When done correctly, customer satisfaction surveys uncover your wins, gaps, and missed opportunities. That’s why customer survey companies abound. But first things first, do you need a customer survey company? Or, with the various software platforms like SurveyMonkey, should you just pay for the software license and do it yourself?
Survey Software or Customer Survey Company?
Occasionally, you’ll run into a company that has developed its own survey software, but with so many good survey platforms available, that’s rare.
Usually, you’re working directly with the software provider or with a customer survey company that licenses the software on your behalf.
Software providers like Alchemer, QuestionPro, Qualtrics, and SurveyMonkey are all somewhat similar; a few, like Medallia, focus on enterprise companies and promise to bring myriad surveys and touchpoints together. Bottom line, there are lots of software options. But getting software in place is just the start.
Here’s where you need to decide if you have the resources to do effective research. Do you or your staff know how to:
- Write relevant questions pertinent to your audience and niche
- Customize and strategize when, how, and where to use Net Promoter Score
- Integrate CRM data into your customer survey campaigns–it’s the combination of who the customer is and their experiences that reveals the most insight
- Test and refine the accuracy of your Text Analytics software
- Run correlation tests to determine what’s driving your satisfaction scores
If you’ve decided to go the DIY route, be sure to check out our recommendations for how to ace your DIY Your Customer Survey. But perhaps you’re on the fence. You are wondering: are there advantages to working with a customer survey company? Specifically, what would you gain?
Objectivity: The Main Reason to Partner with a Company
The main reason you would include a customer survey company in your plans is that you want your survey written and implemented in an objective way. In the context of customer surveys, objectivity means:
- You have a strategy to ensure you hear from representative samples, not just customers with time on their hands. Basically, you’re able to prove that those who take your survey are similar to your customer base at large.
- Your survey questions and survey anchors have been checked for neutrality, so you know your survey is bias-free.
- The Text Analysis of your customers’ open-ended (verbatim) comments gives you replicable results.
Objectivity Matters If…
If the customer survey data you collect will inform business decisions, then objectivity matters.
For example, suppose you wanted to know whether you could replace your outside sales team with inside associates. Get it wrong, and your business could nosedive. Get it right, and you could dramatically improve your bottom line. With dollars at stake, settling for anything short of an objective perspective doesn’t make sense.
Or, if you were looking to restructure customer service and wanted to know which areas to focus on, this is another example of how objectivity should be a clear priority.
As Simon Berg, CEO of software company Ceros, states: “As a CEO, it’s impossible to remain objective about your product and company without calling on external feedback… (so) find those people within your organization (and outside of it) who see things with an unbiased perspective.” Ceros is a newer company operating in an established competitive marketplace. Therefore, it makes sense that Berg puts a premium on objective feedback.
But for behemoth companies that don’t have market share to win, surveys are often simply used as an outlet for customers to express themselves. If this is your survey’s purpose, honest feedback and objectivity about the customer experience may not matter.
The Landscape of Customer Survey Companies
If you’ve decided to use a customer survey company, a quick Google returns plenty of options. So how do you choose? Here are three questions to ask yourself as you consider the best company for you:
- What kind of research am I doing? Is this market or customer experience research?
- Is this a one-time project or an ongoing program?
- What level of analysis do I need? Will a simple aggregate score work? Or do I need metrics and analytics too?
1. Market or Customer Experience Research?
Market Research is a broad discipline that covers political polling, audience measurement, and product pricing decisions.
Customer Experience (CX) Research is a specific type of research that closely examines customers’ expectations versus their perceptions at particular touchpoints. It often arrives at a holistic understanding of the customer journey.
Even if you’re already working with a Market Research company, its scope may be too broad for your goals, and you may still need a company specializing in CX Research.
2. Survey Project? Or Ongoing Survey Program?
Will a one-time project suffice? Or do you need an ongoing survey program that monitors the customer experience over time?
For example, perhaps you want to know: how do my customers perceive the competitive landscape? It’s a big, important question you might ask once a year, but not more often than that.
On the other hand, if you’re looking to keep tabs on your help desk, tech support, repairs, etc., then you need ongoing daily feedback because you will want to identify new issues as they arise.
3. What level of analysis do you need? Just a Portal? Or a Dashboard too?
Usually, if it’s a one-time project, a portal showing you real-time data as it comes in is enough. Combined with a presentation highlighting key insights, you’ll get the actionable facts and insights you need.
But for survey programs, you probably want to set your sights on a dashboard where you can apply filters and uncover granular insights daily. This could even be a closed-loop system where you take action as the data comes in.
Clarify Your Goals
I hope this clarified the difference between survey software and a customer survey company—and if you elect to work with a company, what questions to ask yourself before you do. Like any business endeavor, researching customer survey companies starts by clarifying where you want to end up before you begin. So, think carefully about your goals. Onward to the best customer surveys!