Martin Summerhayes (martinsummerhay) wrote,
Martin Summerhayes

Effective customer surveys are more than just a bunch of questions

Customer satisfaction is worthless. Customer loyalty is priceless. ~ Jeffrey Gitomer

When you are delivering services to customers, one of the most common feedback mechanisms, is the Customer Survey. Having led a European-wide Customer Experience team for an international services company, where we were actively involved in the definition, design, launch and management of customer survey programmes, we were faced with multiple challenges over the value of surveys and ultimately, what do you do with the results.

Primary Challenges: These can be broken down as follows:

Who defines the surveys and the questions?
The Service team? the Sales team? The Marketing Team?

ISSUE: Each will have their own agenda and the reasons for the questions that they will pose. For Service - it's all about tell us how well we are delivering; For Sales - it’s all about finding out if the customer is about to enter or is in a major sales cycle; For Marketing - it’s all about finding out if the customer is a possible reference company that can be used in other marketing campaigns. Etc, etc.

What type of survey are you going to ask?
Level 3 - Event / transaction based? Where after a customer has had some form of interaction with your organisation, you capture the fact that they have. You then seek to survey the person from the customer who had the experience - whether it is service, sales, web, face-2-face, over the phone, etc. These are generally called Transactional Surveys.

ISSUE: Are you reflecting a specific event and relating it to your overall service / value proposition? Is the person that you are interviewing a decision maker in the buying cycle of the transactional events?

Level 2 - Service based? If you provide a suite of services to your customers, you might then have a services survey, where the head of the services team will, generally, interact with the customers head of service and have a face-2-face / or phone-based survey. A scripted set of questions, with opportunity for free-form feedback.

ISSUE: The ability to set up and manage the face-2-face meetings? The ability of the surveyor and survey responder to go off message? consistency of knowledge capture? Do you invest and pay for an external agency to do the service? If you do, will they have sufficient skill and knowledge about your business to be able to capture the nuances in the conversation related to your business?

Level 1 - Overall Organisation based?
The highest level of survey. This is where you wish to gauge the overall relationship of organisation to organisation - at all significant levels and across the customer lifecycle - awareness, purchase, service, billing, commercial, etc.

ISSUE: This is where you need to understand and engage with the decision makers in the customer's organisation. Do you have the relationships? This has to be done face-2-face and not passed to an outside agency. This has to carefully planned based on months of prior activity and not just a single reflection. After all, if you were to try to do a survey on your own personal relationship with someone - be it parent, sibling or partner - we all intrinsically know that you are trying to gauge a long term relationship, with all the bumps and grinds that happen.

Other Challenges:
There are a number of other challenges that you have to face, almost as important, that get mixed into the survey melting pot.

Over surveying. The survey touchpoints can lead to survey apathy, which can make the results even worse! The survey recipient does not think about the questions, but just feeds back randomly.

Time delays. The delays from the survey taking place and the results being fed back into the organisation. What on earth can you do if the survey took place 3 months ago? Can you remember how you felt 3 months ago? How you reacted to a situation? You need to ensure the survey is done as close to the event or interaction and is acted upon quickly.

Disconnection. The disconnect between the survey mechanism and actions to change the organisation to improve the customer's perception. If you do not directly connect the customer survey teams to the senior execs and drive the active participation and leverage of the results, trying to get an organisation engaged, let alone, actively leveraging the results to drive change, is somewhat akin to throwing cooked spaghetti at a wall and seeing what sticks.

Focusing on the negative. Only focusing on the negative responses / comments and not the positives. If you are in services, there is this build in ethos that you have to fix what is broken. So, too often, people will focus on what is broken and try to fix that, rather than holding up and extolling the positive results. The best practices and share those.

Primary Inputs to Consider:
I would argue that you need to think outside-in from the customer into the organisation as a starting point. You need to think of what you are trying to measure - that is the overall loyalty of the customer - how they would want to continue to work with your organisation and buy the products, services and solutions from you. I would contend that measuring customer satisfaction is transactional and that you really should try to measure loyalty. After all, how many times have we experienced a poor service or interaction event, but continue to buy the product, service or solution?

Potential Ideas to help: So, reflecting about that, perhaps you need to think about:
How loyal are your customers? How likely are they going to be to defect to another provider? What are the key drivers and potential for defection? Cost? Service Quality? Perceptual importance we give to them as customers and to us?

Am I improving on what is driving loyalty? Is it service quality? Innovation? Cost benefits? Gain share? Joint market share? Do you even know what are the key drivers to improve loyalty?

What is driving loyalty? Where should I invest? Most markets have competitors - where are they investing? Where should you invest?

What revenue and future business is at stake if I do nothing? Do I need to consciously segment my customers into retain, reward, or ignore types? Does the organisation support the idea of rewarding some and ignoring others?

When you have reviewed the answers to these questions, you will be able to identify the key attributes of the surveys questions and the outcomes you want.

As always, I leave you with this quote….

Merely satisfying customers will not be enough to earn their loyalty. Instead, they must experience exceptional service worthy of their repeat business and referral. Understand the factors that drive this customer revolution. ~ Rick Tate

Tags: customer experience design, customer service, outside in thinking, survey, work

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