Is it possible to do too many customer surveys?
Ask yourself instead: is it possible to ask someone for too many favors?
When you ask a customer to take a few minutes to do a survey, you are asking the customer to do you a favor. Most people have a natural instinct to help, and don't mind.
But if you keep asking over and over and over, pretty soon doing a favor feels like a burden. If the feedback never seems to go anywhere or have any effect, it feels like the favor isn't appreciated. If you pay people to take the survey, it feels like a job (and not a lucrative one, either).
This is the problem some companies face with their customer feedback programs. Automated surveys have made it so cheap and easy to offer customers a survey that customers are constantly bombarded with surveys. Personally, I get a survey offer nearly every time I shop at certain retailers--I stopped paying attention years ago, and I'm hardly alone.
It's a vicious cycle. As customers learn to tune out surveys, companies feel they have to offer surveys more frequently to get the number of responses they want. That just leads to more noise and more people ignoring surveys.
So before you go trying to collect feedback from every customer just because you can, consider a few things:
- How much data do you really need? Pollsters regularly predict the outcome of national elections based on just a few hundred surveys--and they do a pretty good job. Think about the goals of your customer feedback process, and how much data is necessary to support that goal. If your goals require offering a survey to every customer, you may be setting unrealistic goals.
- Are you getting the most out of your data? If you can't provide timely, interactive, and directed reports, then you shouldn't be spending money collecting more data. It won't be used. Instead, focus on getting the feedback to where it needs to be.
Are you communicating to your customers that you actually care about their feedback? Remember, they are doing you a favor. People like doing favors, as long as the recipient cares. Look at your surveys process through the customer's eyes and see if it looks like you care:
- Are your questions concise and on-topic? Or are they long, disorganized, and irrelevant to the customer's needs? Do you ask questions about unrelated topics like demographics or shopping habits? Get rid of them.
- Do you give customers a place for open-ended comments? Does someone read them? Do you give customers a way to ask for someone to follow up if they have an unresolved problem? Does anyone respond? Sometimes a survey is really a cry for help from a customer stuck in the machine.
- Does your web survey work? In all browsers? Have you tested it? Recently? Really? I don't believe you. Go find a copy of IE6 or Safari and actually test that every page works in every browser. While you're at it, test it on an iPhone, iPad, and Android phone, too. Do this every six months, because even if your survey doesn't change, web platforms will. Going through your survey ten times in a row will also show you just how much shorter it should be.
- Do your interviewers sound friendly and engaged? Or do they sound like they're calling from Bombay to sell mobile phone services? Do you record all interviews? Not only are interview recordings a great way to make sure the survey projects the image you want, it's also about the best training tool we've ever seen.
Even in today's environment where customers are surveyed to death, it is still possible to get a great response rate. The key is communicating to customers that you are taking the process seriously, you appreciate the favor they're doing, and you care about what they have to say.