5 Tips to Improve CX Survey Engagement Rates


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In a recent hard hitting but excellent article by Bob Thompson of CustomerThink, he pointed out that 93% of customer experience initiatives are failing. He went on to say that Paul Hagen (Head of Customer Experience & Innovation Strategy at West Monroe Partners) believes that the vast majority (75%) of failures are due to poor execution. Hagen’s key recommendation to improve execution is…

“for organisations to access the pulse of customers (using VoC and other data) and implement a closed-loop program to find and fix problems quickly. Build that find/fix “muscle memory,” then focus on innovation.”

Great advice! The challenge is you can’t fix something if you don’t know it’s broken. According to Ruby Newell-Legner, only 4% of customers complain to a typical business and 91% of those that don’t complain simply never come back. That is why the complaining customer should be held in high regard and listened to intently. So, if you’re in agreement with Hagen, getting as much feedback as possible is hugely important.

How do you that?

You should definitely be listening to social channels, but it’s only a certain percentage of consumers who want to blast their complaints out into cyberspace. Asking customers in person is a must, but many people will avoid the confrontational nature of giving negative feedback face-to-face and what happens to that feedback afterwards is dependent on the individual employee. For these reasons and others, Voice of Customer (VoC) surveys remain an extremely important element of the mix. The problem is, getting customers to engage with surveys is hard.

Why are CX Survey Engagement Rates so low?

There are dozens of reasons why customers are loath to engage with surveys, but the following are the most influential reasons:

Survey Blindness

Consumers simply do not notice survey engagement touchpoints in many cases. Receipts from many large retailers contain survey requests but they are poorly presented and lack any attempt to do something different. In my experience many businesses don’t really commit to the process of capturing feedback.

Survey Weariness

The sins of our forefathers and many of our contemporaries have scared consumers away from taking the time to complete a survey. Whether it was the “short survey” that turned into 40 questions and 15 minutes of brain numbing boredom or the sense that their feedback is being ignored, today’s consumers are more reticent than ever to complete a survey. They are also busier than ever.

Incentive Fatigue

It is common to offer an entry to a competition or some other incentive in order to encourage customers to complete a survey. However, the vast majority of incentives fail in their mission to create enthusiasm among customers because they are not interactive and no one ever finds out who won the prize. Others offer future discounts on purchases but often they have so many associated T&Cs that they are next to worthless. We address this area further in our tips below.

So how do you Increase CX Survey Engagement Rates?

1. Commit to the Process

Another reason why 93% of CX initiatives fail is that the people running them are not fully committed to the process or are not getting full C-level support in their efforts to make it happen. Sticking a few signs up at the point of sale or putting a feedback link on a receipt is not hard.

Why aren’t there signs throughout the store or on the menu and in the toilets? Combining the right tool with the customer’s smartphone means a survey can be completed in the moment while a companion is visiting the facilities or when there is no staff member nearby to get a pair of shoes in the customer’s size.

Drilling it into staff members that they need to promote the survey and giving them access to the results is challenging but necessary. Staff must not view the survey as a weapon of bonus destruction so much as a way to climb the ladder and reap the rewards of a job well done.

2. Choose the Right Tool

There are a multitude of different survey solution providers out there and each of them has their own USPs and key engagement channels, so it is certainly not the case that “one size fits all”. However, chopping and changing platform is not conducive to maximising the impact of your CX programme. But if you think your current provider may be part of your low survey engagement problem, here are a few questions you should ask yourself when selecting a new one:

(a) What demographic are you targeting? If you’re looking to target millennials then a messaging-based solution (like ServiceDock) might work best. If you’re targeting pensioners, paper-based surveys may still be effective.

(b) How much information do you need to gather? For example, some channels like messaging or SMS are not suited to long surveys.

(c) What kinds of questions do you want to ask? If you want customers to send you a picture of a damaged product, for example, doing it with a smartphone is much simpler than getting the picture into a computer and then sending it.

(d) How important is following up with customers? To follow up with customers you need a channel that makes it easy for them to provide their contact details or a channel that supports closing the feedback loop in its own right, such as messaging apps.

(e) How important is the volume of data gathered? Conversely to point (d), some channels are excellent at capturing feedback because they are so frictionless (e.g. HappyOrNot machines), but they do not facilitate customer follow-ups.

(f) What touchpoints are available for survey engagement? Can you digitally engage customers via their email or your website, or are you looking to capture feedback in a physical location, which is much harder?

3. Promise to Keep it Short and then… Keep it Short

Unless you’re actually paying a customer for their feedback… don’t be greedy.

If you ask a handful (definitely less than 10) questions in the right way, you should find out what you need to know. Rating questions combined with dynamic free-form questions based on the ratings given should get you to the pain point pretty quickly.

If you have a lot of specific areas you want to cover then do it over time. Change the last question or two on the survey every six or eight weeks to cover all the bases.

Be explicit about how many questions there are in your survey and/or give an accurate indication of how long it will take. Trust is key in any relationship and your survey is part of your overall customer experience. The last thing you want to do in your final interaction with a customer is to leave them feeling conned into completing an SAT test.

4. Tell Customers in Advance how you will Act on their Feedback

If you’re not actually analysing the data and implementing changes based on the results, then you’re wasting both the customer’s time and your own. But while listening and making changes is one thing, being seen to listen and improve is quite another. This is why closing the feedback loop is so valuable. By responding to your customers you are proving that you are listening to them. Aside from the enormous impact on loyalty this can have when done well, it can also boost survey engagement in the following ways:

(a) By telling customers that the survey is a valid customer complaint channel, rather than a survey, you will be funnelling customer complaints into a structured format where you can extract the most value from them. The trick is you need a tool that makes it easy to follow up (see 3(d)). It amazes me how some surveys start with something like “This survey is for research purposes only. If you have a customer complaint, please call/email/visit etc.” What person in their right mind is going to fill that survey out?

(b) By following up with customers you are increasing the chance of repeat surveys. This is the key to beating survey weariness. If the survey becomes a valid communication channel rather than a survey, then the customer will see it as such and the chances of them engaging multiple times will increase.

5. Rethink Your Incentives

Finally, survey incentives are a key factor in boosting engagement, particularly if you want positive feedback. This part of the CX programme needs a little bit of magic dust to be added right across the industry if you ask me. Very few businesses are doing it well and most are falling into the traps I mentioned earlier.

This is an opportunity to do something that enhances the customer journey at the most impactful moment. The peak end. It might even be possible to make this a feature of your business that drives advocacy, footfall and loyalty.

I am not going to go into how to improve your incentives because it really depends on the particulars of your business. However, if there are any businesses out there who want to start shaking things up, we are looking for partners to run experiments with in this space.


Customer feedback should be seen as a valuable gift to your business. You need to ensure giving it is as user-friendly as possible and ideally you should be showing your appreciation by making the most of it, either by following up with customers or implementing changes.

Oisin Ryan
Special Advisor at SeeGap which is all-in-one customer interaction management platform designed for Consumer Packaged Goods & FMCG Brands. Through a single QR Code or NFC tag on product packaging, the SeeGap platform enables consumers to Provide Feedback, Access Customer Service, View Product Info and Enter Promotions. Consumers can do all this through their preferred medium of messaging, which drives engagement, captures more data & boosts customer loyalty.


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