Vision Critical's Douglas Weighs In On Customer Surveys

Surveys can be a great way to collect detailed intelligence about your customers. But they are not always executed correctly. We talked about that topic with Tyler Douglas, chief sales and marketing officer at Vision Critical. 

1. What is the role of a customer experience survey?

Inspiring brand loyalty in the age of the empowered consumer is vital, and understanding the wants, needs, and preferences of your customer base are the key to achieving this. Customer experience surveys are implemented to provide a way to learn what customers like and dislike about their interactions with your brand, giving businesses an opportunity to make changes to improve customer loyalty or address persistent issues. 

2. What is the role of a survey in general as it regards customer experience? 

Ironically, surveys that are being deployed with the purpose of finding ways to improve customer experience are becoming part of the problem rather than the solution. Customers today are plagued with survey fatigue. Every brand they’ve ever interacted with is interested in their feedback, and customers now associate surveys with repetition and annoyance. In order to generate the highest quantity of genuine responses, requests for feedback from customers should be personalized, relevant, and respectful of their time and past participation. Without these aspects taken into account, surveys run the risk of becoming more detrimental than beneficial to a brand. 

3. What is your pet peeve about customer surveys? 

Customer surveys that treat respondents as interchangeable data points rather than real people. Every customer has an individual experience with a brand, and sending a blanket survey won’t accurately represent their history, demographics, or previously identified information or preferences. 

4. I always get the feeling that I'm going to get worse treatment if I don't agree to do a survey when on a survey phone call .... 

I would hope that’s not the case! The truth is, many people opt out of surveys because they don’t see the value in them, or they aren’t personalized in any way. Survey response rates today average around 12%. Most are too long, repetitive, and customers rarely see their insight being put into action. If brands want more customers to opt in to giving feedback, they need to personalize their interactions and make it worth the customers’ time and effort. Our customers have found that simply letting customers know their feedback was heard and how it is being incorporated is often enough value to drive up response rates. 

5. What is the most important thing to consider when designing a survey? 

Relevance. A shoe company that asks a customer who has only ever purchased sandals from them about winter boot preferences will leave a negative impression. It’s important to understand who the customer is and whether or not the designated interaction is relevant to them before reaching out. Not to mention, in the rare chance that sandal buyer does participate in the misguided survey, it will skew the accuracy of the intelligence gleaned from it. 

6. Give some examples of the right way to craft questions. 

When it comes to gathering customer intelligence, I keep three rules in mind: treat customers like family — truly care about them, engage with the same group of customers consistently, but not constantly (avoid over-saturating any one customer), and draw on insight that already exists from them to build a greater knowledge base from which to make future business decisions.

7. Give some examples of the wrong way to craft questions. 

Creating questions without understanding what you’ve already asked customers is a big mistake. Repeatedly asking for the same information will automatically result in fewer responses. 

8. What is the optimal number of questions? 

If you’re actively engaged with your customer base, working off an existing relationship with customers who enjoy providing feedback, then a survey’s length become less of an issue. You can ask just one question to a targeted group of customers and get exactly the intel you need. Or you could ask 10 and see high response rates. There’s no right answer for the optimal number except to say that if they’re relevant for the group you’re asking them of and it’s clear to them that you respect the time they invest in giving you feedback, it matters less the question count.

9. What is the biggest mistake people make with customer surveys? 

The biggest mistake that brands make with customer surveys is only investing in them as one-offs. New customer intelligence tools exist that enable brands to talk with their customers, make connections, get insight, analyze, and come back and close the loop with them, either through follow-up questions or by letting them know what you learned. These genuine connections build the relationship with customers over time and result in more reliable, valuable feedback that is guaranteed to improve a business. 

10. What else do you want to say about the topic? 

Customers want to provide feedback about their experiences with brands, but they want to do so through a meaningful, two-way dialogue instead of a one-way questionnaire. One-off surveys might provide high-level data, but to truly understand a customer and what is needed to improve their experience, a conversation will always go further. People want to be heard.

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