Customer surveys can yield valuable data and actionable insights about everything ranging from product quality to brand identity to customer service. But if you’re not careful, they can also become a significant nuisance that ultimately puts people off your company.
It was once a relatively unusual occurrence to be invited to share feedback about an interaction with an organization or brand—now, the opposite is true. Doctors’ offices, government entities, retailers, and more solicit input following nearly every visit, interaction, or purchase. What’s more, these survey invites typically come in a variety of formats (in the mail, as a phone call, online or a combination), and sometimes persist even after the survey has been completed via one of these channels.
The problem of persisting follow ups could be easily solved with better business intelligence and data integration. Companies should ensure they have a holistic picture of the various methods by which they are seeking customer feedback, and, once the information has been received, automatically cease any follow ups to the other channels.
But what about the issue of surveying too much? This one is harder to address, but customer service experts recommend setting metrics to determine which visit, interaction, or purchase warrants a survey. For example, perhaps a physician practice would solicit patient input following a visit for the flu but not after the annual physical. Or maybe a consumer electronics retailer would request feedback only after customers spend a certain dollar amount. The specifics obviously vary with each individual company, but overall organizations must be much more strategic and selective.
In a recent Harvard Business Review article, consultant Graham Kenny advocated for another way of taking the pulse of the customer: speaking with these individuals directly. He believes companies would be amazed “if only they knew just how simple and straightforward a customer interview process can be, and how rich the rewards, if you know how to ask the right questions.”
Kenny argues that the typical customer questionnaire can’t get at the quality of the interaction, and therefore is not as valuable as an actual conversation. Of course, it’s unrealistic to expect that this could ever replace customer surveys for a variety of reasons.
However, in the age of social media, when Twitter and other platforms provide a convenient means for communicating directly with customers and other stakeholders, it’s important that companies consider them as avenues for customer feedback. A Tweet asking for thoughts on a new logo might yield much more detailed and nuanced insights that could be attained via a multiple choice form on a typical customer survey.