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Customer Satisfaction Surveys: An Underrated Tool

posted by Michael Epps Utley Michael Epps Utley
Go Epps Blog Conducting Customer Satisfaction Surveys the Right Way

How is your business doing?

How is it really doing?

One of the best ways to find out for sure is by conducting a customer feedback survey.

While conversations and active listening during one-on-one sessions with buyers offer the best way to learn about the quality of the service your business provides, satisfaction surveys provide an opportunity to ask people questions that might otherwise go unanswered.

The issue: Customer satisfaction surveys are often conducted incorrectly, generating useless or — even worse — wrong information.

Surveys only generate valuable data and insights if you ask the right questions, in the best way, at the ideal time. This article explains how to develop surveys that will generate insightful buyer information you can use to improve your customer experience.

The Value of Customer Service Surveys

Let’s start by looking at why customer satisfaction surveys are critical for businesses today.

Satisfying customers is one of the things brands can completely control to differentiate themselves in crowded and competitive marketplaces. In most cases, the company with the best customer experience (typically reflected in ratings, reviews, and referrals) usually comes out on top.

Consumers today have too many options at their fingertips to deal with lousy — or even mediocre — products, services, or customer experiences.

The stakes are high when it comes to buyer satisfaction. It can take a long time to recover from a single bad online rating or review. Sometimes, recovery never happens.

Customer satisfaction (or CSAT) surveys are one of the most effective ways for your organization to find out how buyers feel in real time.

When you have access to the data customer satisfaction surveys provide, you can take proactive action to improve your buyer experience. It’s an efficient and timely way to identify issues you — and the people who work with you — may not be aware of.

Survey information allows you to turn negative customer experiences around and improve your overall product and service delivery. You will delight more purchasers and irritate fewer, leading to better customer loyalty and retention, increased sales, and less churn.

How to Develop Effective Customer Service Surveys

The reliability of your customer satisfaction survey data depends on getting honest and accurate answers to questions from your consumers. The top issue when designing and deploying surveys is getting honest answers from respondents.

Be aware: Research shows there will always be a small percentage of people who lie on surveys. This is especially true for questions related to what’s often referred to as the three Bs: behavior, beliefs, and belonging. Also, people sometimes provide inaccurate answers by accident.

The good news: Research points to solutions to these common survey-related issues.

Here are a few proven ways to develop surveys that generate meaningful and accurate data.

Keep Questions and Surveys Short

Come up with clear and concise questions. Find the most succinct way to ask something without making its purpose unclear. Make it your mission to eliminate unnecessary phrasing from your queries.

Overall survey length is also a critical component of keeping abandonment rates low. Only include questions about things you need to know about. Be ruthless when it comes to cutting unnecessary queries from your surveys. For instance, consider whether it matters how a customer first came in contact with your business.

Include Thoughtful, Open-Ended Questions

Most survey questions should be multiple-choice queries and rubrics (scales). They generate clear trend data you can act on.

However, some of the most insightful feedback often comes from open-ended questions that allow customers to explain how they actually feel.

Be aware: Nothing makes a survey seem intimidating like a large text box connected to the first question. It’s best to ask simple-to-answer questions first and create a sense of rapid progress. Then, give survey takers who’ve made it to the end the chance to say more if they want to.

Ask One Question at a Time

We’ve all been hit with a series of questions on a single screen. It can feel intimidating and often leads to high abandonment rates. If you want a lot of quality responses, serve up questions individually to give people time to address and think through each one.

Hitting people with too many queries at once results in half-hearted answers by respondents just looking to make it through to the end — if they don’t abandon ship first.

Keep Rating Scales Consistent

Scales used for surveys become confusing when they change from question to question.

For example, if you use a scale of 1-5, where 1 = “Strongly Disagree” and 5 = “Strongly Agree” early in the survey, then shift to 1 = “Most Important” and 5 = “Least Important” later in the experience, it could be confusing to survey takers and bad data.

Find ways to use consistent scales, or make it clear your scales have changed. This will prevent unintended errors and keep your data meaningful,

Avoid Leading and Loaded Questions

Questions that lead respondents toward a particular answer because of biased phrasing won’t get you accurate information. Respondents tend to answer in line with the way questions are asked. Plus, savvy respondents will see through this tactic, even if it’s not intentional.

For instance, a question that says, “Why do you love our company?” won’t generate accurate responses from people who dislike your business. A better question is: “How do you feel about our company?” Note the difference.

Leverage Yes/No Questions Properly

When asking a question about something simple, try to frame it as a yes/no choice. These closed-ended questions make for great survey starters because they’re typically easy for customers to understand and complete.

For Instance: “Did our support team make you feel valued as a customer?” doesn't require a scale. A yes-or-no option is more straightforward and should give you all the information you need. Plus, you can always follow it with an open-ended query to gather additional information, such as: “What did our team do to make you feel valued?”

Get Specific and Avoid Assumptions

When you develop questions that assume a customer knows something, you’ll likely run into issues unless you are surveying a highly targeted subset of knowledgeable people.

Avoid industry acronyms, buzzwords and jargon, or references.

Never assume people will answer with specific examples or explain their reasoning. It’s better to ask them to be specific and let them know you welcome detailed feedback.

Carefully Time Survey Delivery

Consider the best times to send out your surveys. Experts report the highest survey open and click-through rates occur on Monday, Friday, and Sunday, respectively. However, that may not be the case in your industry or for the people in your client base.

Think about when they may be free to complete a survey. If you’re not sure, consult with some actual customers to find out when they might have time.

Offer Survey Respondents a Bonus or Gift

Sometimes, it makes sense to entice customers to take your survey with a gift. Many studies show that incentives increase response rates. The incentives could be a discount, giveaway, account credit, or a product or service you sell.

The key is to find the right balance between incentivizing customers enough that they’re willing to take the survey without giving away too much that it harms your profitability. Your incentives need to be something you can afford — which is why credits and free trials often make the most sense.

Customer Satisfaction Surveys: The Final Word

Customer satisfaction surveys are a powerful and valuable tool when it comes to earning customer loyalty. The feedback provided by surveys — and the data generated by them — can give you information to improve your products, your services, and the overall customer experience. They’re also a useful opening to gaining more online reviews. Surveys can help you identify small issues before they become big customer satisfaction problems. Leverage the information in this guide to help you create surveys that yield insights you can use rather than junk responses or high abandonment rates.

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