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Measure Customer Satisfaction With Surveys That Are Worth The Time

A manufacturer complains that his efforts to measure customer satisfaction are rarely successful. His customers just don’t return the satisfaction surveys he sends out.

A leading resort gets back just 30% of the comment cards left for guests inside their fancy rooms.

One government agency had a response rate of only 6% when they sent out an 11-page survey to measure customer satisfaction.

What’s going on here? Why is the response rate so low on these efforts to measure customer satisfaction? Why don’t customers complete and return customer satisfaction surveys?

The problem, as I see it, is twofold:

First, the format of many surveys to measure customer satisfaction have taken on the language of academics and the structure of statisticians. Asking customers to rate the relative importance and performance, both perceived and expected, of 17 categories on a scale from 1 to 10 is a bit like asking someone attending the theater to evaluate the parking, lighting, sound system, seating, air conditioning, restrooms, refreshments and ushers – and, oh, by the way, did you enjoy the performance?

If your questionnaire to measure customer satisfaction is too complex for customers to understand at a glance, it’s just too complex.

If your survey to measure customer satisfaction is too long for them to complete in a few quick minutes, it’s just too long.

If your response form is loaded with jargon, scales and numbers, it’s so filled up with your ideas there’s no place left for your customers to speak their minds.

A statistical sampling of customer opinion can make sense. A quantitative monthly or quarterly survey to measure customer satisfaction may highlight where you’re slipping, climbing or simply standing still.

But don’t ask every customer to reply “by the numbers,” or the majority will stop thinking about your survey, before they even start!

That leads to the second point: Customers learned long ago that “standard surveys” yield a “standard company response” – which in many cases is nothing.

If I complete your survey to measure customer satisfaction, how can I be sure you’ll take action on my comments? There’s little guarantee of action in a long list of detailed questions, tiny little boxes and columns of numbers.

If you want to increase the quantity and value of customer comments you receive, if you want to make your survey to measure customer satisfaction really work hard for you, here are three things you can do:

First, make it clear at the top of your survey that your customer’s comments are not just collected, they are truly valued.

“Customer Satisfaction Survey” is about as interesting as gray paint. “Your Voice Counts!” sounds much better. “Tell us what you want!” is appealing. “We are listening to YOU!” is a promise I’d reply to.

Second, design your form to gather qualitative input you will study and act on. Ask for subjective impressions and ideas with questions like these:

“What did you like? What didn’t you like? What would you like? What do we do that you wish we didn’t? What would you like us to change? What did you appreciate the most? What should we provide that is missing? Did anyone or anything let you down? How can we serve you even better? What do we have to do to justify raising our price by 10%? What does no one in our business do that you think everyone should do? What should we start doing, stop doing, do more of, do less of, do immediately?”

That’s a long list to choose from. Pick the questions that work for you and use them to measure customer satisfaction! (A blank “comments” field on your existing form just doesn’t cut it!)

Third, promise – and then take – immediate action. Tell customers how quickly their comments will be read, and how fast the changes will occur.

Ask them: “May we reply to you personally about this? If so, please check here.” Now it’s obvious that you are listening to the customer, you are committed to making changes every day and are reading every comment to measure customer satisfaction.

Key Learning Point To Measure Customer Satisfaction

In today’s busy world, your customer satisfaction survey must be so interesting and worthwhile that customers are glad to fill it in. If your survey to measure customer satisfaction is not engaging and attractive, customers will ignore it.

Action Steps To Measure Customer Satisfaction

Look carefully at the design, format and length of your current customer satisfaction survey. Does it capture your customer’s interest? Does it promise fast response and action? Should you change the name? the length? the questions? the design? Can you afford not to?

Your survey might be the last thing your customers see when doing business with you. Are you creating the right ‘last impression’?


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Copyright, Ron Kaufman. Used with permission. Ron Kaufman is the world’s leading educator and motivator for upgrading customer service and uplifting service culture. He is author of the bestselling “Uplifting Service” book and founder of Uplifting Service. To enjoy more customer service training and service culture articles, visit Uplifting Service.

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