Think Outside the Survey
The last thing any customer wants is a 20-minute phone call in the middle of a busy workday or an e-mail with a survey attachment that’s 10 pages long. These types of surveys not only feel like a nuisance to customers who have a hundred other productive things to do, but they’re also expensive when you take into account the manpower required to track down willing respondents and then compile results. And most of the time, responses are incomplete or half-hearted, giving companies data that’s hard to work with at best and responses that lead them down the wrong path at worst.
That said, surveys can still have a place in the customer feedback loop, provided that they’re well designed and that they are introduced at the right point and with the right incentive attached.
First, make sure the survey is short and pointed. We’ll get to qualitative data in a few moments, but respondents are most willing to complete short surveys (10 or so questions) that allow for quick numerical ratings. Better yet, they’re much easier to tally so you can get a quick view of what you’re doing well and what needs work.
Second, introduce the survey shortly after a point of human contact with the customer. A customer should never feel as though you’re sending them a survey because you don’t have the time to actually talk to them. For example, if you send your customers a survey six months after your last follow-up call with them, they’re going to feel as though this is your way of saying, “Our time is precious, so we’d like you to take a few minutes out of your day to tell us what you think of us!” Instead, give them a call and ask them how their latest purchase is working out and then offer to send them the survey.
Third, offer them something in return. Your customers deserve to know how much they’re helping you by providing honest feedback, so offer to send them an additional information package to complement the training package they just purchased, or offer them 10% off their next purchase. After all, time is money, and they can’t be the only ones expected to make a sacrifice for your benefit.
Now, A Word About Qualitative Feedback
Some of the best information you can get will come from qualitative feedback, but how many times does a survey come back with just a couple of words jotted down in the “Other Comments” section: “Great job! We’ll keep you in mind in the future” or even just “N/A”.
Instead, train your front line staff to gather and record qualitative feedback when they contact customers for a follow up. Better yet, train them to respond with solutions. For example, it’s easy to say, “Good afternoon, Stacy. This is George from X Company calling. We were just wondering how your new furnace is working out for you and how the installation process went” as a means of opening the dialogue. If Stacy says, “Well, the furnace is working out really well, and it’s certainly a lot quieter than the last one we had, but it was kind of hard to work out a good time for the technician to come by,” don’t just have George write that down. Instead, make sure George keeps the conversation going with something like, “Hmm. Do you think it would help if we had technicians available at least a few evenings a week?” That way, Stacy knows her comment won’t get lost in the ether of comment cards, and she gets the assurance that the company really is interested in making improvements.