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How to fix common problems with customer surveys

7th Nov 2017
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Customer surveys provide business owners with an important means of getting customer feedback. Unfortunately, only 9% of customers actually take the time to carefully answer the questions. The other 91% either ignore the request altogether or will only answer if the survey won’t take too much time. As a result, you may not be getting a large enough sampling of answers, and the answers you do receive may not be well thought out.

What’s the problem? People aren’t generally shy about their opinions. The sheer volume of reviews on sites such as Yelp and Amazon prove that. The problem may very well be within the surveys themselves. Keep reading to learn about common survey problems and how to solve them.

Surveys Are Simply Too Long

Whether their feedback is positive or negative, keep in mind that customers are doing you a favor by completing surveys. Don’t create an annoyance for them by making surveys that are too long. It doesn’t take much for a customer to go from ‘Sure I’ll answer a few questions!’ to ‘Holy cow! How long is this going to take???’

If your surveys are too long, two things are likely to happen. Many customers will simply click away altogether and you’ll be left with incomplete data. The other option is that they will rush through or lose focus. That leaves data that you can’t really trust.

Aim for surveys that take about five minutes to answer, or that have around ten questions. You can also use a couple of gamification strategies to keep customers interested. You can do this by simply adding a progress bar to let customers see their progress. Sometimes simply rephrasing questions so that they are a bit more imaginative can help. For example,  you could modify the following question: ‘What features would you like to see us add to our app in the future?’ to ‘If you worked as a designer for us for a week, which five features would you have us add?’

You Aren’t Providing Open Ended Questions

There’s certainly a lot to be said for multiple choice and yes/no questions. They’re quick and easy to answer. They also provide binary data which can be very useful in many cases. What they don’t do is give customers any leeway in their answers. Sometimes the most accurate answer for a customer isn’t A, B, C, D, or all of the above. Sometimes it’s an odd combination of those answers, something completely different, or there’s a very important clarification needed.

Now this doesn’t mean you should replace all of your short format questions with open ended ones. Few customers are likely to want to type out every answer in a survey or feel obligated to expand on the simplest things. 

Your Scope is Too Wide

You’re  not going to learn everything that you want in one survey. If your survey runs the gamut of questions on customer service, website experience, product quality, pricing, and potential interest in new products or services, you simply won’t get good results. The survey will be too long, resulting in the issues mentioned above. Another possibility is that you won’t be able to drill deeply enough into a single topic to learn much of value.

Consider keeping your survey questions tightly focused. Have a very specific goal for each survey. Not only that, know what you will do with the information you receive. Do you want to identify places in the customer journey where people are falling out of the funnel? Are you interested in prioritizing future projects based upon consumer interest? Would you like to know how your customer self service options are impacting overall customer experience? Perhaps you’d like to define areas where extra training is needed for your sales floor staff. Once your goal is defined, you’ll have a better idea of which questions to ask.

You Give Customers No Incentive to Respond

Take a look at your next fast food or grocery store receipt. Chances are, there’s a link to a survey where you can answer questions about your most recent experience. Almost every time, that will augmented with some sort of special offer. That might be a free drink on your next order, entry into a sweepstakes, a BOGO coupon, or some other upgrade.

This tactic is so common because it works. Completing a survey is work, and few people are interested in doing that for free. Why not reward their loyalty? By including some reward, you can increase the likelihood that people will participate. In addition to that, your reward can create a sense of obligation resulting in answers that are more thoughtful and accurate.

When done correctly, customer surveys can be a very valuable tool. They can help you to understand where the customer experience is working well, and where improvements need to be  made. You can implement surveys to gauge customer opinion on everything from service to product quality. The key is understanding where surveys can go wrong, and implementing strategies to improve them.

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