The Death of the Customer Satisfaction Survey

“Tell us how we did.” These five words have long been the standard for capturing, analyzing, and acting on customer experience feedback. The traditional customer satisfaction survey process, commonly referred to as a Voice of the Customer program, has served businesses well to help improve products, services, and overall experiences. Until now.

Within the next few years, we will witness the death of the satisfaction survey in it’s current form. Voice of Customer programs will be forced to dramatically shift methodologies in order to remain relevant and valuable to businesses and customers.

Here Are The Top 5 Reasons Why:

1. When you ask your customers “Tell us how we did,” it’s already too late. Lagging indicators derived from delayed analysis of surveys pushed and completed after the experience has concluded are not effective for improving customer experience when it truly matters; during the experience. If a customer is having a bad experience, you need to know about it and correct it in real time. Companies are spending an absurd amount of time and resources on recovery and win-back efforts, when they should instead be focused on taking measurements of satisfaction during the customer interaction and adjusting on-the-fly to ensure a positive, loyalty-driving experience. A mid-stay status check with a hotel guest, for example, can be the difference between rebooking or switching to a competitor. Once that guest has checked out, it's too late, and they are probably on TripAdvisor giving you a negative review.

2. Impersonal, automated survey requests are insulting to your customers. I have heard endless buzz in the last few years about “building trust” and “increasing engagement by cultivating personal relationships” with customers, but I haven’t seen actions follow. Instead, organizations have spent so much effort on scaling survey capabilities through automation that they have effectively eliminated the human element of the interaction. If a customer decides to take your survey, and they give you a low score, you should have an associate ready to interact with them immediately. Make your customer feel like they matter, as opposed to treating them like just another data point for your own internal fire drills (which your customer couldn’t care less about - just make it right, or they’re gone).

3. Your standardized survey isn’t getting to the root cause of the issue. In order to scale survey processes and make results comparable over time (still an important outcome), companies have over-standardized and over-automated today’s Voice of Customer programs. Even nested surveys — “smart” surveys that drill into specific topics based on the respondent’s answers — are limited in their ability to deliver on real-time, leading indicators of root causes resulting in attrition. When boxing respondents into a limited set of standardized questions, companies shouldn’t expect to address the real issue on a consistent basis. Voice of Customer programs must shift to a flexible survey methodology which is centered on human interaction, in the moment, to identify and address root causes.

4.  You aren’t making it easy for your customers to provide candid feedback. I was born and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota. We are known here for being “Minnesota Nice,” which really just translates to,“Say something nice, or don’t say anything at all.” Although this midwestern mindset doesn’t permeate throughout national and global geographies, there is an element of indirectness when it comes to survey feedback across cultures. If you want your customers to tell you what they really think, then take measures to reduce a confrontational interaction, and let them tell you their thoughts on their terms. At my company, Kipsu, which (surprise!) solves all of the challenges I am highlighting in this article, we have found that, overwhelmingly, customers are more likely to respond and more candid with their feedback when they are given an opportunity to interact in their preferred channel (be it SMS/text, Facebook Messenger, email, or live web chat, as examples). Furthermore, when customers know that their response is being received and addressed by a real human being (as it is in the Kipsu platform), we’ve observed significantly positive impacts to loyalty and retention. Would you rather your customers tell you their true feelings in the moment so that you can address them on the spot, or would you prefer to have them wait until after the experience is over when they are most likely to blast your brand on TripAdvisor, Facebook, or Twitter?

5.  You aren’t measuring experiences in the broader context of your customer’s relationship with your brand. If a customer has been with you for some time, or even if its just their second purchase, stay, visit, etc., then any assessment of their satisfaction with your brand should consider some aspect of “knowing” them. Using hospitality as an example: when your guest last stayed at your hotel, what preferences did they express? which services did they use? These insights are critical to understanding your guest’s most recent attitudes and behaviors in relation to your brand. At Kipsu, we are obsessed with the concept of “continuous improvement.” The same concept should be critical for your Voice of Customer program. Get to know your customers, personally, over time, and take measures to incorporate the relationship dynamics into your satisfaction assessment and follow-up actions.

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