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5 tips for deploying surveys and collecting customer feedback

Businesses need to have a plan before surveying customers. While it is important to gather feedback regarding experiences, it is also important to act on the information received.

Surveys can be tremendous tools for gathering customer data -- if done right.

Some experts say that many companies have lost sight of the survey's purpose. They can be sent too often, are often too long and ask consumers to answer questions that businesses already know the answer to, resulting in survey fatigue. Other times, businesses survey customers but don't actually act on the feedback they receive, or they collect quantitative data without asking customers for feedback about why they gave that response.

In the next five years, surveys will be gone, said Musa Hanhan, Certified CX Professional and senior director of CX at a computer software company. Or, at least, surveys will be in a different form than what exists today.

But, if businesses revisit the purpose of sending out surveys, they may be around for some time to come.

"We just need to get better [at] deploying the surveys we're deploying," said Aimee Lucas, senior principal analyst at Qualtrics XM Institute.

If surveys are designed well, businesses can get directed verbatim responses from customers, said Nicole France, vice president and principal analyst at Constellation Research.

Nicole FranceNicole France

"There's a real art and science to using surveys effectively," France said.

Optimal use of surveys

There's a perception that CX revolves around surveys, and businesses need to look at how they are using the data they collect, Hanhan said. Businesses shouldn't send surveys just for the sake of sending surveys.

Musa HanhanMusa Hanhan

"You have the data, and you need to think about how you're going to use that data," Hanhan said.

While surveys have their place in businesses, leadership needs to be sure to optimally deploy them. Some tips for creating and deploying optimal surveys include the following:

  • Use a variety of quantitative and qualitative questions. Asking consumers to answer a question based on a number scale is OK, but it is also important to have them explain why they answered the way they did.
  • Act on data. Businesses should deploy surveys with the intent of driving change in their organization. Once a company collects customer feedback, it is necessary to analyze it and act on it.
  • Don't ask questions for which there is already a known answer. Many businesses include questions on surveys they already know the answer to. For example, a customer may get an email thanking them for a recent visit to a store, but when they open the survey, the first question asks, "Did you visit a store?" Avoid these types of questions so as to not waste customers' time.
  • Change up survey questions. Many surveys tend to ask the same question repeatedly, regardless of how many times a customer has completed the survey in the past or interacted with the company. Changing survey questions from time to time enables businesses to collect new information from consumers and continue to learn about their experiences.
  • Target the right audience. Businesses need to send the right surveys to the right customers. For example, perhaps an airline seeks feedback on the comfort of its first-class cabin, but a blanket survey is sent to everyone on that flight -- including those in coach. Survey results will be skewed, and the airline won't get the data it seeks.
We just need to get better [at] deploying the surveys we're deploying.
Aimee LucasSenior principal analyst, Qualtrics XM Institute

Business leaders should also train employees before deploying surveys, Lucas said. Leaders should let workers know what the business expects of them and what kind of CX the brand expects to deliver. When things go well, they should celebrate and recognize employees. And, when things don't go as planned, organizations should find out where the roadblocks are, whether it be management, outdated tools or another issue.

Aimee LucasAimee Lucas

"Don't put the fear of customer feedback into employees," Lucas said. "Instead, give them the tools they need to do their jobs."

Alternate ways to collect customer feedback

There is always going to be a need for some sort of ongoing learning from customers, Lucas said. Organizations can't get complacent, as perceptions and attitudes change over time. Businesses can largely automate the process of collecting and acting on data using predictive analytics. By purposefully sending surveys to a small population of customers, businesses can project those insights onto a larger population.

For example, an airline may collect feedback from a small group of travelers regarding a malfunction in an in-flight entertainment system on a plane and find it was able to remedy a less-than-ideal situation by offering affected travelers free drink coupons or a partial refund on that flight. Predictive analytics might then say, if the airline has the same problem in the future, it can proactively offer travelers those same options before receiving customer complaints.

But surveys aren't the only way for businesses to collect voice of the customer insights. Here are some additional ideas:

  • Listen to recorded phone calls. Something many businesses already do -- especially in contact centers -- is record phone calls. Business leaders that listen to these conservations can analyze the interactions and glean feedback for both training purposes and to improve customer experience.
  • Adopt analytics tools. Analytics tools using AI, machine learning and natural language processing can also point to customer pain points. But businesses must first identify why they are using these tools and what they expect to gain from them. A purposeful deployment includes training AI to pick up on certain words, phrases and emotions that may clue businesses in on issues that need to be addressed.
  • Involve customers in creation and testing phases. Customers can help co-create, pilot and test products and services giving them the opportunity to provide feedback before they're rolled out to the general population.
  • Use social media monitoring tools. Social media monitoring enables organizations to gather feedback online. However, it's important to note that businesses will see extremes. Customers tend to leave feedback showing they're angry or pleasantly surprised with no real understanding of what happened in the middle.

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