joan Treistman
Guest
5 years 6 months ago
I’ll add two more important recommendations for customer satisfaction surveys. Make sure the questions are relevant and easily understood. As an expert in questionnaire design I can’t help but jump in with a tool to insure better surveys. Read the questionnaire out loud and try to answer the questions yourself. Better yet, ask a colleague to answer the questions as you read the questionnaire out loud. You’ll be surprised how quickly and easily you begin to notice what doesn’t work. In the meantime I agree with all the recommendations for better surveys. I conducted a survey among people who take surveys regularly. (If you want to see the video, just let me know.) Respondents want to provide truthful and helpful answers, but sometimes we make it impossible, especially if we won’t let them go to the next screen without filling in responses. They’d like to say “it depends” when it depends. When respondents can’t understand the question they have to guess. Moreover, respondents want to be appreciated and acknowledged for their help. A simple thank… Read more »
Doug Garnett
Guest
Doug Garnett
5 years 6 months ago
He missed a critical additional factor: do not use a 24/7/365 approach to satisfaction surveys and do not use them to punish staff or withdraw bonuses. I have stopped filling them out — I refuse. Why? Because so many are clearly abuses in corporate policy. There’s nothing worse for customers than to have your retail help plead with you to fill out a survey because their job depends on it. And I’ve encountered that regularly. Here’s a blog post I wrote about the dysfunctions that the desperate attempts at gathering surveys have caused. Note that I continue to love Walgreens. But only after they have pulled back these abuses of the survey. And I only use them in this post because I saw it there. Bagel shops, coffee shops, car dealers, retail stores… This same pressure on the front line employee to a.) get enough surveys and b.) have them all be “great” has proliferated. The saddest thing is that it’s made these surveys entirely unreliable. Retailers would be far wiser to use selective surveys and… Read more »
Shep Hyken
Guest
5 years 6 months ago

Retailers need to find out how well they are doing with their customers. Best way to do that? Ask them! The survey questions are as important as the way you ask the questions. Is it via email, phone, in-store, etc.? Depending on the type of business and the demographic of your customers, the method may vary.

I’m always happy to fill out a survey, until I realize that it will take more than a couple of minutes. That’s when the survey morphs into a focus group. I’m surprised when a business expects me to fill out a survey that takes 20 minutes. I just won’t do it, even if I love the business.

Mark Heckman
Guest
5 years 6 months ago
If retailers find value in how many happy faces they receive or what the latest statistically insignificant variation of a satisfaction rating, then have at it. However, ultimately we want our shoppers to be satisfied because we believe that a satisfied shopper spends more and is unlikely to defect. But these are dangerous assumptions. “Satisfied Customers” defect every day. All they need is someone that satisfies them more, or more likely is more convenient and they won’t even bother throwing the retailer a kiss as they quietly walk out of the store, never to return. Additionally, shoppers do not always tell the truth when they respond to surveys. While they intend to, their survey responses tend to reflect the mood of the moment, not something more substantial and more reflective of their disposition to the retailer. Consequently, savvy researchers have devised survey technics that entail a series of questions that analyzed in tandem can be better predictors of the shopper’s overall attitude towards a particular retailer. I would also recommend looking at basket level data… Read more »
James Tenser
Guest
5 years 6 months ago

Satisfaction is a summary construct. Surveys should be constructed to be diagnostic. Sorry folks, that may require more than 3-5 questions.

Shoppers may be very satisfied with your deal prices but disgusted by your rest rooms. “How satisfied were you on this visit?” will reveal nothing about this disparity.

If shoppers can’t or won’t maintain attention for longer surveys, then consider multiple mini surveys on rotating subsets of the customer experience. And consider rating questions that compare how SHOULD we do versus how WELL we do on various aspects of service quality. Mine the gaps for satisfaction gold.

Grace Kim
Guest
Grace Kim
5 years 6 months ago

Retailers can simply ask “What can we do to improve our service?” and use a simple platform like Twitter to have an open dialogue with their customers. I believe retailers would find out a lot more using this free form method vs. a 1-10 scale survey that tends to be guided towards whatever problem the retailer THINKS it has. There are many software platforms that would enable retailers to have this type of engagement on social to better service their customers.

Pamela Herrmann
Guest
Pamela Herrmann
5 years 6 months ago

As the interviewer of the original podcast with Brian Clark, I should add that in our experience, the fastest way to cash for any business is to identify the indifferent customer and then to Shep’s point above, ASK THEM how you’re doing. Not in a survey (because they don’t care enough, won’t waste their time and they’ll just vote with their wallet). Your job as a business is to move them out of indifference and into being a promoter.

So yes, surveys are just one of the many tools available but our favorite is the social networks and the ratings & review websites. Talk about raw data! It’s open kimono time and there’s no hiding from the truth.

Kai Clarke
Guest
5 years 6 months ago

Customer service is the lifeblood of retail. Keep surveys short and simple…no misinformation. Always give a reward for completing the survey.

Cindy Fankhanel
Guest
Cindy Fankhanel
5 years 6 months ago

It is probably not of major importance to conduct customer satisfaction surveys as the average customer is busy and unless it gives them some sort of perk, they won’t take the time to fill them out or call or text about them. Contests gather lots of interest; how about offering that to them and see what happens?

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Braintrust
"This is an important area. Feedback is vital to retail associate training and business improvement. For surveys, give the responder a choice of survey style they like, be it a one to 10-style or a verbal. Make them short and all have open text space."
"Customer satisfaction surveys are just another data point. However, they should be weighed far less than observed data or data collected by other methods."
"As an expert in questionnaire design I can’t help but jump in with a tool to insure better surveys. Read the questionnaire out loud and try to answer the questions yourself. Better yet, ask a colleague to answer the questions as you read the questionnaire out loud."

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