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Innovation: Customer SURVEYS are Dead

Tell the truth, do you look forward to filling out and responding to surveys? They are one of the most invasive forms of one-way communication. From the exit interview to the “how did we do?” after your car has been serviced, surveys seem to be the only time a company explicitly requests your opinion – when you’re on your way out. What if instead of having surveys we had conversations? Would the attrition rate improve?

Tell the truth, do you look forward to filling out and responding to surveys? They are one of the most invasive forms of one-way communication. From the exit interview to the “how did we do?” after your car has been serviced, surveys seem to be the only time a company explicitly requests your opinion – when you’re on your way out.

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What if instead of having surveys we had conversations? Would the attrition rate improve?

I was raised in a family with four women and I can tell you that it can be done. You can have multiple conversations, even at the same time. And your customers soon will begin to be of that generation used to Twitter as they answer email and text messages.

What is lacking in the traditional survey is one very important component – the feedback loop. Do your customers know that you’re listening? “Thank you for your feedback” is the bare-bone minimum and possibly an excuse for not taking the time to have a conversation. Have you ever performed on stage with a band? It is nearly impossible to play without receiving the proper sound feedback.

Plus, with a conversation, you can learn so much more. If customers are not talking with you about how you can improve your service and product, you can rest assured that they will be talking to everyone they know about it. Often that is bad news as unhappy customers tend to speak to more people about their misadventure.

Do you take the time to fill out the survey when you have a bad experience? Chances are you don’t, you just walk away quietly and never come back. If you do, then the company better contact you relatively fast. We do live in an instant world, yet we will understand things when explained. Remember — there’s nothing worse than asking someone to tell you how you did, then provide no feedback loop, especially when they’re telling you need to fix something. The floor is littered with companies that did not even try, and now is the blogosphere.

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Your customers’ time is becoming their most precious asset; use it judiciously by conveying you value it. Here are other reasons why a conversation is a much better format to capture feedback:

1. People might have a hard time understanding your questions.

2. People with negative comments may not take the time to articulate it well enough so you can take action.

3. Paper and phone do not capture non verbals and behavior is mostly not verbalized, it’s just done.

4. It’s more natural, people will not tell you what they think you want to hear if they do not realize you are asking. They will just talk.

There is a time and place for surveys. However, we find more and more that raw information that has not been guided by us may yield greater opportunity for insights – and insights lead to action. What’s your take?

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Valeria Maltoni • Conversation Agent • Philadelphia, PA • www.conversationagent.com

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