What’s Important When it Comes to Collecting Useful Customer Feedback

This article was featured in Retail CX Magazine on January 8, 2019

By Tom Gormley & Lane Mann

Customer feedback surveys are big business. But before you switch off, there is no reason why retailers of all sizes cannot benefit from them – on and off line, even little mom and pop stores. The problem for a small business owner is where to start? How can you be sure you are talking to the right people and delivering a good survey experience?

The people who take part in feedback surveys believe that the companies they are responding to genuinely care about their customers; this is likely a contributing factor as to why they answer a survey in the first place. If constructed well, these surveys not only provide retailers with key data on how to improve the customer purchase experience, but also create the perception of a brand that truly cares about their customers.

The fact is that customer feedback surveys are one of the most accessible types of surveys for the small business owner looking to improve the purchase experience they give their customers. Used to get a temperature reading of what the customer thinks about a particular product or service, they generally aren’t scoped out to answer difficult questions or to probe very deeply into potential product innovations. So, the entry level is fairly simple.

Starting out on your customer feedback journey

Let’s begin to reconstruct the customer survey experience. If you are reaching out to your customer base for feedback, keep in mind that they are your customers. That means, remember the mindset they will be in when they approach your survey. If you can, try to make the setting for your “discussion” as close to your brand experience as you can. If it is an online survey, use your brand’s colors. If it is a phone call, have interviewers or customer service reps that are a similar age and speak in a similar pace. Again, they are your customers, so make sure the survey doesn’t take too long or has seemingly redundant questions. The last thing your company needs is to annoy customers in the pursuit of ways to make your goods and services better.

How to reach out to people?

Since we are discussing how to make the experience better for the respondent, it might be helpful to know how people prefer to be reached for these kinds of surveys. Our recent research among 1,000 people shows that the answer is email invites. Customers are more likely to provide feedback via an email or “receipt prompt”, followed by a phone conversation with a live person and regular old snail mail. On the other hand, customer are far less likely to provide feedback via In-App pop-ups, text messages, website pop-ups, and Robo calls. These bottom four methods are inexpensive which is nice, and some of them can be very targeted, but you should make sure that you are not hurting your overall brand reputation while procuring information from them.

Do I need to incentivize?

Why should your respondent care? Occasionally, people are happy to give you their feedback out of the goodness of their heart, other times they need another reason. Especially if you are working with a small group of potential respondents, it could be important just to get an additional 0.5% response rate increase. Incentives can get you over that hump. Ideally, a $5+ gift card will go a long way. However, after summing up the cost of the card and shipping, your budget may be in the red depending on how many completed surveys you are looking for. There is another incentive scheme that can be less expensive but can still increase response rates; sweepstakes. They can be complicated to conduct and legal issues may make you skittish of this option, but if you get the right firm to run it for you, it can get you under budget and allow you to deliver the insights you need to impress your colleagues.

So what kind of people are taking part in customer feedback surveys?

Our study shows that over 60% of people said they have answered a customer experience or satisfaction survey in the past quarter. And there are only minor demographic differences when comparing those that have answered versus who have not answered these kinds of surveys in the past 6 months.  

How about the people that are seeking out ways to make their opinions known, that is, the people that post reviews online? Customers are 8% more likely to write negative reviews on social media than they are on platforms such as Yelp. Obviously not all review posters are answering customer experience surveys, and conversely, not all customer experience survey takers are also posting reviews online. That said, review posters are also more likely to take a customer experience feedback survey.

On the more emotional side, survey takers believe that companies genuinely care about their customers. The feeling that companies genuinely care about their customers is likely a contributing factor as to why they answer these types of surveys in the first place. These surveys, if constructed well, allow the customers to give great feedback, and they believe the company is genuinely interested in what they have to say. So done right, you can not only get data to improve your services, but also give people a great experience at the same time.

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