We Need More Customer Surveys!


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I am joking of course, sort of. Customer surveys do not work as they are deployed today. That is a generalization that I am sure a bunch of people will challenge, but when you are presented with an opportunity to participate in a survey what is your first response? Mine is to hit the delete key unless I had a really great or terrible experience. Even then after I answer the sixteenth question with a next button on at the bottom of the screen, I bail. Does this resonate? Why are these retailers surveying me anyway? I have never seen feedback from any of them on the isolated few survey’s I have completed or any substantiated change of behavior that came from my input.

First I don’t see how the data could be representative statistically of the retailer’s customer base. I received a survey today (which drove me to write this) from Overstock.com. I actually had a great online experience with Overstock and wanted to share that with them, but after fifteen to twenty questions I hit the bail button. So there will be no data for Overstock.com. I was only motivated by the great deal I got and would not normally have answered. Howto.gov – “Online survey response rates vary greatly, with a carefully targeted email survey typically getting a 10-15% response rate. Pop-up surveys response rates tend to be significantly lower”. If you do a great job with targeted email surveys you will only be lucky to get 10-15% and these will most likely be your best and worst customer responses and I assert without real value as to how you can improve? Is this useful information to take action against better yet make strategic investment decisions on?

So let’s back up for a second. Why do retailers want to do surveys? The answer is you do surveys to measure your effectiveness against the execution of a vision and strategy. So if you are on a strategic path to become a customer-centric company with a vision that all of your channels look and feel the same a customer survey may be a good measuring stick. The problem is you do not want to make it a “rat hole” for complaints without statistical and generally holistic data.

There are a number of companies out there like Qualtrics, Loop and now Urgent Insights who claim to have a system that customers will use as a quantitative mechanism for feedback. The concept is with the ubiquity of the smartphone and only having a few very precise easy to answer questions (like 1 minute or less) with a very friendly UI, people will use this survey tool in a more objective way providing real-time feedback to retailers on how they are doing against their vision and strategy. A word of caution here, you better be prepared to handle problems quickly, provide feedback to your customers and generally show how this information is helping the customer experience.

What do you think? Can you handle another survey and on your smartphone?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Will Roche
Will Roche has over 30 years' experience working in IT with most of his experience in retail and hospitality. Will spent 23 years at IBM with 15 years in retail roles developing product and services delivering new offerings for IBM's retail business. He was responsible for the development and execution of IBM's first industry distribution channel for retail and hospitality which served the mid-market. Will joined Microsoft in 2002 as a founding member of Microsoft's industry business, with a focus on retail. He left Microsoft in 2012 for the Global Senior Vice President role at Raymark.


  1. Ok, so let me say upfront I work for a provider of survey software.

    However, I maintain there is value in surveys provided:

    – They are used as part of the process of understanding customers and not the totality of it.
    – The focus is not on generating reports but on the actions needed to improve life for customers.
    – This action includes follow-up of individual customers where they are dissatisfied. Remember retention happens one customer at a time!
    – They are short (1 minute to complete), timely, well presented and address the few issues that matter most to customers.

    Dave Jackson


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