In business and in our personal lives, we are beset with surveys. “Fill out our survey and
receive a chance to win a free iPOD.” “Please complete our survey and receive a $5 coffee card for Starbucks.” “We hope you enjoyed your stay, please complete this survey and drop it off at the front desk when you check out.” “We’re sorry that you’ve asked to cancel your account — would you mind if we ask you a few questions about your customer experience?”
In 99% of these surveys, the questions are developed by the business or by a business consultant to align neatly with the business organization chart. For a restaurant, there are questions about the waitstaff, the food, the restrooms, etc. For a telephone company, there are questions about the customer service, sales, marketing, operations, and billing functions. For an airline, it’s about the website, check-in, inflight service, and luggage handling. These questions are about what you want to know as the business owner and what you want your customers to comment on. Most of the questions are not about what your customers want to tell you about their experience with your business. A response to one question also doesn’t convey the relative importance of that feature or service compared to others in the customer’s universe.
Again, 99% of business surveys are so long that customers don’t really think much about their responses. They just hurry through so they can preserve their chance of winning the prize. If there are comment boxes, the customers don’t use them because they feel that they’ve already traded enough of their time for the cup of Starbucks or the chance for the iPod.
Comment boxes are also disfavored in surveys because they are messy to analyze. It’s much easier to compute means and standard deviations and confidence intervals if there are 10 point scales associated with each question. However, these surveys provide no opportunity for a customer to really tell you what he or she liked best or most disliked about your business. By making surveys easy to analyze, we tend to filter out vital information about what’s most important to our customers, because we leave them no real opportunity to express themselves. These surveys convey that we are asking our customers to comment on areas that are important to us, rather than the issues that are important to our customers.
Think about asking what you can do for your customers in your next survey. Let them tell you what they want you to know rather than what you want to know. Try dramatically shortening your surveys and for the few remaining questions, try replacing the 10-point scales with comment boxes. You’ll find that your response rates will increase and you’ll also develop a better understanding of what’s really important to your customers.
Comment boxes also give you an opportunity to strengthen your relationships with your customers. Call to thank your customers for responding to your surveys and ask them questions about their comments. They’ll know that you’re interested in their feedback and they’ll respect you all the more for that.
Need assistance promoting feedback from your customers? Rust Reviews can help!