Surveys and Insights

Customer survey fatigue is a common problem faced by brands today. Brands spend thousands of Euros, Dollars, Pounds, etc. just to irritate their customers.

The frustrations with surveys seem to fall in a number of categories

  • Frequency and timing … many brands require a response after every transaction which is far too often whilst others send out surveys long after the event when the customer has forgotten what happened. In both cases the surveys tend to get ignored. Current trends seems to be 8% to 12% with a lot of dependencies.
  • Survey size … Some surveys get right to the point and are genuinely trying to understand performance. Others are blatantly trying to get more data about the recipient asking questions far beyond the expectation of the initial survey.
  • Lack of follow up …. Once a survey has been completed and returned how often does the customer get a response? It’s nice to say thank you and even better to let people know what is being done with the feedback.
  • Inaction …. As a result of providing feedback and making recommendations nothing appears to change. The brand offers no updates and the same problems persisting.
  • Poor focus .. the surveys seem to go on and on asking more questions and asking when you plan your next purchase of insurance, holidays, cars, etc.
  • Automation ….. Filling in online surveys is becoming more acceptable and as long as they are kept to a reasonable length and comply with the intended requests then its fine. Getting phone calls with automated voice response isn’t popular and pop ups appearing before the customer has even started or before the customer has had time to try out the product are by far the worse and a waste of money.

No change

Why is it that brands always want to know how they are doing when they seem to change nothing as a result? There are a number of reasons for this and these surveys are not necessarily to make the customers life better, they could be put in place for a number of reasons.

  • Just provide performance measurements to see how the company is doing
  • Providing data points for bonuses
  • Track recent changes in customer journeys and touch points
  • Gauge reaction to product, price, position, changes
  • Make improvements to service levels.
  • Plan for new activities
  • Determine employee of the week, month, etc.

None of these are wrong and brands have the right to want to gather information as much as the customer has the right to withhold. These are just some examples and they are gathered using any number of methods from web pop up surveys, personal feedback at the checkout, email survey forms, automated phone calls asking for responses. The way forward would be perhaps for brands to state the purpose of the survey.

The observer effect

It can be nice to provide a complement to a particular helpful or attentive interaction and we often make complaints, however these surveys can be an irritant and in some cases alter the customer’s impression of the company. In physics there is a phenomenon known as the “observer effect”, where the act of observation makes a change on the phenomenon being observed. In the case of customer surveys the very act of requesting feedback can cause irritation impacting the score, usually negatively, that’s if the survey is done at all. Surveys are required for any number of reasons as we stated earlier, to ensure the business is on track and meeting its commitments but this doesn’t mean they have to be done every time there is an interaction.

Finding the data to create insights

So how can businesses determine the relative success of their products or services delivery without a direct survey and possibly creating a negative response, not to mention falling foul of data protection acts, GDPR, etc.

Much of the data already exists within the company and in various places across the web, it’s a matter of collecting, collating and interpreting what is happening. This requires effort and organisation and needs the cooperation of all departments to bring this together. There are clues in the data that already exist it just needs to be identified and interpreted. Employees, especially those facing the customer will have a lot of information about what is and isn’t working. Further, a lot of feedback comes proactively from social media mostly containing complaints, but what are they complaining about and what can be learnt, better known as social listening and comes from across the web not just brand sites. Bill Gates famously stated that “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning”, so use it to improve and tell the rest of the customer base what you’re doing.

Surveys are an important ingredient in being able to manage the business and there are a couple of things to note when thinking about when asking customers for feedback. At the beginning of the survey:-

  • State what the survey is for.
  • Provide a summary of the previous findings
  • Tell the audience what has changed as a result of previous surveys.
  • Don’t forget to thank the participants for their contributions.
  • Invite the customer to provide examples where the changes have had an effect before going on to request any additional items.

The responses will be a mix of data both quantitative and some qualitative so it’s important to interpret correctly.

Don’t pollute the survey by looking for marketing data such as “when is your car insurance due, when are you planning your next holiday, what are your grocery shopping habits, etc.? it give the perception that the brand only cares about selling and not about what the customers think.


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