It’s easy to write questions and send them out to customers, but it’s challenging to design and execute a customer survey that will actually provide useful information for improving your business.
All too often companies assume they should be communicating with their customers and jump into a customer satisfaction without enough planning. This kind of hurried survey can sometimes do more harm than good by creating a negative impression with otherwise satisfied customers.
Here’s how to avoid common pitfalls of customer satisfaction surveys and implement a truly useful system of feedback and action.
Common Problems with Customer Satisfaction Surveys
We’ve all participated in customer satisfaction surveys. Some may have been okay, others maybe not.
Have you ever taken a customer satisfaction survey and thought, “Was this survey meant for me? Did they even send it to the right person?” I know I have.
It can be very frustrating if you genuinely want to give feedback to a company but their survey asks about only things that don’t apply to your experience. It can also be frustrating if the online survey is hard to understand or doesn’t adapt to the device on which you’re taking it.
If you have to stop to figure out what a survey is trying to ask, it adds insult to injury.
These are common issues with gathering customer feedback, but with planning and awareness you can greatly improve your chances of getting a customer satisfaction survey right.
First and foremost, a customer satisfaction survey should enhance the customer-company relationship, not compromise it.
A survey’s quality should, at the very least, match that of your products and services.
I’ve seen a situation where a company with very satisfied customers sent out a customer satisfaction survey that generated extremely disappointing results. That company’s customers were used to seeing only the highest quality from this company, so when they got a survey that was poorly thought out and poorly executed they reacted very negatively.
Goals of Surveying Your Customers
The goal of a customer satisfaction survey should be to establish a lasting program that will continue to foster goodwill with customers and provide valuable information for company decision-making for years going forward.
It’s easy to focus on getting instant information from your customers, responding to it, and moving on, but this reactive approach will have only limited effectiveness.
Instead, invest some time in planning your surveys and creating a system for handling the data they produce so you can anticipate the needs of your customers.
Here are some things to think about before undertaking a customer satisfaction survey:
- As I mentioned earlier, just writing a few questions and sending them to your customers is easy. The hard part of customer satisfaction measurement is to design and execute a customer survey that will actually provide useful information for improving your business.
- A customer satisfaction program will raise customer expectations. Most of the effort spent on a customer satisfaction program should happen after the survey is done and the data is collected. It is important that the budget and resources be there for taking action afterwards.
- The ownership and commitment for the program should be integrated and coordinated across all departments. For example, will a sales or service representative know the survey is happening and what its goals are? Spread the word about your customer satisfaction survey around the organization.
Creating a Customer Satisfaction System
When determining how, where, and when to survey your customers, plan for the long haul, not just a short term initiative.
Starting and stopping customer satisfaction efforts can do more harm than good. Your customer satisfaction program should be seen as ongoing — not just a one time event.
It takes time to develop the program and to clearly understand customers’ wants and needs, but that investment will pay dividends in the form of happier customers for years to come. We recommend the following two activities for anyone initiating a customer satisfaction program; they complement the standard techniques for designing any survey.
Perform a Customer Needs Assessment
This involves conducting in-depth interviews (face-to-face or over the phone) with a few select customers to make sure you understand what is most important to them, what their needs are, what they think of your company and what they think about your planned customer satisfaction survey.
This two-way communication early in the process has been found to be a critical success factor for obtaining actionable information and ensuring that your survey asks the right questions of the right people in the right way.
Have A Stakeholders Strategy Session
The success of a customer satisfaction survey is measured by the actions it drives.
It is critical that the survey ask the right questions and address the needs of customers, but the feedback system also needs to be integrated into the operations of your company.
Since your customer survey is going to be an ongoing part of running your business, it becomes very important for the survey to have a broad base of support and understanding.
A strategy session should have key people from sales, marketing, development and operations who get together for a four to six-hour meeting to work on the survey objectives and how they tie to the company mission and values.
The session might also include discussions on the appropriate customer segments to target, training from a customer satisfaction expert (internal or external) on best practices and/or defining the scope of the customer feedback you will solicit.