Customer Survey: Tell Us What You Think

Monday Author:  Susanne Skinner

We Want Your Feedback, Customer Survey, Opinion, Repeat BusinessEmail marketing is unavoidable. It remains the gold standard of customer outreach for businesses building and maintaining their customer base.

Best practices regulate email cadence—too many become spam and risk lowering engagement levels. But the purchase of a product or service often triggers an automatic email requesting feedback in the form of a survey,

The Rules of Survey Engagement

Customer feedback is still the best way to understand what works well and what needs improvement. An irritated customer is more likely to respond than a satisfied one, and in our digital world, everyone sees what you said.

Surveys are an opportunity to collect and analyze data. It’s a valuable tool for gathering specific examples of positive and negative experiences.

Responding to a survey is a personal choice, and the delete key is there for a reason.  Statistics indicate the response rate is around 30% for the first email, and repeat emails reduce that number to less than 15%.

I defend this practice by saying businesses value what you have to say but lately the constant onslaught of surveys is crossing some lines. Store receipts now include a web site where I can rate my experience. Some offer the opportunity to win cash or store gift cards.

Last week I made a service appointment for my car with an email confirmation. Within seconds of receiving that email a second one arrived with the header “Rate your call with Isabella.” Are you kidding me??

A visit to my doctor’s or dentist’s office triggers similar email requests. I receive a request to rate the check-in process, the doctors, the staff and the wait time. If I ignore it, there are at least two follow-up requests.

I provide the same feedback Every. Single. Time. Wait times are too long due to over booking. Nothing changes, and I no longer respond.

The Value of Feedback

The past two years gave us a massive shift to online shopping that is likely to continue.  Buyers like me rely on comments and photos to influence our purchasing decisions.  Online shoppers develop discernment skills that tell the difference between an ignorant or angry buyer and a bad product.

Share Your Opinion, Customer Survey, Response, Repeat BusinessI am especially conscientious when making purchases through Etsy or eBay. The sellers depend on ratings visible on their websites. I take the time to provide an evaluation along with a few comments. On one occasion I had a quality issue immediately rectified by the seller and to me that also merits a positive rating. Sometimes things go wrong, and the ability to fix them is the mark of a conscientious vendor.

Those considering the purchase of a high-end item are more likely to conduct online comparisons before making an in-store purchase. They compare pricing and consider feedback from those who have gone before them. Free shipping is often the tipping point that keeps a buyer out of brick-and-mortar stores.

Small Businesses Versus Large Businesses

Small businesses and cottage industries succeed or fail on their ability to satisfy their customers—they depend on loyalty. Repeat business is one of the best ways to retain and grow a customer base. Surveys become an important tool for keeping customers happy and providing purchasing confidence to potential buyers.

The value of customer satisfaction underwrites the old adage that loyalty can’t be bought. Good service remains the best and most visible way to retain clients. A lost customer is someone else’s gain. Unhappy buyers vote with their wallets and the Internet is full of alternative buying options.

Large Business, Small Business, Tall Man, Miniature ManLarge businesses are less attentive to customer feedback. They deploy surveys but the data they generate disappears into a black hole. Does this mean they lack the concern and capacity for change? I lean towards yes.

Unhappy customers matter less due to the size and volume of their business. Workers often lack training in customer service and have no authority to resolve issues.

Last week I went to a large sporting goods store for some assistance in comparing the features of three different kayaks. There was nobody in the department, but I found a clerk in another department to ask for help. There was none to be had. The apathy of overworked and undertrained personnel meant a lost sale and some negative feedback on their web site.

The Survey Annoyance Factor

An effective survey improves the buyer and the seller experience but when they annoy or alienate a potential responder, they become counterproductive. Their primary objective is to rate the products and services. A response that provides open and honest feedback, especially under the cloak of anonymity, is valuable data to any business seeking to maintain and improve their customer’s experience.

The failure of most surveys is in the way they are conducted. A server gets an automated message to send a survey regardless of the circumstances. They are indiscriminate, poorly constructed and generate a high annoyance factor.

I believe most responses to this type of survey are unactionable. That same server collects and stores them, never to be seen or heard from again.

Furthermore, asking someone to take a survey after every single purchase becomes transactional and loses its ability to be relational and actionable.

Nothing Changes If Nothing Changes

Well-crafted questions offer an opportunity for feedback from sporadic purchasers who are less familiar with your brand. They are more likely to yield useful data and lend themselves to building long term relationships.

Change Nothing and Nothing Changes, Response, Customer OpinionA survey chronicles the customer’s experience. Treat it as part of the buyer’s journey rather than impersonal and random reviews. Personalizing the outreach is the single most effective element in any survey.

The best way to view a survey is to remember that everyone is a customer and everyone has a customer. This mindset creates a culture invested in meaningful and actionable dialog.

This, more than anything, serves your customers well. A survey is only as good as the questions it asks. The real work begins when responses translate into change.

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About Aline Kaplan

Aline Kaplan is a published author, a blogger, and a tour guide in Boston. She formerly had a career as a high-tech marketing and communications director. Aline writes and edits The Next Phase Blog, a social commentary blog that appears multiple times a week at aknextphase.com. She has published over 1,000 posts on a variety of subjects, from Boston history to science fiction movies, astronomical events to art museums. Under the name Aline Boucher Kaplan, she has had two science fiction novels (Khyren and World Spirits) published by Baen Books. Her short stories have appeared in anthologies published in the United States, Ireland, and Australia. Aline’s articles have also appeared on the Atlas Obscura website. She has been an active member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America since 1988 and is a long-term member of the Spacecrafts science/fantasy writers’ group. As a tour guide, Aline leads architectural and historical walking tours of the city for Boston By Foot, ghost tours for Haunted Boston and historical bus tours of the city. She lectures on Boston history and has appeared in the Boston Globe, as well as on TV for Chronicle, an award-winning television program that broadcasts stories of New England. As a lecturer, Aline has spoken at Brandeis and Tufts universities for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. She has also addressed as service organizations and local meetings. She is a graduate of Northeastern University in Boston and lives in Hudson, MA.

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