An Analyst Perspective on Customer Surveys:
Customer surveys make up a multi-billion dollar industry, and many of us get at least one per day. But just because surveys are everywhere doesn’t mean they’re always good.
At Interaction Metrics, we often find that companies assume they’re ready to launch their customer survey as soon as they’ve opened a SurveyMonkey account and pieced together a few questions. However, once we show them what their survey could be, they quickly see that a grab-and-go approach is counter to their best interests.
The problem is that customer surveys are easily plagued with biases and other flaws—resulting in data that’s inaccurate or that fails to uncover the drivers of customer loyalty. So read on to learn tips and tricks for better surveys, and keep in mind these two main themes:
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+ Your entire survey approach, from who gets the survey to who analyzes it, must be carefully constructed, vetted, and executed to avoid biases and other flaws.
+ Unless you pay careful attention to your survey wording, you’ll only capture what your customers say, and utterly fail to uncover how they actually feel. As behavioral economists and Gallup researchers have shown, this is significant because feelings—not thoughts—correlate with buying behavior and customer loyalty.[i]
3 Genius Strategies to Improve Your Survey Immediately:
Strategy 1: Ask your team, “How committed are we to capturing truly accurate data about the feelings, needs, and experiences of our customers?” Having a conversation about which touchpoints your survey should address, and how to design an accurate (statistically-valid) methodology, is essential.
Strategy 2: Stand back and take a multi-perspectival view of your survey. Look at your customer survey from many angles:
- The customer’s perspective—is it easy to take?
- An operations perspective—does it uncover actionable insights?
- The marketplace—how does your survey compare with the competition?
- Your CEO—will your survey engage them with the voice of the customer?
Strategy 3: Brainstorm how to augment your customer survey with other measurement methods. Social media research, customer interviews, and touchpoint questionnaires are all great ways to supplement your survey. Customer interviews are particularly valuable because they capture the true voice of the customer and highlight the nuances of specific customer situations. Using complementary methods vets the validity of your survey and helps expand your customer insights.
Genius Tips: Know the Pros and Cons of Customer Surveys:
The Pros: There are a few simple reasons why customer surveys are so widely used across industries around the world:
- They’re quick.
- They’re cheap.
- They allow customers to vent, which can boost opinions of your company.
When customer surveys are done well, they:
- Provide digestible, quantitative data.
- Uncover nuanced qualitative insights.
- Enable progress to be tracked over time.
But despite the benefits of a great survey, it’s dangerously easy to design a bad one. Popular platforms (like SurveyMonkey and SurveyGizmo) are great for survey deployment—but only after you’ve carefully designed and vetted your questions. Make sure to account for the numerous difficulties and problems that can arise in survey design.
The Cons: Let’s look at some of the most common survey problems:
+ Sampling Issues: There are two main sampling issues—sample size error and sampling bias. Size error occurs when the sample is too small to fully reflect the target population. Sampling bias occurs when the populations surveyed are incorrect or incomplete. Both lead to misrepresentative results.
+ Response Bias: Even if your survey is distributed to a 100% unbiased and representative sample, the actual response population may not represent the target population. The most common response bias is that highly satisfied customers respond to surveys more than dissatisfied and neutral customers.
+ Wording and Execution Bias: One of the biggest problems in survey design is that the questions themselves bias the results. If answers are too limited or lack an “other” option, customers may select an answer that doesn’t reflect their true feelings—and if the question is required, customers will be forced to. In the same vein, subtle positive or negative wording can subconsciously affect a customer’s response.
+ Rigged Process: Employees can skew their own survey results with self-administered survey selection, rigged research design, or outright cheating. This happens for a variety of reasons—fear of demotion, criticism, links between survey results and employee bonuses, or even just a lack of outside perspective. Whatever the reason, a gamed system fails to produce accurate data.
+ Irrelevant Questions: Many surveys ask questions that are important from a management standpoint, but that don’t resonate with or even make sense to customers. In other cases, questions are so general or removed from the lived customer experience that they simply aren’t relevant enough to provide meaningful data.
You’re on your way to becoming a survey genius, but if you need to call in the real experts for a brainstorming session, we’re ready to help! Interaction Metrics is known for designing exceptional customer surveys that deliver actionable, nuanced results. Intrigued? Check out our free, no obligation MetricsLAB™. It’s a great way to learn about the best metrics to accomplish your goals and advance your survey strategies.
i. Fleming, John K., Curt Coffman, and James K. Harter. The Gallup Organization. “Manage Your Human Sigma” Harvard Business Review. 83.7 (2005).