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Combating survey saturation and engaging with customers

22nd Feb 2016
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Organisations of all types understand the importance of listening to customers in order to increase engagement and improve the service and products they offer. However, this means that consumers are being bombarded by companies trying to discover their preferences and feedback. In turn, this is leading to survey saturation as consumers switch off, decreasing response rates, and leading to unrepresentative feedback from a skewed sample. Essentially this means feedback comes solely from brand advocates and those who have had a bad experience, missing out those in the middle of spectrum, and meaning that decisions are made that are overly influenced by the extreme end of the spectrum.

How can companies combat survey saturation and engage better with all consumers? Based on my experience there are six areas that businesses need to focus on:

1. Timeliness
To get useful feedback, make sure you are asking consumers for their opinions at the right time in the buying process. We’ve all clicked on a website and immediately been offered a pop up survey to fill in before we’ve actually reached the home page or been pounced upon by someone with a clipboard as we enter a shop. Not only does this lead to unrepresentative feedback, it also has the potential to annoy a customer and make them far less likely to fill in a survey later on. Equally, don’t wait for weeks after a transaction has been completed before asking for opinions, as the customer will have mentally moved on. Instant feedback is more accurate and higher quality, enabling better decision making. Ensure that feedback opportunities are embedded within the customer journey at key points, such as checkout and post-delivery to gain useful, timely data.

2. Make it relevant and quick
Linked to being timely, ensure that surveys value the customer’s time and are directly relevant to their interaction. Don’t ask them to fill in a 20 question survey that covers all of your activities, but tailor it to their experience – and keep it as short as possible. There’s no point asking them about in-store service if they bought online, for example. Companies hold more and more data about their customers, so it is essential to use this to personalise surveys if you want to get relevant, useful responses.

3. Make it engaging
Using a generic survey made up of complex questions is bound to impact completion rates. As well as keeping it short and personalised, make it more interesting by using techniques such as gamification to draw respondents in and encourage completion. Given the number of people who are happy to complete surveys on their smartphones and tablets ensure it is mobile-friendly, and uses good design to engage participants, thus increasing completion rates.

4. Show the benefits
There’s nothing worse than collecting feedback and then ignoring it, both at an individual and overall level. If consumers give feedback they want it to be taken seriously. So follow up on their concerns, show them that you have received their feedback and, what you have done about it. At a wider level analyse overall findings and demonstrate that you are making changes where necessary – telling customers that they have made a difference will encourage them to give further feedback in the future.

5. Incentivise respondents
Consumers are giving up their time to provide feedback, so show that you value it. Incentivise them, such as by entering participants into a prize draw, or offering free shipping on their next order. The costs of these are relatively low, particularly when you compare them to the value and understanding you can gain from their insight and the greater engagement that Voice of the Customer programmes bring.

6. Link to other feedback
No matter how good your customer feedback programme, you won’t get responses from everyone and certain groups may well be underrepresented. Therefore don’t rely on customer surveys alone, but link them with other sources of feedback. For example, employees are interacting with customers every day, so survey them on what consumers are saying and doing, as this gives a good insight into the mind of the non-responder. Analyse your transactional data, such as customer service questions asked, in order to create a holistic picture of what customers are saying, thinking and doing.

Consumers have never been more willing to give feedback, but too many badly targeted, overlong and poorly timed surveys put them off from providing their opinions, leading to results that are dominated by brand advocates and the annoyed. It is therefore vital that organisations think hard about how they manage their survey programmes if they are to gain the vital customer insight necessary to drive their businesses forward.

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