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On a scale of 1 to 10, how effective are your surveys?

These days it seems that you can’t even buy a cup of coffee without a company asking you to complete a survey.

On the face of it, it might appear that businesses are finally being proactive and responding to the needs of their customers. Yet increasingly, customers aren’t responding to surveys, irrespective of incentive or method of delivery.

Which begs the question: Why? After all, aren’t they designed to help the customer, to improve the customer experience?

The sad truth is that the vast majority of surveys are focused on the feedback rather than the customer experience. By failing to deliver surveys that engage with customers and value their input, they miss the point.

So it’s hardly surprising that many customers feel that the average contact centre customer survey is thrust upon them, rather than something they take part in.

Survey fatigue is the issue.

Customers who are tired of surveys aren’t alone; the inventor of customer satisfaction surveys is sick of them as well. According to Bloomberg, it was 14 years ago that Fred Reichheld, an executive at Bain & Co, suggested creating a short consumer survey to test brand loyalty. Today, in his words “It has morphed into a Frankenstein”.

The reason for this stark condemnation is that all too often companies are doing it all wrong. At the top of the list of failures is: asking too many questions, asking the wrong questions and implementing unappealing and overly complicated processes.

Time is of the essence. People don’t have 15 minutes to spare completing a survey, except perhaps when they want to complain about poor service; which hardly delivers a balanced view of overall service levels.

Furthermore, customers are now subjected to so many survey requests, that they are fast becoming an irritation; tainting the brand that is supposedly aspiring to make sure the customer is 100% satisfied.

Some simple fixes that keep customers engaged from start to finish.

1) How to get customers to start a survey.

Make it personal. Agent-deployed surveys dispatched immediately after the call work best, (although you need to have mechanisms and culture in place to avoid agents cherry-picking customers). With email surveys it is possible to personalise the message by sharing something that reconnects them with the agents, such as a photo or a list of their interests.

Make it timely. Ensure that you send out a survey as close as possible to the end of the interaction, (outbound calls within 15 mins, emails and text messages with immediate effect). This ensures you receive an intuitive, emotional and connected response; which is where the real value and insight lies.

Make it engaging. The design of email surveys is crucial to customer participation. It needs to be well thought out, eye-catching, responsive and work just as well on smartphones as it does on a computer! In either case, pay particular attention to the button design, size and placement; it must be immediately obvious and engaging, as the user won’t be bothered to search for it. Finally, by including the first question together with star ratings, it enables and encourages the user to start the survey directly from the email.

2) How to get customers to complete a survey.

Limit the number of questions. Ratings are great for advising if you're getting better or worse, but they are not where the real value lies. Limit your questions to no more than five and preferably less; Moderation is the key here.

Stay focused. Research shows that people give ambiguous answers, or lose focus themselves, if the survey is too broad. The questions must all be related and remain directly relevant to one another.

Prioritise the questions you want answering. With only a limited number of questions at your disposal, it is crucial that you decide what are the most important questions and place these at the very top of your list.

Keep text responses to a minimum. Avoid asking too many questions that require written input, save these for the most important issues that you have identified and want to address.

Keep email survey pages compact. If customers have to scroll down a page, the chances are they won’t bother, (except to complain). Similarly, a progress bar can be counterproductive if a customer feels they are progressing too slowly.

Get the customer’s opinion as soon as possible. Let customers answer questions without directing them too much, the really rich insights lie in the free-form voice of the customer.

Make it worth their while. Sometimes customers need an enticement and what better way than offering to make a donation to their favourite charity. With SurveyMonkey Contribute, customers not only make charitable donations they can also win prizes.

It is possible to realise survey response rates of over 40%.

Get the mix right and like our client NS&I you can achieve response rates of over 40%. With 8,000 surveys captured per month, NS&I now has a huge volume of customer feedback to draw on for its Voice of the Customer programme.

Deep and rich VoC commentary such as this can be grouped by key themes and sentiment. This delivers customer insight that can be used to test and validate new ways of working; all of which are focused on making things easier, both for your contact centre and your customers.

Which is surely what an effective survey programme is all about.

It’s time to capture the true Voice of the Customer.

Getting customers to complete surveys is one thing, gathering actionable insight and then acting on it is another. All too often surveys seem to focus on what the company wants to know, rather than what the customer wants to tell them.

If it isn’t a two-way conversation customers stop responding to surveys, simply because they feel that their feedback has no impact and therefore isn’t valued.

By capturing the true Voice of the Customer, not only do you demonstrate that you value customer feedback, you can also harness its power to measure, manage, reward and improve contact centre agent performance.

This way, everybody wins.

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