Are your customer satisfaction surveys… dissatisfying your customers?

Surveys are a customer touchpoint like any other — so manage them accordingly.


A friend of mine relayed a story to me last week about a customer survey from his cellular service provider.

He had decided to switch phone carriers and, after he notified his current provider, he received a follow-up phone call from them asking if he’d participate in an exit survey.

So far so good.  Even better than good.  Here was a company making a genuine effort to understand why its customers were leaving.  How often do you experience that?

After agreeing to participate, he was transferred to an automated phone survey, which began by asking my friend to key in his cell phone number.  When he did, the system responded that his phone number could not be identified.  And that was the end of that.

I doubt this was an isolated incident.  Rather, it sounds like this wireless provider has a systemic issue, whereby the phone numbers of departed customers are wiped from the database that its survey application uses to identify respondents.

And so rather than help close out the relationship on a constructive note (“sorry to see you go…  please help us improve”), this survey made the carrier look incompetent and just served to validate my friend’s decision to move his business.

Surveys themselves are a customer touchpoint.  Just like any other interaction, how surveys are executed can either enhance the customer experience or detract from it.  Common examples of where companies go wrong in this regard include:

  • Surveys that are inconvenient.  What?  You don’t like answering a few questions in the middle of dinner?
  • Surveys that aren’t user-friendly.  Does your paper survey look like an IRS form?  Does your online survey ignore all fundamental web design principles?
  • Surveys that arrive late.  Are you asking your customers to comment on the minutia of a particular interaction?  Don’t tax their memory by surveying them a month later.
  • Surveys that are onerous.  Even your most ardent fans have better things to do than respond to your thirty minute, fifty question survey.
  • Surveys that are biased.  If you want candid feedback, you’ve got to design your survey to elicit it.  That means no leading questions, skewed scales, or front-line staff who beg for the highest rating.
  • Surveys that ask the obvious.  Don’t waste precious survey real estate (or your customer’s time) by asking for information that you’ve already got or can infer from your records.

Using surveys to tap into the voice of your customer is a smart move.  Even smarter, though, is recognizing that the survey itself is a customer touchpoint that can either strengthen or weaken your brand experience.

Be sure to craft your survey program with this in mind – and avoid turning your customer satisfaction surveys into a source of dissatisfaction.


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