Founder Sporton Consulting
Share this content

To survey or not to survey? How to collect customer feedback during COVID-19

People have changed. The research and insight you gathered six months ago is out of date - it relates to a whole different world. So how can your organisation collect customer feedback in an appropriate way?

26th May 2020
Founder Sporton Consulting
Share this content
Cover mouth failure customer service

Customer experience is always important, but it is times like these where really understanding your customers is of paramount importance. This is the time where your company’s actions can and should differentiate your business. Not only in the experiences you offer, but in how you behave as an organisation.

There may be a sense that the ‘crisis’ phase of COVID-19 has passed, but the new normal brings huge uncertainty as people tentatively venture back out into the world again. Your customers are adjusting too and they will remember how you handle this challenging and stressful situation.

First, you need to bear in mind something perhaps rather obvious. People have changed. The research and insight you gathered six months ago is out of date, it relates to a whole different world, what is important to us has changed. The things that mattered before have been replaced by new concerns and this impacts our perceptions, expectations and priorities. We need to ensure our insights reflect this new reality. 

This surely means it’s time for a raft of new surveys! Hurrah! Or does it? What insight do you hope to gather and what exactly do you think you will be measuring? Have a well-defined plan before you open up your feedback tool and start hammering out a new survey.

The research and insight you gathered six months ago is out of date, it relates to a whole different world

In order to work out what is appropriate in the current circumstances, and what is not, have a clear picture of the channels of feedback and data points you ‘normally’ deploy so that you can identify where it’s right to continue, and where you need a change.

Surveys are obviously created with different audiences and goals in mind so you must differentiate between what relationship surveys (broad, point-in-time, infrequent solicitations of feedback) and transaction surveys (narrow, deeper, frequent or continuous, event-driven solicitations of feedback) would normally be running. You must also carefully consider who is the target audience for each survey, whether it be businesses, partners, employees, or customers and take into account the circumstances and challenges that they are likely to be facing at this time.

Many businesses, for example, are still operational, with employees connected, online and working from home so it’s fair to assume that potential B2B respondents will be accessible, for example. Communication and knowledge exchange can be a powerful thing in times of crisis so keeping ongoing, continuous transactional programmes running could be extremely useful for business.

At the same time, proactively seeking to understand the nuances of general perspective, opinion, and appropriateness of an action or a decision that your organisation is considering could be a huge differentiator. This is especially true for B2B customers and employees who are striving to maintain ‘business as usual’ and may welcome being involved in the decision making process.

If you do decide to continue a survey, it’s imperative that you make some acknowledgement of the current situation, either in an email in advance of the survey request or in the survey introduction itself. Empathy is critical in maintaining trust at the moment.

Perhaps the biggest consideration when dealing with B2B accounts is whether your method of understanding your customers would be better dealt with through one-to-one conversations with account managers. Again, it’s about going back to your reasons for asking for feedback.

Considerations for surveying B2B customers

For B2C audiences, however, the pros and cons of surveying are different.

At a time when so much is still uncertain, the last thing we want to do is amplify anxiety. For many people it’s simply ‘too soon’ to ask direct questions about the COVID-19 crisis so a standard set of virus-related questions is clearly inappropriate.

In the same vein, relationship surveys that are either scheduled infrequently or annually should be delayed for a few months because opinions gathered at this time would be far from typical and therefore potentially impact the understanding of customer experience year on year.

It’s also important to remember that surveying B2C audiences where respondents are under tremendous pressure and largely inaccessible is not likely to be looked upon favourably. Those in healthcare and education in particular will clearly be focused on the current emergency and be unable or unwilling to respond. Those in the travel, hospitality and entertainment industries will also be struggling to protect their livelihood and surveys are likely to get lost and discarded.

If you decide to deploy transactional surveys, remember to interpret findings in the context of global events. For example, it’s highly likely that any declines in opinions will be due to the unusual circumstances we find ourselves in today.

One key opportunity comes from the fact that consumers have had to change the way they interact with companies. New swathes of customers have suddenly got to grips with digital channels – banking apps, click and collect shopping, and more. Businesses need to understand their experiences of these channels and find out how they might be transitioned to them in the longer term.

Ask yourself if you can actually act on feedback right now. If resources, time and effort are stretched thin and little will be done with the information, stop asking for now and focus on what you can change. We’ve talked about the need to close the loop on many occasions before and its importance cannot be overstated, especially now when a lack of response could damage customer loyalty.

Of course, if you do decide to discontinue surveys, there are many other ways to listen and learn from customers. Think about encouraging feedback via unsolicited channels such as websites, pop-ups, feedback links, and proactively listen to what customers are saying across the myriad social channels which can provide a rich source of continuous feedback.

We find ourselves in a highly complex situation and you must listen to customers. But you must also listen to your teams. Not only to ensure they are comfortable, but to understand their view of what matters to customers. Your front line is your biggest asset so take care of them and listen to them. Our ultimate recommendation is therefore to put yourselves in your customers’ shoes, consider all your options and do what you think seems right.

Key takeaways

  • Have a clear picture of the channels of feedback and data points you ‘normally’ deploy so that you can identify where it’s right to continue, and where you need to change.
  • Carefully consider who is the target audience for each survey, and take into account the circumstances and challenges that they are likely to be facing at this time.
  • If you decide to continue a survey, make some acknowledgement of the current situation, either in an email in advance of the survey request or in the survey introduction itself. Empathy is critical.
  • When dealing with B2B accounts, consider whether your method of understanding your customers would be better dealt with through one-to-one conversations with account managers.
  • Relationship surveys that are either scheduled infrequently or annually should be delayed for a few months because opinions gathered at this time would be far from typical and therefore potentially impact the understanding of customer experience year on year.
  • Remember that surveying B2C audiences where respondents are under tremendous pressure and largely inaccessible is not likely to be looked upon favourably.
  • If you decide to deploy transactional surveys, remember to interpret findings in the context of global events.
  • Ask yourself if you can actually act on feedback right now. If resources, time and effort are stretched thin and little will be done with the information, stop asking for now and focus on what you can change.
  • If you do decide to discontinue surveys, think about encouraging feedback via unsolicited channels such as websites, pop-ups, feedback links, and proactively listen to what customers are saying across social channels.

CX leadership report

 

 

Replies (3)

Please login or register to join the discussion.

Peter Dorrington - TTEC
By Peter Dorrington
27th May 2020 17:50

Hello Claire,

A great article and I wholeheartedly agree - much of what we thought we knew about customers is now obsolete: circumstances for Government, businesses and consumers have all changed (and will continue to do so). It is not just the data that is changing, the statistical models built on that data also need to be rerun, possibly with new variables and parameters.

As well as the economic impact of COVID-19, consumer confidence is at an unprecedented low level (partly due to anxiety and uncertainty of what the future holds). In my view, the ‘new normal’ is unlikely to be a slightly tweaked version of what has gone before. Welcome to the ‘new strange’!

Thanks (1)
avatar
By GandyBargo
24th Jun 2020 12:02

To my mind we all have to read more about this virus to be safe.

Thanks (0)
avatar
By GandyBargo
25th Jun 2020 11:37

Omg, I don't get why everyone goes crazy about this virus we have more important problems such as human trafficing ( https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/human-trafficking/ ) and etc. People just don't get it that the government sometimes needs such viruses to suit its needs. Are there a lot of people who believe that this is a serious issue?

Thanks (0)