Most customer surveys are useless; here are five reasons why


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Customer surveys tend to be highly touted representations of a company’s commitment to improving customer satisfaction; they purportedly do this by extending the creative process of product improvement to the company’s support base. However, the fact is that most surveys – by far – simply don’t cut it, for several very important reasons:

  1. This may be surprising to some readers, but far too many survey results are from incorrectly targeted audiences; although in some cases the differences can be subtle, it is nonetheless absolutely necessary to distinguish between them. Surveying buyers instead of users of your product or service regarding customer service will lead to results that differ from the more useful outcome. After diverting the buyers elsewhere, be sure to include questions affirming they actually have used the product before moving on to the next question.
  1. The next mistake is related to the first: lack of focus. Research shows that people tend to give ambiguous answers – or simply lose focus themselves – if your survey is too broad. The questions must all be related and further tweaked in order to stay directly relevant to one another. Choose a single issue per survey for best results; for example, if you ask, “How effective was the new VoIP service?” only ask follow-up questions that elaborate on that one. Avoid the temptation to go off on tangents related to other company processes; it’s best to save those for surveys of their own at a later date. Among other problems, including multiple questions in such an unfocused fashion compels the survey-taker to treat them as though they are related.
  1. Asking the wrong questions plagues most surveys to no end. It can take a bit of brainstorming and personnel meetings to ascertain the usefulness of drafted questions, but it’s worth it. Asking your audience whether or not they’d like to see improvements in a particular aspect of company operations is completely pointless – of course they do! How you can get viable information is by asking them if they would like to actually pay for the upgrade – or better, how much they would shell out in order to have a hand in prioritizing future improvements.
  1. Surveys that take longer than even a few minutes to fill out will never reveal to you a roadmap for company improvements. You will simply tire people out, and cause them to just start throwing random answers out, if you fashion surveys with too many questions. Moderation is the key here, and the above mandates of focus, proper targeting and accurate audience selection should help with this one. Too many questions compromises the quality of the answers after some time, leading to inefficiencies that simply continue to pile up as you try to implement changes based on survey results. It’s the kind of runaway reaction you don’t want because it ends up costing you unnecessary money in the long run
  1. Lastly, make sure the questions you ask – given the limited space and attention span you can count on – represent the best way for you to develop a roadmap for your services and products. Instead of trying to solidify your knowledge of the efficacy of certain product features through customer feedback, ask more pointed questions about unsatisfactory services. What didn’t they like? Which services would they for pay to see a problem or problems remedied in the future?

Among other benefits, this streamlined, laser-focused survey approach will maximize the number of future respondents. The information you get from this practice will enhance your business tremendously – in a way that no existing social media platform could – by making your esteemed clients a transparent part of the creative (and improvement) process.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Patrick Lefler
Patrick Lefler is the founder of The Spruance Group -- a management consultancy that helps growing companies grow faster by providing unique value at the product level: specifically product marketing, pricing, and innovation. He is a former Marine Corps officer; a graduate of both Annapolis and The Wharton School, and has over twenty years of industry expertise.


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