12 Critical Practices for Actionable Customer Satisfaction Surveys

customer satisfaction surveys

If you care about quality, the customer experience, and customer engagement, it’s time to look carefully at your customer satisfaction surveys. They’re a critical link in your process, because the information you obtain guides your enterprise at both the strategic and tactical levels. Customer satisfaction information needs to be representative, accurate, and timely. Here’s your checklist:

1. Establish in writing the goals of your survey and potential actions to be taken. This is a discipline that will prevent many mistakes and avoid much wasted work. Create a table with what you want to learn on the left and corresponding actions to be taken on the right. Think it through. Break it down. Put it in writing. Get feedback from your team before proceeding.

2. One size does not fit all when it comes to methodologies. Consider all contact methodologies when surveying such as e-mail, web, mail and telephone. Different methodologies suit different types of surveys, so evaluate the timing of the survey, length of the survey, and the level of customer investment (emotional and financial) in the transaction or experience. These three areas provide a good launch point for determining whether a single or multiple methodology approach would be the best fit. One other issue to consider is the volume of potential respondents and your desired response rate.

3. Make sure your customer satisfaction survey gets you data in real time. There’s nothing like responding immediately to customer concerns and quickly managing customer experience issues. In the 21st century, there’s no reason your web and phone survey results can’t be on your desktop or sent to you in a mobile alert—in an instant. If satisfaction of customers, listening to customers, and responding to customers are important to your brand, you need to go to the trouble to get real time customer satisfaction data, presented in actionable form to the people who can respond, on a platform that reaches the right employees at the right time.

4. Insist on a higher standard of customer engagement from your telemarketing firm or phone survey service. A teleservices company that’s just banging out the numbers at the lowest possible cost isn’t going to engage the customer with politeness and respect. The result is less valid data and less detailed comments. Those comments are important in understanding what the customer is really pleased about—or really annoyed about. Make sure you’ve chosen the right firm to gather your customer satisfaction data, and hold them accountable.

5. Keep your survey concise to increase response rate and to avoid a surplus of “unused” data. Lengthy surveys can reduce response rate in any methodology. Decide what data is really critical and actionable. You want to know how satisfied the customer was and why. There is no value in longer surveys IF your organization is not reviewing and acting upon the information. Be considerate of your customer’s time and aware of your organization's limits for analysis and responsiveness.

6. Use open-ended survey questions to obtain specific reasons for satisfaction ratings. After obtaining a summary rating, you probably want to ask, “Why do you feel that way?” When you ask this question, make sure to tell them you appreciate detailed feedback.

7. Use open-ended survey questions to elicit details that might otherwise not be discovered. For example, a person reporting a low level of satisfaction might reveal a positive if you ask, “What did you like most about the experience?” And an area for improvement might be discovered after an overall positive experience by asking, “What did you like least about the experience?”

8. Get ratings and reviews from customers on the primary products or services that your prospects are concerned about. When asking for ratings or reviews on only a few items, make sure they’re relevant to prospect interest and can feed the sales funnel. Also, those ratings can be more persuasive when you share them in social media.

9. Use simple rating scales, and consider your desired “depth” of data analytics. The most often used scales are the easiest for customers, because they are familiar. The most familiar scales include 1-5 stars for “reviews,” from bad to good. A five point scale from Strongly Disagree to Strongly Agree is commonly used. A 10 point scale with 10 being the best is also widely used and is the preferred scale if you intend to conduct regression analysis and dive deeper into analytics and behavioral drivers. While there are too many to list here, there are many reasons why 10 point scales provide more value than smaller scales.

10. Make survey questions simple, straightforward, and precise. Be direct, and use concise wording. Avoid uncommon words and unfamiliar terminology.

11. Avoid prejudicial wording and leading questions. The best way to accomplish this is to make sure that the way the survey questions are worded makes no presumptions about what is good or what the customer prefers. Remain neutral as much as possible.

12. Test your questionnaire and script before scaling it up. Listen carefully to test subjects, and make adjustments to eliminate customer uncertainty and confusion.

Customer satisfaction surveys are only worthwhile if they have the potential to influence actions, including policy and strategy. By following these best practices, you’ll assure that customer satisfaction measurement becomes the point of the spear in improving quality, the customer experience, and customer engagement.

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