Why companies need Customer Feedback Surveys

“There is a big difference between a satisfied customer and a loyal customer” – Shep Hyken

Companies exist because there are customers. It is the customer’s word that can make or break a business and decide whether they are in existence or not. It is not an easy ‘business’ keeping customers happy or even acceptably satisfied. Many a time companies do not even realize that something is amiss till customers begin to walk away. So how do companies ascertain whether their customers are satisfied – base it on history or what the customer service agents say or should they ask customers directly? No prizes for answering this one – the surest way is to ask them. This is why companies need customer feedback surveys. To conduct customer feedback surveys companies must know – what to ask, how to ask, when to ask and how often they should ask. Assuming that all these questions have been taken in to account, companies must most importantly, know what to do with the feedback they receive.

The measure of success for such customer feedback surveys lies in whether companies are able to increase the retention of their current customers and also able to portray themselves as ‘the’ company to potential ones. If the survey does not help companies to understand the needs and expectations of customers and what improvements they need to make towards this end, the survey is most definitely a failure and one that has been conducted for the sake of it. Customer feedback surveys must be designed and implemented in a manner that would yield previous, current and future trends in customer behavior and allow companies to make an analysis of the same. Such a result would allow companies to make necessary changes to their processes, strategies and customer service activities. These survey results allow companies to take action on potential issues before they become reasons for customers to leave.
Customer feedback surveys are a business imperative. They help companies in many ways.

– They measure the satisfaction levels of customers which in turn determine a customer’s loyalty. With the advent of technology and globalization, customers now seek to be serviced beyond mere satisfaction and expect high standards of customer service. These surveys allow companies to understand the ever changing expectations from customers.
– Customer experiences are a journey and continue to change depending on the company’s service. The data that accumulates during this journey is vital for companies to determine the responses of customers over time and make improvements where required
– The surveys must be designed with realistic goals in mind for the company and the questions must be framed with the view to get answers that will achieve these goals. Customer feedback surveys must be well thought out and efficiently designed so as to lead customers to answer each question in a manner that provides cues to the company of their mindset
– They let customers know that the company cares and is committed to making a difference and in raising the levels of customer service. They would be more forthcoming in their answers leading to accurate data and precise statements.

With the ever increasing competition – new companies using more effective technology and previous companies that are upping the ante by making some serious changes – companies can no longer afford to be complacent. Customer feedback surveys help companies to do away with staid strategies, develop new ones and keep the competition at bay. These surveys when properly implemented let companies know what the customer thinks about their service, offerings and experiences and also how they compare to competition. Companies must clearly be able to determine whether the customers are merely satisfied or are ready to be with them long term.

Customer feedback surveys assess these satisfaction levels. A satisfied customer is not necessarily a loyal one and will most likely move to another company should they find that their expectations can be exceeded there. Implementing the surveys judiciously will let customers know that their views will drive the change required for complete and overall satisfaction in their dealings with the company. When customers feel they are in control, confidence and trust in such drivers of change increases and when the company implements the changes customers become loyal and advocates of the company.

Conducting customer feedback surveys is a tedious process. Companies must stand to benefit from its results as much as customers do. Properly timed and well-constructed surveys would provide:

– Companies an opportunity to let customers know that they are committed to listening
– Get vital information directly from the users regarding the product and or service they are offering and the kind of customer service currently being delivered
– The survey questions on their own have the capacity to improve customer trust and retention
– Help to improve the quality of service thereby ensuring enhanced profits through repeat business
– Get a better grip on the customer base thereby tightening their hold and share in the fiercely competitive market
– Understand the competition’s standing as compared to their own
– Get direct and undiluted information regarding the kind of products customers want to see and the kind of customer service to go with it
– By providing an easy outlet for customers to vent, companies can save themselves the risk of customers posting negative comments on visible social media sites
– Pinpoint the exact pain points within their company that restrict customer service.
– Be able to introduce new systems, products and services based on customer views, well ahead of other players in the market
– Enhance innovation and creativity in their offerings and brand. People who innovate are seen as leaders and customers would naturally be drawn towards this attribute.

Customer feedback surveys must be done periodically and proactively. They must not be reactionary i.e. in response to some major negative wave from customers. To retain market leadership, companies must ask customers for their views before experiencing some negative outcome or complaints. Having a record of customer data comes in handy to determine when the survey must be conducted to avoid any major potential disasters. After receive such feedback, companies must immediately action those that will have the highest impact and let customers know of such changes.
Developing customer feedback surveys is nothing short of a challenge and a science. It must be based on observation of trends and current happenings. Therefore, companies must determine whether they would use the existing format of the survey or develop a completely new one. Although it seems prudent to use the one that has been tried and tested and thrown up positive results, surveys must not be rolled out until completely certain of their current efficacy. Companies should make the necessary changes and tweaks if required before rolling out a ‘previous’ survey. Such an approach lets companies make easier comparisons from the last survey and the current one – are they improving, become worse or their service has plateaued. However, surveys must be rolled out based on current trends. In some cases a new survey might be required since:

– No prior survey covers the issues now
– The previous survey proved ineffective due to poor design in gathering requisite data
– The prior survey is redundant given the current trends

Customer feedback surveys are a powerful medium and must remain interesting, current, fresh and relevant from the customer’s point of view. Customers must be able to perceive the company’s commitment and zeal through the survey for them to even take time to read it. Also, surveys can be divided based on the customer type and industry. Questions that would be relevant to one sub-group may not necessarily be valid for another. Some amount of customization is required in feedback surveys as well. They must also be based on customer behavior, the time available to the company and customer, the amount of resources a company is willing to invest and the kind of information the company is seeking.

The frequency of customer feedback surveys is also vital and must be decided based on:

– Any major changes in customer base and or customer demographics
– Any internal changes made regarding product and or service delivery
– The length and the involvement required from the customer to complete the survey
– Any other current trends that might have shifted the market dynamics

Whatever the reasons, surveys must not exceed 4 a year else they become tedious and run-of-the-mill. Customer feedback surveys are aimed at being vehicles of change and continuous improvement for a company. When executed well from start to finish, they can lead to customer loyalty and a major competitive lead that is sustainable.

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