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.

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 pursuit of objective and actionable truths.

You Can Have a Good Survey

At Interaction Metrics, we developed a 20-point survey checklist that is part of our standard operating process. Drop us a line to request the complete list and here are the first three checks to get you started improving your customer survey right away!

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.

Categories: Customer Satisfaction Surveys
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Written by the analysts at Interaction Metrics, we highlight the latest developments in the fast-changing world of CX.