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The anatomy of customer satisfaction surveys: 4 questions to ask yourself first

Customer Satisfaction Surveys

Customer satisfaction surveys are a critical tool to gauge the customer experience. But before you start asking your customers anything, there are a few questions you need to ask yourself in order to ask the right questions for your organisation.

In my previous blog, we looked at the pros and cons of various metrics you can use to measure your customer experience. You’d be forgiven for thinking that’s the hard part (sorry). But all of that is negligible if you don’t have a customer satisfaction survey in place to gather that all-important data in the first place.

Customer Satisfaction Surveys

By putting some serious consideration into the survey anatomy, you will be able to gather the kind of feedback from your customers that will help you work towards your customer experience goals. This isn’t just about deciding which questions you will ask, but deciding when and where you will ask them.

Start by answering these four crucial questions:

1. What are the customers’ expectations?

How many customer satisfaction surveys have you received in the last year? I can recall three in the last week alone, and that’s just from calling my electricity provider’s call centre. Every time we visit a website or call a customer helpdesk, we’re just seconds away from being told how valuable our feedback is.

The problem is, with more and more customer surveys, we run the risk of consumers becoming impervious to them. We expect them, but that doesn’t mean we will always hang on the line to complete them. But if you don’t offer a survey, people want to know why not. Why don’t you care about their feedback? It’s a double-edged sword.

Another risk is that surveys are being viewed with increasing scepticism, with consumers not truly believing that the organisation will do anything with their well-considered responses. To combat this, firms need to be brave enough to reveal the feedback and show exactly what you are doing about it.

2. Which channel?

The majority of organisations use a combination of channels to interact with customers – phone, email, web chat, SMS, social media and more. But the only channel you should be using to survey customers is the one they used to interact with you.

If they contacted you by phone, provide the survey at the end of the call. If they have been mostly communicating over email, send an email with a link to an online survey. Be wary of shifting the channel to suit the organisation – as with any interaction, it needs to suit the customer.

3. When is the right time to ask?

With customer satisfaction surveys, the temptation is to only gather immediate feedback. After all, the best time to ask a customer about their experience is when it’s still fresh in their mind, right? Wrong. This won’t always give true results.

Let’s say a customer calls and speaks to a customer service agent, Frank. Following the call, the customer completes a survey and scores Frank highly on service. Then a few days pass and Frank hasn’t delivered what he said he would. If you asked the customer for their feedback now, you would get a very different response. In fact, can we say that the original survey results are even valid anymore?

To overcome this issue, a better approach is to vary the timing of your surveys, conducting some immediately and some two or three days after the interaction.

4. Which level of survey?

There are essentially three levels of survey you can implement. The one you choose depends on your view of the customer:

– Transaction based

This most basic level of survey is predominantly used by organisations with a fairly limited end to end view of the customer. The survey is focused on gathering feedback from single completed transactions: “You just called/emailed/visited – will you answer some quick questions?”

–  Enquiry  based

The enquiry-based survey has a broader focus on the customer’s experience in trying to resolve a specific enquiry. For example, when I switched electricity providers, I called the company, exchanged some emails, and called a final time to complete the switch. In total, it took three or four interactions to resolve my enquiry.

Rather than providing a survey at the end of each interaction, the survey takes place at the end of the whole enquiry, therefore getting the measure of the end-to-end customer experience.

–  Journey based

This level of survey zooms out further to provide the most holistic view of the customer experience. A great example of this is a mobile phone provider. Over 12 months, you might change your mobile contract, upgrade your phone, increase your data allowance and engage in a number of other interactions with the provider.

The journey-based survey will essentially ask: “What is it like to be our customer? How easy or difficult is it?” This survey takes into account all sorts of factors, ranging from those things the company can control, such as customer service and pricing, to those they cannot, such as media influences and word of mouth.

Whichever level of survey you decide on – and it might be a combination – you need to be intelligent and ask the right questions through the right channel at the right time. In our next blog we will look at the other non-traditional sources of customer insights – surveys are not the only way of listening to your customers.

Scott McMillan - General Manager - Business Consulting, Salmat About Scott McMillan - General Manager - Business Consulting, Salmat
Scott McMillan is Salmat\'s General Manager of Business Consulting. He has a passion for driving exceptional customer experiences through multi-channel environments. He believes that finding the right equilibrium between people, process & technology can create real world opportunities for all organisations. A strong proponent of finding the right ‘mix\' is ensuring you evangelise the ‘outside in thinking\' principles.