What You Should Know about Customer Surveys

Customer surveys can be an excellent tool for collecting feedback from your customers, which can then be used to improve your business, its products and services, and customer service. They can help you to figure out what you’re doing right, where you’re going wrong, and what your customers really want from you.

“Surveying your customers regularly and in a variety of ways is a critical part of running a successful business, regardless of your industry, product, or service,” Julia L. Rogers explains in the Huffington Post. “Surveys measure satisfaction – or dissatisfaction – with your offerings, determine critical needs, and offer an opportunity to effectively communicate and build truly personal relationships with your customers. And when you take both praise and criticism to heart in order to fulfill the true needs of these customers, you build invaluable loyalty that can create buzz around your business and bring in enthusiastic, highly qualified referrals.”

However, while a well-done survey will get you valuable information, a poorly constructed survey can produce unreliable, inaccurate data – and could even damage relationships with customers. Therefore, there are a few things you should keep in mind in order to develop surveys that will produce accurate, meaningful responses and fortify customer relationships. Here’s what you should know about customer surveys:

It’s the Narrative that’s Meaningful – Not the Numbers

Getting narrative feedback from customers is often much more meaningful than numerical feedback, as narrative feedback is often much more nuanced and specific. The problem is that, if you ask only numerical questions, you will get a bunch of numbers, but you won’t necessarily have the context to interpret those numbers. If 20 customers give you the lowest ranking – 1 out of 5 – when asked to rate your customer service, what does that really tell you? Sure, it lets you know that a customer is clearly dissatisfied with the service you’re providing, but it really doesn’t say much more than that or give any kind of insight into the specific problem. Is it that response times are too long? Are your support staff rude? Are they ill-equipped to troubleshoot or answer questions? Numbers tell you how customers feel, but with numbers alone you’re left in the dark about why customers feel that way.

So, what’s the solution? Well, you should try to also include open-ended questions in customer surveys so your customers have the opportunity to give you specific and valuable feedback. It’s important to note that all of your survey questions shouldn’t be open-ended, or you might lower your response rate due to a survey that’s too tedious for a customer. Instead, your best bet is to leave one or two open questions at the end. This will give survey takers the freedom to lay out their grievances or highlight what you’re doing well, which ultimately leads to better information.

Be Cognizant of How You’re Wording Your Questions

Make sure you are structuring and phrasing questions in a neutral way so as to get the most accurate and reliable feedback possible. Too many businesses give surveys that are inherently skewed in their favor, which will distort the results and ultimately defeat the purpose of surveying in the first place. Survey design is truly an art and a science, so if you’re struggling, it is definitely worth investing in professional help.

Real-Time Data is Often the Most Valuable

Customers tend to give their most honest reactions immediately after they’ve had an encounter with a brand, largely because their memory of what occurred is much more vivid immediately after. Real-time data, therefore, translates into more accurate data that can help businesses. “Getting real information from real customers in real time is the best way for business owners to understand the strengths and weaknesses of their businesses, especially as their businesses grow,” Rogers says.

How can you get real-time data? One easy way is to give customers access to communication channels, including email, website feedback forms, and social media channels like Twitter and Facebook. Encourage your customers to share their experiences on these communication channels, and prompt them to do so with a couple of questions. You can also prompt your customers to fill out a survey by email shortly after they’ve made a purchase or interacted with your customer service teams.

It Takes Time and Resources to Review Surveys

You need to put time and resources into developing great surveys, and you also need to put an equal amount of time and resources into reviewing surveys once you’ve collected them from customers. Don’t just take a quick look and then file the surveys away into a desk drawer to be forgotten about. In order to make the best possible use of the information, you really need to engage with it.

So how do you do that? The first step is to review and analyze the survey results and consider their implications. At this point, you may actually want to consider getting professional help with data analysis to get more informed analytical insights. Then, carefully consider how you can respond to this information. What changes can you make to address common customer complaints? How can you strengthen systems and processes that deliver positive results?

At the end of this process, you may wish to inform your customers how you’ve gone about taking their feedback into consideration by explaining what changes you’ve made. Remember, customers appreciate knowing you’ve heard their voices and considered their opinion; considering and applying the feedback you’ve gotten from them is a great way to make them more apt to share feedback in the future. 

Surveys are no Substitute for Quality Communication  

It is important to note that surveys should be just one tool in your relationship-building arsenal. In order to truly develop quality relationships with your customers, ensure that their voices are heard, and that their opinions and experiences are considered, you absolutely need to develop channels for quality communication. Data isn’t perfect, and one-on-one communication is still invaluable; many business owners report that they get the best information from one-on-one verbal conversations with their customers.

 “There are many pitfalls in customer survey data. Both professional help and caution interpreting data are often warranted. And still there can be surprises, as happened to the best pollsters with the 2016 election,” Todd Hixon advises in Forbes. “When a customer is unhappy, they usually want to talk with someone who can make them feel heard and respected and help with the problem to some degree. Listen to customers the old-fashioned way. This is expensive, non-scalable, and often tedious, as there will always be cranks and bullies. However, in business, as in most other parts of life, if you want to have strong relationships, there is no substitute for listening.”

The bottom line is that customer surveys, when constructed well, can provide you with meaningful insight in your customers’ thoughts and opinions, ultimately helping you to improve your business. If you’re going to develop a customer survey, don’t just hastily throw something together. Make sure you take the time to develop and distribute a great survey that will get you the information you need. 10twelve can help your company develop customer surveys that will benefit your company!