The other day, I took the survey for a multi-national fast food chain. Ten questions in, I was begging for mercy. You’d think that with as many minds as are behind such a company, they could at least string a decent survey together.
Unfortunately, for every good transactional survey, there are 10 bad ones. Whether it’s the 80 question nightmare, Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, or the high-brow academic windbag variety, you know a bad survey when you meet one. By publishing such things, companies basically shout from their ivory towers, “We don’t value your time, we just want data (though we likely won’t use it). You are and will continue to be, just a number to us.”
These mistakes are avoidable. The reality is, we need not require a root canal of our customers to gather the information our business needs.
An operations improvement transactional survey is essentially a simple conversation, a continuous dialogue between a company and its customers. Your survey either engages your customer and enhances your brand image, or drives your customer away. A successful customer experience survey aligns the informational needs of an organization with the interests of the customer continuously, and to the benefit to both parties.
Writing a good survey isn’t rocket science, it’s nothing more than the application of practical conversation skills…skills that you use every day.
Think before you speak
Design your survey with the end in mind. Ask the right questions. What is the most critical information you need to know. How will you report on the data? Think ahead and design it right, from the start.
Find common ground
We relate to one another by finding things we share. Build your survey on common ground. How and where can you collect your customer’s insights where it’s convenient for both of you? What are you willing to give to your customer in return for their effort? Ask about things that your customer cares about and can measure well.
How did you feel the last time you spoke with someone who chased a tangent at every opportunity? Within seconds, you were probably looking around the room for anyone else to talk to. Please…save…me!
Ask only those questions that are relevant to your customer’s service experience. Keep it simple. If it can’t be changed immediately, if it doesn’t vary from experience to experience, don’t ask. In a transactional survey, keep more research-oriented questions to an absolute minimum.
Keep it short
Find the natural balance between your reporting wants and your customer’s willingness to give you their time. As a general rule, if a survey takes you longer than three or four minutes…it’s too long. As the survey length increases, the accuracy of each response decreases. After getting stuck with him once, no one seeks out the guy that drones on forever for a second time around. Don’t ask me the minutiae, I don’t care. If you need more information than there’s room for, either rotate certain questions in and out of the survey, or just run an additional survey with a different focus.
The best conversationalists are the best listeners. I fall into this trap all the time. Just ask my wife.
A good survey is a listening survey. It is concise. It makes the customer’s job easy. Avoid lengthy questions–the wall of data on the web, long-winded on the phone. The customer’s time is best spent thinking and responding–not interpreting.
Let it flow
Good conversation flows. Your survey should move quickly and gracefully through the service experience, from start to finish. If there was a problem, drill down. Otherwise, move it along. As your customer, if I can’t see progress, if there’s no light at the end of the tunnel, I’m outta here. My time is valuable.
Walk a mile in their shoes
Always ask yourself first…would I be willing to take the time to complete this survey…not just once, but on a continuous basis? Be honest with yourself. Make the hard decisions to cut where needed. Don’t strangle the golden goose!
None of the above matters unless you’re prepared to act on the feedback. By asking the questions, you are implicitly committing to improve in those areas the next time around. Act or don’t ask.
Apply these simple conversation skills in your survey design and you’ll build enduring relationships with your customers. It’s not rocket science. You do this every day.