Companies Beware -- Your Customer Surveys Betray You

I think the way a company writes its surveys says a lot about the company.

Have you noticed how many surveys seem to skirt around the really meaningful questions? When they ask for your experience with a recent purchase, they ask at what level the company met your expectations on a scale from 1 to 10. Then they break down the question into subparts like this:

-Was your product delivered on time? Answer on a scale of 1-10.
-Did you receive the product as ordered? Answer on a scale of 1-10.
-Was the product in good condition when you received it? Answer on a scale of 1-10.
-Was the sales representative who took your order courteous? Answer on a scale of 1-10.

And the questions go on for 20-30 minutes without ever addressing the real problem. I will never order from them again even though I gave them a 9 to 10 rating on ALL of their questions.

So what is the problem?

The problem is that in spite of the courtesy of the sales person, I was frustrated by their heavy accent and their inability to understand fully what I was saying to them. I had to repeat and spell out my name, address, city, state, zip and other information four to five times.

The survey never gave me an opportunity to tell the company my real problem. No open ended comments section was provided.

Those surveys that do give me a chance to describe the problem require that I answer all of their questions first before dealing with MY problem.

In such cases, I will abandon the survey before going further because they took too long  to ask me what the problem was.

What really riles me is this. It's as if the authors of the survey already knew about the problem. That was why they never asked it or gave me a chance to write it up. They are in denial.

As a customer, all I wanted to do is write one single paragraph with my concern without bothering to answer the other irrelevant questions. But no. The online survey forces me to tell them how great they are before I can get to a comments section.

The questions may be relevant to the company. But as a dissatisfied customer, great performance in all other areas were neutralized by MY problem.

The bottom line: the survey actually betrayed the company making my bad phone experience worse. The company would have done better never to send out the survey in the first place.

It seems to me that customer driven companies really want to know about how they can improve their service. Bureaucratic and product driven companies, on the other hand, merely want to look like they care about the customer. They are compiling statistics for statistics' sake.

This is not a search for truth about their customer service. This is a thinly veiled quest to look good to themselves and their management.

The best questions are open ended.

But computers can't compile this kind of information. So they use yes and no answers even if they really don't address real service issues.

Forbid that the company might actually have to get a human being involved in reading the answers and writing up a subjective summary of the comments! That costs too much and takes too much effort just to find out how the customer really feels.

How about taking the ultimate step by contacting dissatisfied customers asking them to elaborate on their comments? Or at least write a personal note to them stating how you intend to resolve this problem in the future. Companies should consider rewarding such customers with a discount coupon on their next purchase to show their appreciation for taking the time to complete the survey.

But be sure to give that person a US based sales person so you don't repeat the offense!

If you are going to do a survey, please make sure your motives favor the customer rather than some internal agenda. Only then will the customer walk away from your survey feeling that perhaps the company really does care about them.

Posted on May 29, 2008 and filed under Customer Service.