Customer Survey: Essential Guideline

Customer Survey: Essential Guideline


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If you’re not leveraging customer surveys in (insert calendar year), you’re missing a big wave of opportunity. We’re talking a whole generation’s worth of customer feedback just getting left out to dry. 

The data and feedback you get out of surveys is crucial, and they’re a cinch to implement. But the real challenge is engaging customers enough to take them and – more importantly – finish them. 

How many surveys have you actually taken as a customer? Did you feel excited or at least motivated to finish most of them? Maybe your answers to both questions aren’t overly positive. It’s enough to make you wonder whether customer surveys are still relevant. 

So, the million-dollar question – are they?

We interviewed Nate Brown, co-founder of CX Accelerator on Season 2 Episode 15 of our podcast. Ironically enough, he originally went on a “war path…against surveys”. He went to Nashville and in a man-on-the-street style video tried to see if people agreed that surveys were a dying channel.

The result? A complete reversal of his original hypothesis. 

Yes, surveys are viable. But the arrival at that conclusion came from a somewhat unexpected source: Millennials and the younger generations.

Finally, an industry we aren’t killing. 

Turns out, the real problem was most likely poorly designed surveys that had burnt out the older generations. Not only did they lose faith in surveys from their labor-intensive, long-form designs, they lost faith in their own voices. They didn’t feel they were being heard at all because the data from those surveys never yielded tangible results. 

And that’s not their fault. 

Surveys don’t kill the voice-of-customer, but bad surveys and a lack of follow-through absolutely can. So we’re here give you some of the best advice around for keeping your surveys relevant and useful and, more importantly, giving your customers the empowerment they need to let their voices be heard. 

Customer Survey: Here are 6 ways to boost your survey’s potential 

1. Keep It Simple, Silly

This is probably the top reason for many surveys failing: VERY few people are willing to spend precious time trudging through lengthy surveys.

Among the most common offenders are generic customer satisfaction (CSAT) score-type surveys. While they look good on paper and can provide a large amount of data, you’ll be hard-pressed to find customers willing to complete one. 

In an interview for Phocuswire, Troy Thompson, the founder of service design firm Pattern, described his experience with a survey at Disneyworld. He said that while he was initially willing to participate, he gave up after 30 answers, pointing out that the survey was riddled with useless questions.

tom hanks super long survey

In contrast, he cited a survey from printing service TimeShel that asked just one question, sent via email:

“Hey, Troy, you backed us on Kickstarter when we first started. We just want to see how it’s going. Do you have any ideas for improving TimeShel?” 

Thompson said he took the time to answer back, indicating his likes, dislikes, and his thoughts on improving the service as requested. 

The lesson here is what I call the KISS method: Keep ISimple, Silly. 

2. Know your intention

Identify your intent from the outset, no matter what you’re doing. Customer surveys are no exception. Knowing your intent is key to processing your results. You don’t want to be the person who compiles all this data and then fails to deliver on it (which happens, as per Nate’s findings). 

Moreover, you can pinpoint the right and fewest questions to ask to get the data you really need. The more specific the intent the better.

Getting the “what” (satisfied or dissatisfied for example) is easy, but what you really want is the “why”. As in, why do you feel that way?  

3. Offer incentives

Providing some incentive does wonders for making the customer feel like their time is valued. Rather than expecting them to fill out surveys from the goodness of their hearts, you can entice customers with things like gift cards, points or entries into giveaways, to name a few.  

Just be careful – too big a nudge may skew your results.

4. Make it look good

It may sound superficial, but appealing design can go a long way. Aesthetically-pleasing surveys are designed to make answering a more user-friendly experience.

Clear and large fonts, for example, make for easier and faster reading. Maybe even spruce up the background a bit. Even little things can make the experience seem much more positive for the customer. 

5.Out with bias!

This should almost go without saying, but leading questions are a big red flag. Questions like “How much did you enjoy your experience with us today?” look like they’re fishing for that positive result.

In extreme but abundant cases, service providers will often request higher scores claiming their bonuses are riding on that number. You may have encountered this situation shopping for cars or on the phone with customer service reps. 

Customers will either be turned off or skew their answer as a result. This will taint your data and defeat the point of conducting the survey at all. 

6. Be Proactive, not Reactive

Lastly, a vital feature of surveys is their proactive nature. They can give you the foresight to identify potential issues before they rear their ugly heads. There’s valuable feedback in customer reviews and similar channels, but these are reactive.

By the time a customer has left a review, the damage has already been done. Any brand worth its salt should want to get ahead of that. According to research from MyCustomer, nearly a quarter of customers would switch to another service or product after just one negative experience. This means there are no do-overs. 

Being proactive with surveys can help identify new shifts in consumer trends and tastes early. It’s common knowledge that today’s customer is more discerning and that their preferences change far more frequently, so you need all the input you can get.  

Keep these essentials in mind when you draft your next survey, and your data’s usefulness will skyrocket. Guaranteed.

If not, you can call me for a full refund of $0.00. 


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Steve Berry

Steve Berry

Steve Berry is assistant producer and editor of the Voices of CX Podcast. He is also Head of Content at Worthix, and editor/contributor for the Science Behind Decisions Blog. Over the years, Steve has had the pleasure of meeting with and listening to dozens of world-class CX thought leaders who've joined the podcast. He joined the show as an audio editor in Season 3 and has since added video editing and producing to his role. A film and writing major from Georgia State, Steve is an Atlanta native who enjoys martial arts, fitness, and gaming in his free time. He is also the resident gif/meme generator/connoisseur at the Worthix HQ in Atlanta.



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