Have you ever wondered if those surveys companies relentlessly send are biased or missing the point? You’re right. Most surveys are so flawed they’re broken. In this 5-part series, I’ll share how my company checks and fixes surveys because if flawed surveys are everywhere, possibly yours could improve too!
Bad Customer Surveys are Everywhere
Last year, I wrote about how Whole Foods asks customers to take their survey in a disorganized way. I also examined an Alaska Airlines survey that, with 94 questions, puts the fatigue in survey fatigue. I’ve dissected surveys from a broad array of industries, from Ace Hardware to Kaiser Permanente, and found bad customer surveys everywhere. In fact, they appear to be a multi-billion-dollar industry.
Let’s Imagine a World with Better Surveys
Let’s imagine a world in which companies ask relevant questions in meaningful ways. Companies would only use surveys to interact authentically and learn from their customers. They would put a kibosh on leading questions and never bug customers with rote inquiries. They would treat surveys as the serious pursuit of objective, insightful, and actionable truths.
You Can Have a Good Survey
Years ago, my company came up with a 20-point list to check the surveys we develop for clients against. We continue to use this list every day. The thing is, 20 points is a lot to digest in one sitting so starting today, I’ll release 3-5 checks per week. I’m hoping that with just a few checks at a time, you’ll be able to consider each one in light of your own surveys. If you do, you’ll be well on your way toward better surveys in a little over a month. Let’s get started!
Check #1: How representative is your data?
Misrepresentative data happens when your survey data only comes from certain kinds of customers and doesn’t represent your customers at large. For example, your data could come from those with lots of free time, those with a specific gripe, or those who gave their email addresses. Basically, with misrepresentative data, your survey sample omits one or more customer groups—or your survey sample is too small to give you reliable facts.
FIX: Examine who your incoming data comes from. Perhaps you sell to five verticals, but only one vertical consistently takes your survey. In this case, the fix is to slightly incentivize customers of those other verticals. Or, you can use proactive methods like customer interviews to reach out to the pockets of customers who are failing to respond.
Check #2: Is there gaming?
Gaming is when associates only survey customers they believe had positive experiences. They also might ask customers to answer the survey in exchange for implied or explicit favors. For instance, perhaps you were haggling over the cost of a big-ticket item, and an associate said they could come down in price for a good review. Garbage in. Garbage out.
FIX: Take reps out of the equation. They should never have anything to do with who gets your survey or how it is sent. And they certainly shouldn’t be using it as a negotiation tool.
Check #3: Do you ask Leading Questions?
Leading questions prompt customers for the answers you want to hear. Both tone (when done over the phone) and verbiage are used to push customers toward particular answers. For example, “How satisfied were you?” assumes the customer was somewhat satisfied. “How likely are you to recommend us to a colleague or friend?” assumes the customer is somewhat likely to recommend.
FIX: The best way to rid your survey of leading questions is to get a fresh set of eyes on your survey. If you can’t bring in another company, have another team in your company or friends take your survey. Have your testers mark any areas where that they felt pushed in some way. By the way, occasionally, there is a kind of leading sentiment that’s useful, and that’s an indication that says ‘we think we can improve.’ You’re assuming you could improve, but that’s probably a realistic perspective to have.
Tune in next week for more checks and fixes for your customer surveys.