Your customers are sick to death of surveys: It's up to you to make them better

Matt Geary in Lead management on 26th of Nov 2018
nps improvement plan

NPS improvement plan

On a scale of 1 to 10, how effective are the customer surveys you're sending out? Don't settle for less than 10.

Annoying surveys: an origin story

The initial idea of creating a short customer survey was a good one. Fred Reichheld from Bain & Co. was the first to recommend it in 2003 — businesses could provide brief surveys to test brand loyalty. This overall methodology became what we now know as Net Promotor Score (NPS).

As it increased in popularity, the concept of NPS went through an unfortunate transformation. It was placed in the hands of average business practices, who created an infinite loop of satisfaction surveys that asked customers to review everything from takeout coffee to the latest shoes.

Nothing was safe from the dreaded customer survey. In the same way that tacky jingles ruined advertising, survey overkill was ruining NPS.

Leaving a review

The concept of NPS ties in perfectly with happy customer journeys. Customers are conducting their own research and embarking on their own journeys towards conversion. When they finally make a decision and commit to a purchase, they've invested a fair chunk of time into making that decision.

There's a growing customer sentiment that by rating a product or service, a stake in the company is gained. Customers may feel like thought leaders, experts or simply that they're affecting the brand by the merit of participation. Either way, this input validates the customer's journey (up until a given point) and helps other customers navigate their own journeys.

Double trouble: two problematic survey methodologies

There are two problems that plague businesses that are attempting to measure customer satisfaction with surveys.

The first problem is that lengthy surveys will turn customers off completing them. They'll either rush through the survey or abandon it altogether. A series of hastily circled "very satisfied" answers distorts your analysis, arguably making it worse than no feedback at all.

The second problem is the popular concept of tying benefits or bonuses to survey results. If employees are incentivized to receive good survey results, they will ask customers to leave perfect scores. Many of us have experienced this after a customer service call. The representative asks you to give them a 10 on the post-call survey, and you do it, even though you may otherwise have left a 5.

Both of these problems, especially when present together, result in inaccurate survey data that a business may use as its source of truth.

There's a time, there's a place and there's an experience

The beauty of the NPS is it gives customers a simple 0-10 scale to rate their experience. But a tool is only as good as its wielder.

The context of a survey determines its effectiveness. Customers are more likely to give useful feedback (and enjoy giving it) if it has something to do with an experience.

Service-oriented businesses have an advantage in the world of NPS and surveys. Customers on TripAdvisor leave reviews and fill out surveys because they can share their experiences with others. Those same customers aren't going to be as excited to give feedback about something that's not important to them.

Nor is asking for their feedback always necessarily useful. Pick the right time and place to request an NPS survey to avoid capturing bias results and triggering survey fatigue in your customers.

Survey fatigue

An excess of surveys creates disgruntled, unengaged customers. This is particularly true when surveys feel aimless or overly long. A study by Medallia Inc. revealed that for each minute spent on a survey, 2% to 4% of respondents would abandon it.

As marketers, product managers and businesspeople in general, we need to be respectful of our customer's experiences and time. Get the timing right and send NPS surveys that are constructive and few and far between.

Try sending a thoughtful survey once or twice a year that's specifically tailored to help improve products or experiences. If you listen and make reasonable changes accordingly, your customers will feel more engaged with your company.

Autopilot's native Delighted NPS integration allows you to automate NPS survey requests with organic, personalized journeys.

Activating NPS feedback can increase retention, create strong brand advocates and generate more accurate insights. In the end, your customer gains more value from your products, and you can more value from them. It's a win-win.

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