Despite all of your good intentions, you may make mistakes when you design and conduct customer satisfaction surveys. Many factors may convolute both the process and the product, so take your work seriously and avoid falling into the same traps as others do.We have identified seven typical pitfalls and challenges that you may encounter when working with customer satisfaction surveys.
1. Too low response rate
Too few respondents are everyone’s nightmare when it comes to customer satisfaction surveys. And justly so, because it is becoming harder and harder to get the customers to respond. Very often, you tend to blame the survey design, the subject field of the e-mail or the timing. However, the problem may be quite another – and that is your CRM system.
A high response rate requires you to send the survey to the right people at the right time. If your data is polluted – e.g. in the form of outdated e-mail addresses or telephone numbers – your survey may be perfectly designed and still perform very poorly. So make it your priority to fine-tune your data. It will also benefit you when it comes to using the knowledge collected in your sales work (read more under “Lack of follow-up”).If you want to boost your response rate, it is okay to send reminder e-mails – however, maximum two. And remember to increase the level of humility every time you inconvenience your respondents.
Another reason for a low response rate may be that you forget the mobile phone. In our experience, around half of the customers use their mobile phone when responding to a survey – this is particularly the case for B2C surveys. So if you do not make your design suitable for mobile phones, you may risk losing almost half of your potential respondents.
2. Too many questions
The more you get, the more you want, and while you are asking good and professional questions, there is almost always one more that you would like to squeeze in there. But your response rate drops for each question you add. Keep your questionnaire short, and when it comes to the NPS part, you should stick to “The One Number You Need to Know” and consider if you should add “What is the reason for your rating?”. You may choose to phrase potential answers, or you can make a text field. If you choose the text field, please remember that it will require processing. However, the input you get may prove very valuable.
Also remember to optimise your questioning technique. You must show a stable, professional foundation.
3. Wrong or ambiguous questions
The importance of asking the right questions is easily underestimated. It is actually very important which questions you ask and how they are phrased.
First and foremost, you need to define the objective of your survey. What is it you want to know the answer to? If the objective is to optimise a specific leg of the customer journey, you should build your customer satisfaction survey around their experience with that specific leg. An obvious place to start would be qualitative interviews.
When it comes to phrasing specific questions or statements that you want the respondent to consider, it is vital that the statement is unambiguous and clear, and that the respondent is not asked to consider more than one thing at the time. Furthermore, the respondent’s answers must be of a nature that enables you to act on them. The only way to achieve this is by asking the right type of questions in the right way.
Example: You want to know how your customers experience your technical support. You may therefore have a statement that goes:“I always get a fast response to my enquiries”. A perfectly valid question, but what do you actually want to use the answers for? If the customer says “No”, you are not any the wiser, and it will be difficult for you to act. If instead you ask the customer to rate the statement: “When I call technical support, the waiting time is less than three minutes”, then you will get a more useful answer. If you know that a waiting time of less than three minutes is important to your customers, you will know if you actually deliver on that, and that gives you something to act on.
4. Customer satisfaction becomes a personal project
In some organisations, satisfaction surveys become the responsibility of one department or maybe even just one person. Customer satisfaction should be an important focus area for the entire company, and buy-in must be created both horizontally and vertically throughout the organisation. All departments must be involved, and the top management must show active support. Only in this way can you ensure that all relevant inputs are put into play, and that backing and resources are allocated to conduct the survey and follow up afterwards.
5. Employees “help” the customers with their answers
It is important to make sure that you do not create undesirable incentive structures. If employees – for example sales reps or project managers – are rewarded if they obtain positive assessments, you risk that they work actively to influence the customers to answer (too) positively to the customer satisfaction surveys.
Yet another argument in favour of making the surveys a common project for all departments; it brings the process out in the open, which is good for everyone.
6. Lack of follow-up
Time and again, good work may yield poor results. In companies with many customers, a high response rate may ironically become a problem. Data processing and analysis may be a taxing job, and that may result in you not getting back to the respondents with the report or the main points you promised them when they agreed to participate. Some of the respondents who give you a low rating will expect you to follow up directly – and if there are (too) many in this category, it will become a huge task.
And when you forget your promise, and six to 12 months later start collecting data again, you reinforce the dissatisfaction, and you may even jeopardise your relationship with the customer in the process.
Avoid this situation by conducting your survey in stages to allow you time to collect, analyse and follow up before you start the next stage.
7. Poor knowledge accumulation
Surveys that are not systematic will only be snapshots that are of no real value. Make a structure that ensures that you measure consistently – make individual surveys comparable and conduct them at the same time(s) every year. This allows you to follow your development and evaluate directly on the effect of your initiatives. In addition, it is a really good idea to optimise the survey continuously based on the experiences you gain from each customer survey.
Good manners will take you a long way
As mentioned, it is important to remember that when a customer spends time completing your questionnaire, he is actually doing you a favour. So be polite – both because it is the right thing to do, but also because it is best for your business.
If it is at all possible, you should summarise the main takeaways and give your respondents access to them. In addition to giving your customer a positive experience, you show them that you actually use the feedback to develop. A better version of you is a better supplier to them, so everyone wins.