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3 Survey Design Tips To Drive Business Impact

For the last few years, customer experience (CX) professionals have been claiming that customer surveys are dead. They say that customer satisfaction (CSAT) surveys are boring, biased, and return poor data; and honestly, these experts are mostly right.

But what’s killing surveys? Is it the flood of surveys customers are receiving? Or is it due to changes in the way we interact with customers?

In reality, there are many factors at play, but one major — and easily preventable — survey killer is poor design. Remember, a customer satisfaction survey is a customer feedback experience and should be designed just as carefully as your most important customer experiences.

When designed correctly, customer feedback experiences can help avoid costly mistakes, reduce churn, and identify important levers for conversion, upsell and cross-sell. Gartner showed that growth companies are more actively collecting customer experience data than non-growth companies, and that’s because great companies use great feedback experiences to listen to and understand their customers.

How can you design a valuable feedback experience? Here are 3 steps to ensure your surveys create value for you and your customers.

1. Identify your audience

There’s a saying: “An experience designed for everyone delights no one.” This is especially true when it comes to customer feedback. If your answer to the question “who are we trying to hear from?” is “Everyone,” then your feedback motion lacks focus and will likely return results that are too general to make an impact.

Instead, design feedback experiences by segmenting your audiences. Reach out to your most valuable customers and get their opinions in order to better serve them. I’ve seen examples where more than 50% of total survey returns were from users of a free product. Don’t let free users guide your decisions!

By honing in on who you want to hear from, you’ll be able to drive value to those customers that are most valuable to you.

2. Work backwards

Too often I work with CX teams that start a customer satisfaction survey design by asking: “What questions should we ask?” It’s so easy to add questions and cover every aspect of an experience, but soon you’ll create a survey that is too long for customers. Instead, work backwards using reporting requirements by answering these questions.

  1. Who is going to own the responses to this survey?
  2. What direct action will they take based on the feedback we receive?
  3. What metric in the survey will show them their actions are having an impact?
  4. What metric outside of the survey (churn, revenue, etc.) will show their actions are having an impact?

By starting your design with someone responsible for acting and a clear measure of your actions, you will have a more concise and focused set of questions and more quickly realize value from your customers’ feedback.

3. Close both loops

Finally, and most importantly, no matter who you’re gathering feedback from, ensure that you can close both the inner and outer loop.

Closing the inner loop means offering every customer who provides feedback an opportunity to request follow-up. If there is a problem or outstanding concern, you need to identify the issue and follow up directly with the customer. Nothing discourages feedback participation more than lack of follow up. Why ask for the feedback at all if you are not going to address it?

Closing the outer loop means identifying common issues and patterns and addressing them with a more systemic change. This can be anything from correcting poor communication, improving product and service issues, or reducing friction required for customers to attain value.

By closing both loops, you treat each customer as an individual and show you truly value their feedback, and ensure that any system or process errors causing dissatisfaction are corrected. 

Adam Ince handles Customer Experience, Growth and Retention at iFit.

About the author

Adam Ince
Adam Ince
Adam Ince handles Customer Experience, Growth and Retention at iFit.


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