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Broken pencil customer survey

Four signs your survey process is broken - and how to fix it


Surveys continue to be a great way for companies to understand customer experiences. But despite the evolution of survey technologies, there are still big gaps in the survey process.

7th Feb 2020
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A focused and well-designed customer experience strategy is developed when you gain visibility into your customer interactions and use those insights to create an effective roadmap for your future marketing, support and product initiatives.

Surveys continue to be a great way for companies to better understand the three pillars of customer experience: customer satisfaction, retention and loyalty. But despite the evolution of survey technology to gain customer insights, there are still big gaps in the survey process. More specifically, there’s a disconnect between the way we capture, analyse and utilise customer feedback.

An end-to-end survey process is a critical component of the customer experience because it helps you:

  • Identify specific customer issues so you can act on them to reduce churn.
  • Get a big picture of what they you’re doing wrong and doing right.
  • Spur innovation by incorporating customer suggestions, and ideas into your future products and service releases.
  • Evaluate the success of your customer initiatives with measurable data.

Here’s four reasons your survey process is broken and how to fix it:

1. You’re not reaching customers where they ‘live’

With so many online communication channels available today, there are exponentially more opportunities for you and your team to get quality feedback from your customers. Yet surprisingly, many businesses are still choosing to conduct surveys via traditional methods like telephone and (gasp) ‘snail-mail’ (are people still filling these out?).

Here’s where things get interesting: A study by eDigital Research revealed that customers using online channels like live chat, email, and social media, to communicate with businesses, reported significantly higher levels of satisfaction. In contrast, communication via phone had one of the lowest customer satisfaction ratings. Knowing this, it’s time to think about your own survey process: Are you using the right channels to capture customer feedback?

How to fix this: Determine where your customerslive’. Are you using those same channels to send out surveys? For instance, if customers prefer a live chat app like Intercom, then sending surveys via that channel, is more likely to yield higher open rates, response rates, and overall customer satisfaction. To help you determine which channels are best, check out this list of the most effective customer support channels.

2. You’re only asking close-ended questions

If your surveys only include close-ended questions, you’re missing out on valuable opportunities to discover how your customers really feel. Close-ended questions generally produce one word or number answers, or a choice from preset responses. A great example of a close-ended question is the Net Promoter Score that is widely used to measure customer satisfaction. 



The simplicity of the NPS makes it appealing to many businesses, because it can provide quick specific and actionable feedback. However, this metric alone does not tell the full customer experience story. At the core, customer experience is about how the customer thinks, feels, and perceives a situation, product or service. Unlike the NPS, open-ended questions give the customer room to candidly express emotions, and describe their experiences in their own words. This type of feedback, also referred to as unstructured feedback, has the potential to contain much richer details and in-depth insights.

How to fix this: Dig through to understand the customer experience, by including a nice balance of open-ended and close-ended questions in your surveys. The typical open-ended questions of ‘who, what, when, where’ get the customer to provide details regarding the experience. Adding ‘‘how’ questions help to tease out more detailed feedback responses that include opinions, feelings and expectations. And the very effective probe: “Can you tell us more” helps to unleash even more valuable information.           


3. You don’t have the right tools to analyse open-ended survey responses

Seth Grimes highlighted that 80% of the data businesses collect is unstructured. Examples of unstructured customer feedback include free-form text like emails, call centre transcripts, support tickets, and of course open-ended survey responses. Unstructured feedback, although valuable, is more akin to human conversation – often characterised by incorrect spelling and lack of punctuations –  and therefore harder to analyse.

If you’re going to start including more open-ended questions in your surveys (see reason #2), you’ll need the tools to be able to analyse them. If you are like most companies, then you don’t have the right tools to quickly and clearly make sense of large volumes of unstructured customer feedback. Instead you rely on manual methods of open-ended survey analysis, which often requires many long, tedious hours of reading and sorting through spreadsheets (um, no thanks.)

How to fix this: Despite the difficulty involved in analysing them, open-ended survey responses often reveal key insights about how satisfied customers are, how to retain them, and turn them into loyal brand advocates. By omitting this feedback from your analyses, your missing out on key opportunities to improve the customer experience. Text analytics tools were specifically designed to help solve this problem. They enable you to easily uncover insights by automatically reading, aggregating and analysing your open-ended survey responses in the fraction of the time it would take if you were to do it manually. From there, you and your team can dig deeper to understanding exactly what customers are saying, and the context in which their feedback was expressed.

4. You’re not closing the feedback loop

“Change is the most powerful currency to reward vocal and consultative customers." -Whitney Wood, managing partner of the Phelon Group

Closing the feedback loop means acknowledging your customers, and letting them know that their feedback was heard. Sadly, a very small fraction of companies do not take the time to do this. According to Whitney Wood, managing partner at the Phelon Group, although “following up is directly correlated with customer loyalty, less than 1 in 5 customers believe that the majority of companies actually listen to their feedback.” That’s pretty unsettling.

How to fix this: To create and maintain a healthy relationship with your customers, they must be able to see the real impact their feedback is having on your business and ultimately, their continued experience. For example, if you decide to implement new features based on several product requests from a group of customers, send them a personalised update through their preferred channel of communication (see reason #1). Be sure to describe how their suggestions and ideas have contributed to creating a better customer experience (who wouldn’t love that?).

Surveys are a great way to gain actionable feedback from both potential and current customers. By improving the process to capture, analyse and utilize survey feedback you are creating open and effective lines of communication with your customers, and identifying new opportunities to improve your products and services. Most importantly of all, you’re sending a powerful message to your customers that their feedback is important to your business.

The survey of the future

Customers are becoming fully-wired. They prefer to text instead of talk, and swipe instead of click. In addition, these digital natives expect instant responses and lightning fast resolution times.

Changes in communication methods will certainly have a significant impact on how we capture, analyse and use customer feedback. Artificial intelligence technologies like chatbots will continue to become more natural and conversational and businesses will trust their communication to these new survey tools. Only companies with a cohesive survey process supported by these next-generation applications will stay ahead of the competition and stand out in the marketplace.


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