It's interesting to survey the academic literature about survey methods with an eye to the call center. It turns out that relatively little formal research has been done about how to survey for customer service quality.
Most of the research has been done about political polling and psychological research, with some views of market research surveys.
Customer service is unique from these other types of surveys, and is easier in many ways:
- The population to survey is very well-defined: people who contacted customer service. There's no need to sample the general population.
- The survey is usually asking about a specific event which has already occurred, unlike political polling or market research which ask about future behavior and opinions about hypothetical products or situations.
- The survey usually is trying to track changes over time or between different groups of customers, rather than predict the outcome of a future event. So predictive ability (which is all-important in a political poll) isn't a big deal. Instead, consistency is crucial.
There are also unique aspects to a customer service survey which are harder than more traditional surveys:
- Customer service surveys are often more tactical than other surveys, which is to say that they're looking for specific problems which need to be fixed right away. This means that real-time reporting and alerting is essential. A tabulated report summarizing data from six weeks ago is stale.
- Part of the role of a customer service survey is to enhance the company's image in the customer's eyes. That means that the customer has to think the survey is effective and worthwhile. With other surveys, you don't usually care what the participant thinks about the survey itself.
- Most of the value in a customer service survey is in the ability to match individual customers' opinions with records of how that particular call was handled, in order to find ways to improve service. Most surveys focus on just the high-level statistics, and don't bring external data into the survey. But if you can't match the customer complaint to the call recording, agent name, call classification, etc., you can't figure out where the problems are.
These differences do have some practical implications. For example, where someone designing a political poll will place a lot of emphasis on carefully wording the survey questions and figuring out who's a likely voter, in a customer service survey we're going to look at the client's internal process for using the data, consistency and bias in the survey process, and getting meaningful data to decision-makers in real time.
In my world, just collecting data isn't enough. We have to make the data fit into the client's internal processes, make it actionable, and deliver it now.