Are your Call Center Survey Questions Delivering the Wrong Answers?


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Using biased post-call survey results is highly dangerous as operational and call center agent decisions will be based on flawed information. The following are some of the common pitfalls you may not have considered with your call center survey.

Biases and errors can arise from a variety of sources. Authors of literature on research methods and survey construction vary on the exact terms used and number of biases and errors to avoid, but it’s safe to say that there are a great many pitfalls and few safe roads when constructing survey questions. It is beyond the scope of this text to provide a comprehensive review of these, but some of those that are most likely to occur with question construction in a call center survey program will be discussed below.

Historically, in an effort to overcome the myopia stemming from sole reliance on internal quality monitoring scores, companies have turned to customer satisfaction post-call surveys to augment their understanding of the customers’ perception of the service delivery.

The customer surveying effort is directed toward understanding and the questions are the elements that seek those answers. The questions are the core; the heart and soul of the survey. Although every aspect of the research requires careful planning and execution, the closest possible scrutiny must be reserved for the survey questions as they clearly are the most essential component. As Pamela Alreck and Robert Settle, authors of The Survey Research Handbook claimed, “Their performance [test questions] ordinarily has a more profound effect on the survey results than has any other single element of the survey,” Without valid, reliable questions, nothing of any use can be learned.

Have you Missed any of the Big 3?

Questions need to have at least three core characteristics: relevance, clarity and conciseness.

1. Relevance means that each question must have purpose within the context of the survey and then be focused on that purpose.

2. Clarity implies that each question must be clear as stated to all customers. Note that some words have different commonly understood meanings based on geography or demographics and customers rarely understand internal lingo.

3. Conciseness implies brevity. Essentially say what is needed, all that is needed, and nothing more. In general, the longer the question, the more difficult the response task will be. Longer questions increase the likelihood of misunderstanding overall, while increasing the likelihood of forgetting the first part of the question by the time the customer hears the end.

Beyond relevance, clarity and conciseness, special attention needs to be taken with vocabulary and grammar. Using customer verbiage is the key. Items must be written at a sixth grade level, difficult to do, however, this must be considered. Toward that end, it is important to use simple sentences. Complex, compound and compound-complex are the other sentence structure types. While occasionally it may be necessary to use a complex sentence construction, compound and complex-compound constructions must strictly be avoided. Not only are they too long and confusing, but they nearly always contain multiple ideas that truly require multiple questions in order to access the desired information.

While there are a multitude of elements that must be considered when constructing a customer satisfaction post-call survey program for your call center, when it comes to decreasing the opportunity for employees to disbelieve the results, the wrong questions will leave your heart and soul empty.

This post is part of the book, “Survey Pain Relief.” Why do some survey programs thrive while others die? And how do we improve the chances of success? In “Survey Pain Relief,” renowned research scientists Dr. Jodie Monger and Dr. Debra Perkins, tackle numerous plaguing questions. Inside, the doctors reveal the science and art of customer surveying and explain proven methods for creating successful customer satisfaction research programs.

“Survey Pain Relief” was written to remedy the $billions spent each year on survey programs that can be best described as survey malpractice. These programs are all too often accepted as valid by the unskilled and unknowing. Inside is your chance to gain knowledge and not be a victim of being lead by the blind. For more information

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Jodie Monger
Jodie Monger, Ph.D. is the president of Customer Relationship Metrics (CRM) and a pioneer in business intelligence for the contact center industry. Dr. Jodie's work at CRM focuses on converting unstructured data into structured data for business action. Her research areas include customer experience, speech and operational analytics. Before founding CRM, she was the founding associate director of Purdue University's Center for Customer-Driven Quality.


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