How to Invite the Most Honest Customer Feedback

Case Study: SurveyGizmo


by Martha Brooke | December 10, 2018

An often-cited statistic is that 80% of CEOs believe they deliver a superior customer experience, yet only 8% of their customers agree. With an equally-alarming ACSI score of 77, it’s fair to wonder: are you sure you know what’s going on with your CX—is it possible you’re missing something?
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Do you have time for a survey? Can you give us some feedback?  Tell me how I did!

We are all too familiar with customer feedback requests as they bombard us from every side: email signatures, website pop-ups, phone queues (“press 1 after this call to …”), even the grocery gal circles a survey she’d like us to take at the bottom of the receipt.

Companies seem eager to know what we think about everything. But does it work?  Do they get our honest opinions? And do they get scientific data that helps them improve?

Let’s save the customer surveys themselves for another day and start at the beginningthe request to take the survey. The objective of the request is to get the customer to take the survey, of course; but it is also much more than that. Ideally, the request will also invite honest customer feedback and convey that the customers’ responses truly matter.

SurveyGizmo in the Spotlight

To better understand this issue, we’re going to put SurveyGizmo in the spotlight. However, we’ve seen variants on their leading approach thousands of times.

When we reached out to SurveyGizmo with a question, they answered by email and included a request for our feedback (as seen above).

What do you think? Is CEO David Roberts getting high fidelity, accurate data from this survey? Should he make business decisions as a result of this survey? Will this survey gauge the quality of the customer experience?

Here’s What Went Wrong

At first glance, this survey request is pleasant, but you don’t have to dig very deep to see that it is perilously leading and biased.

  • For starters, the reference to having “a magical day” is an odd construction that feels forced. In a business setting (and this is a company that sells to other businesses) it’s distancing.
  • Second, the comment “I love feedback!” paired with “Let me know if I was helpful” is leading and suggests the associate expects positive customer feedback. In fact, it’s fair to wonder if the associate will be bonused for getting a good feedback score.
  • Finally, “Let me know if I was helpful” limits customer feedback to the topic of helpfulness, and implies that the associate was, indeed, helpful.

In a nutshell, the problem with a biased survey request is that it favors responses from customers who had the most positive experiences—and thereby fails to capture the breadth of the customer experience. At the C-Suite level, customer feedback collected from biased requests should be recognized as compromised and incomplete.

3 Simple Guidelines

Here are 3 simple guidelines to improve your survey requests:

  1. Ask for honest feedback, not just the positive feedback, e.g., “We’d like to know what you think about our service – the good, the bad, and everything in between.” Or, “We’d like your feedback so that we know how to improve.”
  2. Show that customer feedback matters by indicating how you’ll use it, e.g., “We carefully review all feedback so that we can improve your experiences with <SurveyGizmo>.”
  3. Allow customers to bypass your survey all together and free-form their responses in an email reply. Then, code those responses so they can be included with the rest of the survey data.

 A good survey request shows that you are listening to whatever your customers have to say—the positive, the negative, the interesting, the prosaic—because it all matters. All of it informs what’s going on with customers’ actual experiences.

What do you think? What else would improve SurveyGizmo’s survey request?

Let’s improve the customer experience. It starts with the art and science of customer listening.

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