Customer feedback is an essential part of understanding the people your organization serves.
Many companies, however, are downright squeamish about sending out a customer survey.
There’s a large scale perception that a customer survey will be seen as an unwelcome intrusion. If your customers are used to hearing from you and getting value from all your interactions, though, they will often be more than glad to make their opinions known.
In fact, issuing a customer survey now and then is a great way to show you appreciate the people who have committed to your brand. Presented correctly, it provides them with a chance to shape the way your enterprise handles its products and services.
This is a true “win-win” for you and them.
Plus, it provides a release valve for all kinds of concerns. Without opening the door to customers’ thoughts, you might find them blowing off steam on Twitter or Facebook. Surveys can reveal your strengths and pervasive problems that require action.
But there is a challenge: A customer survey needs to be structured correctly to be accurate.
Unless you develop your survey and its questions carefully, it can give you a radically flawed picture of what your respondents actually think. That’s worse than having no information at all!
Here’s how to avoid pitfalls and build a customer survey that really works.
1. Keep It Short and Simple
The shorter your survey, the more likely it is that you’ll get responses – and that those responses will actually be complete. As a general rule, it’s a good idea to stick to five questions or fewer.
2. Ask for an Overall Rating
The customers’ overall rating of their experience or opinion of your brand should be question number one. This puts them in the right frame of mind to provide more accurate responses to subsequent questions.
3. Minimize Rating Options
Avoid using the 1 - 10 scale for your ratings: “Between” ratings like 4 and 6 are too ambiguous for both you and participants. On the other hand, 1 - 5 is much more helpful, and 1 - 3 can lead to the most concrete answers.
4. Use Concrete Language
Speaking of which, avoid ambiguous words in your questions. Everyone has a different idea of what “excellent” looks like. Consider using personal, emotive language, such as “loved it” or “hated it.”
5. Avoid Puzzling Questions
Questions that don’t make sense at a glance will go unanswered. In particular, you should avoid any questions that require math, technical responses, or anything that has to be looked up.
6. Don’t Try to Collect Sensitive Data
Most customers consider demographic questions such as age, gender, and income to be sensitive. These data points are valuable, but a customer survey isn’t the right place to ask for them.
7. Issue Customer Surveys Promptly
Surveys are most accurate when customers receive them soon after an experience – for example, within three days of making a purchase. If you wait, their perceptions will naturally become foggy.
8. Be Careful About Comparisons
Comparing your survey results over time unearths interesting insights. Just remember: If you change anything about your survey method, intro materials, or questions, the comparison isn’t valid.
9. Always Include Free Form Fields
Free form text fields are indispensable for any good survey. They allow respondents to give you novel input that you might not even have thought about on your own. What an opportunity!
10. Follow Up on Strong Responses
Any time someone offers personal praise or negative feedback, be sure to follow up fast. Praise should always receive a note of gratitude in return. Complaints deserve a strong, effective response.
Use these 10 principles and you’ll not only get better survey data; you'll also get more responses. That will equip you to do even more amazing things for your customers now and in the future.