Reimagining Your Customer Survey: Fix Three Common Problems


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Businesses have a plethora of data sources to help them understand their customers. From CRM systems and web analytics to enterprise survey systems and social media, businesses can obtain a fairly comprehensive picture of the health of the customer relationship, without the use of lengthy customer surveys.

Businesses now have access to many sources of data about their customers that they use to help manage customer relationships. Consider CRM systems, 3rd party applications (i.e., Google Analytics), enterprise feedback systems, account databases, and log files. Figure 1 illustrates the variety of different types of data available to companies today.

Figure 1. Data Definition Framework. From The What and Where of Big Data

These data sources provide rich information about customers that companies are using to decrease customer churn, improve product features, increase conversion rates and much more.

Reimagining Your Customer Survey

As seen in Figure 1, customer surveys are one of many sources of data that companies can use to better understand their customers. While businesses have access to many different methods of collecting customer feedback, the most popular one is surveys (see Figure 2). Customer surveys are used to gauge the satisfaction and loyalty of customers and help identify the drivers of loyalty (the reasons why customers stay, recommend and buy more from you).

Figure 2. From Do You Measure Customer Satisfaction? Our Study Says You Should

While technological advancements have improved many aspects of the survey process, including simplifying collection (e.g., Internet) and processing of responses (e.g., machine learning, text analytics), little has been done to improve what questions to include (or not include) in the survey itself.

Below is a summary of some research on customer relationship surveys showing why the content of surveys (in the context of all the other customer data you have) need to be examined:

1. Surveys ask the wrong questions.

Companies still include a long list of questions that can result in an unnecessarily long survey that is no better than shorter surveys. Customers’ ratings about general customer experience areas (e.g., product, support) explain as much of the differences in customer loyalty as we are able to with customer experience questions. Short relationship surveys allow customers the optimal way to give their feedback on a regular basis.

Not only do these short relationship surveys provide deep customer insight about the causes of customer loyalty, they also enjoy higher response rates and show that you are considerate of customers’ time.

2. Companies only use self-reported customer loyalty measures in their analytics.

The use of loyalty questions (e.g., likelihood to recommend, buy again) in surveys artificially inflates the correlation between satisfaction with thecustomer experience and loyalty, adversely impacting ROI calculations of CX improvement initiatives. CX professionals typically rely on these self-reported loyalty metrics.

While these loyalty metrics do provide useful metrics, we are always interested in what customers really do. I’ve recommended over five years ago that businesses need to link up financial data with customer feedback data. This approach would help understand how the customer experience impacts real customer loyalty behaviors (e.g., purchase amount, products purchased, products liked, products shared and renewed contract).

3. Customer surveys are too long

Researchers show that people think that surveys are too long (12%) and ask too many personal questions (16%). Additionally, 21% are too busy to take them. It’s no wonder that survey response rates have dropped from 20% to about 2% over the past couple of decades.

Again, businesses can capture a lot of this type of information from their existing systems, minimizing the effort that customers need to provide when being asked to complete surveys.


Given the variety of data sources (and metrics) available today, business leaders need to reexamine their customer relationship survey. Research suggests that we may be 1) asking customers too many specific questions in customer surveys, 2) relying on customer surveys to capture information (e.g., loyalty intentions, demographics) that is best captured by other systems and 3) asking too many personal questions.

In my next installment, I will explore a new survey method that I developed that requires your customers to answer only two open-ended survey questions. While I have written about some aspects of this new approach in prior blog posts (see here and here), I will demonstrate the reliability, validity and usefulness of this approach and compare the results of this approach to longer, traditional customer surveys.



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