Surveying has gotten out of hand. Anytime people fly, stay at a hotel, shop, bank, call customer service, use a website, visit a hospital, or even go out to eat, they are asked to complete a survey. Asking for feedback is great, but only if the information is going to be used to fix or change something. However, this is not the case for a surprisingly (and disappointingly) large number of organizations. Too many companies seem to think that asking customers or prospects for their input is enough. Well it isn’t. Companies should immediately stop any surveying program where the survey itself is the only associated action item.
Surveying without Change is a Waste of Time
Surveying customers for their opinions about products and services should be a high-value activity for the organization and customer. This can be achieved if there is a surveying or voice of the customer (VoC) strategy supported by processes and systems that convert feedback into action items on a timely basis. Unfortunately, too many companies are surveying in the hope of receiving high rankings to use for marketing purposes, not to identify the underlying issues that are negatively impacting their customers, brand and bottom line.
There is also a misconception about how to perform surveys. There are many who believe that asking one question – such as are you “likely to recommend” a company – is a great indicator of customer satisfaction. This is certainly a useful question, particularly if the people being surveyed are happy with a company’s products and services. However, when dissatisfaction is high, this question does nothing to identify the underlying reasons, which means that a company does not know what to fix.
But it gets worse. Some companies send out short surveys with 2 to 3 questions, and then kick off longer questionnaires to customers/prospects who express dissatisfaction in the initial survey. These companies clearly believe that their customers/prospects have nothing better to do than respond to surveys. In the name of measuring the voice of the customer, too many companies have lost sight of what is important, namely putting the customer first.
It’s essential to survey customers, but rationality must prevail. When a company sends out a short survey and instructs respondents that complaints should not be put it in the survey because they won’t be read, there is something wrong. Any company that uses these surveying practices needs to rethink their approach.
Surveying Best Practices
Surveying is an essential business function. Even with all of the outstanding new analytics applications in the market, the best way to determine if a customer is satisfied with a company’s products and services is still to ask. If you’re going to survey your customers and prospects, please do it right, as every company that does it wrong – and there are way too many – discourage customers from providing needed feedback. Here are a few best practices for building an effective surveying program that generates useful, timely and actionable results that can help enhance customer satisfaction while improving the bottom line:
1. Build a company-wide surveying or VoC strategy so that customers are only surveyed on a periodic basis but not more than once every 6 months. (It’s fine to use a variety of survey tools, but make sure that each customer is only receives one every 6 months.)
2. Share survey results with all relevant departments within a company.
3. Survey customers/prospects as close to an event as possible.
4. Allow customers to provide free form responses to a survey.
5. Analyze all survey results.
6. Apply findings on a timely basis; research all issues identified by customers/prospects, and fix them.
It’s essential to find out how customers and prospects feel about a business, be it a large enterprise, airline, doctor or restaurant. Customers/prospects are generally willing to provide feedback, but only if they think it’s going to be used. Any company that is not planning on applying the findings, and plans to survey only in the hope of earning bragging rights, should definitely rethink their approach.