Creating Effective Customer Feedback Surveys

“Measuring engagement and engaging consumers are two sides of the same coin.”- David Penn

It has been established beyond doubt that in the current competitive milieu of businesses, high standards of customer service is the defining and distinction providing feature. Top class marketing and selling skills may allow you to acquire new customers, but to keep them it would be vital to know what they want, how to give it to them and what will make them stay. Acquiring this knowledge of customers is part of great customer service and the best method to gain this information is through customer feedback surveys.
Running customer feedback surveys for the sake of it, is of no value. Unless your company is able to get the correct and accurate customer information, these surveys will do little. The customer feedback surveys must therefore be effective, ask the right questions and must be well-timed. Customers must be able to comment and let you know exactly how they feel about your company, its offerings and service. The customer feedback surveys must not ignore any vital areas and before formalizing them it would be useful to check back with your frontline customer service staff on what they feel should be in the survey. They are the ones who directly interact with customers on a daily basis and so are in a better position to comment on what customers seemingly like or dislike. You could also get the opinion of your most loyal customers on what they would like to include in these surveys to ensure that the customer feedback survey is truly about the customer.

What goes into making effective customer feedback surveys? Let’s analyse.

– The first and foremost would be the type of questions asked. Typically these questions are of three types and would encompass the overall ratings of the company, ratings on specific aspects like service, quality and others and the third would deal with is demographics of the customers. These surveys must allow customers to tell you what they feel about your company overall and also to be able to give you answers on more specific questions that they and you would be concerned about. The good news is that there are several survey software that allows easy questioning and user friendly formats of such surveys. For example – if the customer has provided an overall rating of very good on a certain aspect, there would be a corresponding question on that aspect that allows them to elucidate what in particular they considered ‘very good’ about it. This covers the first two types of questions. The third type, demographics is also equally important. It is crucial for the success of the survey to know which kind of customer is providing what answer. Getting a fix on who the customers are and what they are saying is helpful especially when conjoined with the answers of a separate demographic of customers. Knowing how different customers view the various aspects of your business is invaluable information and will completely serve the purpose of the customer feedback surveys.

– The second part of successful and effective feedback surveys is how the questions are put across. This is crucial since answers are very often influenced by the way questions are framed. It is important for businesses to get accurate, unbiased and straightforward answers for the information to be useful and guide them towards success. The purpose of customer feedback surveys is to ‘hear’ what customers have to say and must not be used as a marketing or selling tool. Customers can easily perceive the use of these surveys and being ‘pushy towards selling’ via the surveys will backfire. Customers become cynical and might not respond at all. They might also get irritated and respond based on that current frame of mind rather than your previous good service and products. The information you receive back will be lop-sided and not present a true picture of what customers actually feel.

The questions in the survey must be impartial and neutral, without any bias. These all-encompassing questions will get you more responses and the data gathered will prove priceless in improving your promotional and marketing efforts. The other major advantage of customer feedback surveys is that it makes customers feel special and like they have some control on what they will receive from your company. By opening your company to customers, they perceive it as an act of honesty and transparency and allows them see you in a better light. The surveys must be simple and the questions must come across as being aimed towards data collection for improvement in service and offerings.

For the rating scale, it is always good to keep an odd number of rating responses. This allows respondents to choose a central / neutral response if they so wish. If the number is even, it will force the respondents to choose an option that may not truly reflect how they feel. It is always better to allow people the choice of a neutral answer – it makes them more comfortable and willing to respond.

– The overall ratings at the beginning of the survey will allow customers to respond on how they view your company in totality. So if customers mark completely satisfied or completely dissatisfied, they are expressing their overall feedback of your company. Why they have chosen either of the ratings will be elucidated in the later part of the survey where respondents can clearly state their reasons for choosing either. The overall ratings are important since at the first glance companies can assess how many customers are satisfied with their service and offerings and how many lie in the ‘danger zone’ of being dissatisfied and therefore potential deflectors. Companies can then choose to address these danger zone customer issues first and prevent them from leaving through the alleviation of their problems.

– The specific ratings with the detailed answers and information help to lucidly explain why customers feel a certain way about you. One section for example on customer support would have sub-sections / multiple questions to let customers respond on aspects like response time, courteousness, ease of getting in touch, knowledge of the customer support person and other such aspects. The sub-ratings for each of these sections will combine to produce an average overall rating for this one particular aspect. Average low ratings will allow the company to take action immediately for the particular customer or set of customers and avert a potential exodus of these unhappy customers. These pertinent questions must always be open-ended so that the customer is able to provide any length of answers- it’s a great medium for customers to vent. Additionally, this section provides a detailed and focused overview of the existing strengths and weaknesses of your processes, customer service and even products.

– A section dedicated to asking your customers how you fare in comparison to your competitors will put your company’s offerings and customer support in perspective. In the current hugely competitive environment it is crucial for companies to keep a finger on the pulse of how they are viewed with respect to other market players. This fuels innovation, creativity and concerted effort towards getting better. You know your company is in serious trouble if you are rated ‘significantly worse’ than the nearest competitor. Time to pull up your socks and put remedial measures in to top gear!

Customer feedback surveys are the most effective and direct way of gaining valuable insights from the end users about how you are faring. Keep your surveys short, detailed, precise and easy to understand. Your respondents will thank you for it and you will get invaluable information that will help make you better and garner customer support and loyalty.

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