I like taking customer surveys and do so nearly every time I have useful feedback to share. Perhaps it’s because I’m in the survey business. Or perhaps it’s because I like to feel “heard” as a customer.

Either way, I’m a sucker for a survey.

I usually buy my groceries at Whole Foods or Safeway. After some recent shopping experiences, I wanted to provide feedback. Serendipitously, my receipts from both stores asked the same question: “How was your shopping experience?” And they both provided URLs for my feedback, so I logged in.

Whole Foods, Wholly Frustrating

Whole Foods Market is a subsidiary of Amazon, which markets itself as “Earth’s most customer-centric company.” Given the connection, you would think Whole Foods would make it as easy as possible to get to its survey. After all, the customer is doing them a favor by sharing their feedback.

Alas, this was not the case. And Safeway’s survey opening screen had problems, too.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t surprising to those of us here at Interaction Metrics. We find many big companies fall short with their point-of-purchase customer surveys.

Two years ago, we completed a first-of-its-kind study of 50 of the nation’s largest retailers. We found critically-flawed surveys were rampant among them. In addition, their surveys were often challenging to access. Walmart’s survey, for example, contained a broken link making it impossible to open their survey up.

So while my experience with Whole Foods and Safeway was not surprising, it was still frustrating.

Safeway vs. Whole Foods Surveys

Whole Foods offered its customers a chance to win a $250 gift card for taking the survey. Safeway offered a $100 sweepstakes. But before I could ‘enter to win’ I had to get to the surveys and here I ran into issues.

And that’s a problem. If you make it hard for customers to start taking your survey, you skew your data. It biases the survey data toward customers who are willing to go the extra mile to take your survey—customers who arguably have more time on their hands or stronger feelings, positive or negative.

Surely Jeff Bezos, John Mackey, and John Miller, CEOs of Amazon, Whole Foods, and Safeway, respectively, want as many customers as possible to take their surveys.

A Closer Look at the Survey Invites

  • Whole Foods wants three pieces of information, while Safeway is satisfied with one piece of information plus your email address.
  • Whole Foods asks about the shopping experience and offers the sweepstakes, then interrupts the flow into the survey with a code to access the in-store bathroom.
  • Both receipts use very small fonts—and Whole Foods makes it even more difficult to read by clustering its code right next to the barcode and several other strings of numbers.
  • Safeway requires you to enter a code with 17 numbers, including with a colon, and tight kerning.
  • Whole Foods asks you to enter a 10-character code that includes a mix of letters and numbers.

Overall, the Whole Foods’ survey invite—with its multiple codes and poorly designed interface—was more taxing than the survey from Safeway. While Safeway’s was not without problems, it was better overall.

5 Ways to Simplify Your Survey Requests

The point of asking for feedback is to actually get feedback. So here are five things you can do to simplify your survey requests.

1. Use Operations Data

Whole Foods asked customers to enter three pieces of information from receipts they surely already have on file in their data system. They track their sales. And since I used my Prime membership for a discount, it feels doubly clunky to re-input the information.

Safeway got a little bit closer to this model by asking for only the code and then piping the store name into the next page, showing responsiveness to the customer.

Takeaway: Link operations data from your system to your customer surveys to keep customer input to a minimum.

2. Have Input Order Match the Receipt Order

Whole Foods’ survey requires you to jump around as it doesn’t ask for information in the same order it is printed on the receipt. Whole Foods further monkeys this up by tossing in a random bathroom access code and other numbers on the receipt.

Worse, you need to refer to a picture to help you decipher which number is which. Really? Come on… The Whole Foods team knows it’s so difficult to figure out which number goes where that they have to put a key on their survey’s opening screen?!

Takeaway: Safeway made it easier by offering only one clearly labeled number directly after the survey invitation, which required no additional information for the customer to understand what they need to do.

3. Use Numbers Only in Codes

Combinations of letters and numbers can be hard to read. It’s not always easy to distinguish between O and 0 or 1 and I. In addition, long strings are more difficult to remember than short 3- to 5-character chunks. The survey code for Whole Foods is guilty of both. Just use numbers! Most software companies know this and give you just a string of numbers for a software license.

Takeaway: Use a code with numbers only. Even our Social Security numbers, one of the most important numbers, is only nine digits long and broken into 3 neat chunks. Simplify your code to make it simple for your customers!

4. Use a Legible Font

Like many customers, I squint to read very small type up close. In this case, I had to reach for my glasses to figure out the survey code on the Whole Foods receipt since it was so tiny and packed so close to another long string beneath the bar code.

Safeway’s receipt is also guilty of this tiny font size, but at least the code was broken into smaller pieces to make it easier to read.

In addition to making it harder for customers, this introduces specific bias into the data. If it’s harder for people with poor eyesight to begin the survey, the data will skew to those with better eyes. It’s hard to say what this effect would entail, but there’s no need to introduce it at all.

Takeaway: Make your number code larger and more carefully spaced out on your receipt to make it simple for your customers to find and read.

5. Use a QR Code

One way to avoid these pitfalls, in addition to modernizing the process, is to use a QR code in tandem with the survey code.

With a QR badge, customers could simply scan the receipt with their phone and access the survey automatically without having to input anything.

While some customers may not understand or want to use this technology, it could exist in tandem with the manual input method. This may be the most elegant solution of all.

Takeaway: Incorporate a QR code to streamline and modernize your survey process.

Neither Survey Invite Was Perfect, But …

Neither survey invitation was perfect. But Safeway’s receipt made it much easier to access the survey than Whole Foods did.

Its simple format, clear labeling, and legibility facilitates smooth and easy customer feedback.

Safeway CEO John Miller wins this matchup over Whole Foods’ Mackey and Amazon’s Bezos.

In this busy, stimulating world, you’re always jostling for the time and attention of your customers. So if you really want feedback, make your survey request so simple a kid could do it.

Onward to the very best customer listening!


Categories: Customer Satisfaction Surveys
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