Commentary

Too Many Long Customer Satisfaction Surveys: Not Satisfying

At face value, customer satisfaction polling is a great thing.

As a customer, I try to respond to as many satisfaction surveys as possible for a variety of reasons. First, I think it’s respectful to provide feedback to companies and people you do business with. Second, providing feedback may improve products and services I care about or depend on. Third, as a marketer myself, I like to take satisfaction surveys so I can peel the onion on top issues and survey the techniques of other marketers.

But this month’s volume of satisfaction surveys has been overwhelming.

I just wrapped up several business and personal trips over the past few weeks, including SXSW, Disney World, and several cities in Canada and the U.S. My patronage of numerous conferences, restaurants, hotels, airlines, car-rental companies and online travel agencies has prompted a flood of customer satisfaction surveys.

I also received additional satisfaction surveys this month for other reasons. The domestic variety included car maintenance, updated Internet service plans, updated mobile phone plans, and some home contractor work. On the work front, I’ve received surveys for various professional and software vendors. I must’ve received at least 25 invites to take customer service surveys in March alone.

While they’ve long enjoyed a priority status in my inbox, survey automation tools (i.e., email, website intercepts and pop-ups and robot telephone pollsters) are increasing the volume and frequency of survey solicitations. As a result, satisfaction surveys must work harder to pass through my mental and email spam filters.

Those same automation tools are making it easier to administer longer, unwieldy surveys. If I get another robot pollster survey that requires more than 60 seconds of my life, I’ll be tempted to boycott the company behind it. It’s ironic that most of these surveys include the NPS score -- i.e, “on a scale of 10, how would you recommend this service to a friend?” The NPS score is heralded by customer loyalty experts as “the one metric that matters most,” but it tends to get padded by dozens of other questions. Do they matter and warrant my time?

To make matters worse, very few online satisfaction surveys are optimized for mobile-device response.

In my recent essay for Wharton’s Future of Advertising program, I underscored that “digital breadcrumbs” will become the new research. Traditional market research — particularly representative sampling and self-reported survey techniques — will never go away. However, those clunky, interceptive methods will eventually become subservient to the gathering and interpretation of large, passively gathered data sets that don’t represent populations, but are the actual measured behaviors of populations and individuals.

It is time for marketing professionals to embrace this concept for taking the pulse of customer satisfaction. In our increasingly byte-sized world, the interceptive survey variety won’t sustain as its volume and length keep increasing.

When self-reported surveys are mandatory, marketers and loyalty professionals must do a better job of keeping their surveys short, mobile-friendly and rewarding.

6 comments about "Too Many Long Customer Satisfaction Surveys: Not Satisfying".
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  1. Rickey Gold from rickey gold & associates, March 19, 2013 at 11:11 a.m.

    Couldn't agree more, Max. Any surveys that take longer than 90 seconds and I'm gone. The worst are when they don't tell you how long a survey will take and you're already on #10 when it says "you're 1/2 way done".....at which time I leave. Strange that marketers don't get how intrusive this is to customers (and potential customers).

  2. Lisa Gangadeen from The 33480 Group LLC, March 19, 2013 at 1:28 p.m.

    Very much in agreement with you, Max! Thank you for being so blunt about it and maybe companies will realize more how many we receive in any give day and curtail some of theirs. Now we need write a similar article about newsletters .... Thank you!

  3. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, March 19, 2013 at 2:41 p.m.

    Note: So many times their questions are irrelevant or your opinion is not an option. Garbage in.....

  4. Linda Thomas Brooks from LTB, March 19, 2013 at 3:26 p.m.

    You hit on a key issue. And while I applaud companies who want to continuously improve their consumer value, the fact that they are using survey results as a business metric has resulted in many new ways to game the system. I have recently received emails--in advance of a survey arriving--saying, in essence, "I hope you can give me a top score, and if not, please tell me first." Unfortunately, this will lead not only to a bad data set for the company involved, but it is going to create consumer fatigue and skepticism that will have an impact on all of us who want consumer feedback.

  5. Doug Garnett from Protonik, LLC, March 19, 2013 at 5:08 p.m.

    Couldn't agree more. It's time to rebel. I no longer fill out satisfaction surveys. This started with good intentions, but the wheels are off the bus. http://dsgarnett.wordpress.com/2013/01/10/using-satisfaction-surveys-to-create-unhappy-customers/

  6. Pete Austin from Fresh Relevance, March 25, 2013 at 5:59 a.m.

    I just got my car serviced at a new garage, because the lengthy customer satisfaction survey from my regular garage reminded me how bad they were.

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