Andy Smith  |  October 30, 2014  |  Customer Surveys

Not another customer survey!

I’ve recently come across this tongue in cheek cartoon; it shows two gentlemen developing an elaborate plan to inundate customers with surveys, all in the misguided belief that it will result in increased customer satisfaction.

The cartoon outlines how the gentlemen plan to utilise every opportunity and every channel to maximise customer responses. The jocularity touches upon a popular topic in both the contact centre and marketing industries – the futility of collecting surveys for the sake of surveys with no end point and its impact on both the customer experience and wider business objectives.

Surveys are often binary… people are not

Customer surveys that reveal true insight are invaluable, but it's incredible how many companies still persistently send out surveys without considering what they want to find out and how they will take action based on the responses they receive.

The fundamental problem with surveys is that the responses are prompted. A company presents a question and the customer either has an opinion formed already OR considers one and responds. This means you receive a binary response or one relating to a relative scale. The flaw with this system is that the answers you’re left with generally just confirm things that you already know. Think about that for a minute, and consider the point that if you don’t know what you don’t know – then how do you find those things important to a customer, before they vote with their feet.

It’s all about feelings

Open-ended questions can make a real difference to your survey responses. These questions are designed to tell you how the customer “feels”. They are great because they prime the responses to be emotive, which means the customer focuses on what it is that has made them feel pleased or dissatisfied by the experience and not just the transaction.

Questions about feelings will also illicit responses from opposing ends of the spectrum, helping you to catch unengaged customers and people with strong emotive reactions.

Using your feedback

Open-ended questions typically deliver a rich goldmine of feedback ready to be put to use. It allows the business to conduct root cause analysis of a variety of experiences, from different angles. Generally these customer responses come in three forms.

  1. Short & Sweet - polite and short responses, generally less than 150 characters.
Customers tend to leave them because of social conditioning, i.e. the survey has asked a question so they feel the need to respond even if it’s just a “thank you”.
  1. Gushing – A customer is really happy with the experience, and willing to say why
  2. Frustrated – A customer is really unhappy with the experience and will to say why (at length)
Using real-time customer feedback allows you to drill down into these responses and identify affinities in what customers are saying. Keywords can then be scored to identify what is resonating most strongly with your customers to build resonating themes and trends of what pleases or frustrates your customers and/or more importantly how an experience pleases or frustrates them. An emotive response is one that stays with a customer and one that will be conveyed to others – emotion is less about what and very much about how something is approached or delivered.

By linking results to business processes and generating intuitive reports you can crowd-source ideas for improvement and establish cross-functional teams to address customer service issues, resulting in happier staff and increased customer satisfaction.


Andy Smith

Andy Smith

Insight Director

After decades driving insight-led change across customer service, finance IT and marketing within Orange, T-Mobile, and EE, Andy’s mission is using EvaluAgent customer insight to identify and deliver tangible improvements to their customer experience.


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