Customer Relationship Management

The One Question You Need to Ask on Your Next Survey

QuestionMy good friend Chris Baggott has a great post today about surveys. I am in total agreement with Chris. Please don’t ask me my advice if you’re not going to do anything with the information. Anyone who knows me recognizes that I love providing my opinion… sometimes to a fault. My friends absolutely know that they can trust me.

There are a couple reasons for this:

  1. I’m a passionate person and too old to play games. I figure the clock is ticking, so why beat around the bush!
  2. If I always say what I mean and mean what I say, then folks will always get the same story from me. They know that I’m not telling them something simply for them to hear what they want to.

But… if you continue to ask for my advice, tell me you love it, and then continually dismiss it… then I’m not going to invest my time with you in the future. That’s not to say you can not disagree, I’m often wrong. I only mean that if your motivation is to b.s. me into feeling like I’m appreciated, I don’t want to waste my time with you. And I won’t.

Surveys are just like this. I’m not aware of any company that is NOT aware of the pain points for a customer. The fact is that most companies have people that understand all of the pain points of their customers, what people enjoy, and what people can’t stand. The problem is that we don’t bother to listen until we’re ready. That’s really what a survey is – it’s saying to your customer, “Okay, I’m ready to listen to you… please tell me what you like and dislike about me.”

Surveys should focus the extremes of the scale. On the precision side, tangible questions that can result in a measured response are great. Asking me to rate the politeness of the concierge is ridiculous. Everyone knows whether or not your concierge is polite or not. Asking me what size shirt I wear so that I can follow up and bring you one is great. Asking me if I like A vs. B is super… especially when you call back with the one I chose.

On the other end of the scale is equally important. Another friend, Pat Coyle, shared a story with me once where a company only had a single question on their survey…

Would you recommend us to a friend?

The fact is that someone in your company knows what can be improved. They may be afraid to say it. Or they may not have buy-in to fix it. Or, more often than not, they know that it won’t get fixed so why bother. If you’re not going to listen to your employees, chances are that you’re not going to listen to your customers.

Surveys are also fodder to ‘support’ your beliefs. Tell a manager the top 10 things that they need to fix based on your investigation and sometimes you’re simply dismissed as a lunatic. BUT… provide a few hundred random samples from your clients that support the top 10 things, and all of a sudden people listen. Isn’t that sad? I think so!

I’m not suggesting cutting off communication with your clients. Quite the opposite, I’m saying FOCUS on the communication with your clients. Surveys are not communication. It’s rarely two-way. So stop doing it. Let your employees tell you what the customers are saying and fix it.

And if you’re really curious about what your customers think about you, one simple question is enough:

Would you recommend us to a friend?

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