June 20, 2012 at 7:21 AM ET
Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch was famous for asking, “How am I doing?” Now it seems every company in America is asking the same thing. As social media site proliferate, we’re being flooded with requests to take customer satisfaction surveys.
Get an oil change and you’ll be asked to take a survey. Go the theater? Make sure to rate your experience. After a recent trip to Philadelphia, the hotel, airline and rental car company each emailed me a survey request.
A good friend recently received a survey form in the mail from the funeral home that handled his mother’s burial just two months ago. They wanted him to rate his experience. Ugh.
What’s going on here?
“You’re getting so many survey requests because companies understand how important the customer experience is in today’s ultra-competitive world where consumers have lots of choices,” said Larry Freed, president of ForSee, a company that collects about 1.5 million surveys a month for companies across the country. “They’ve got to work really hard to meet your needs and exceed your expectations.”
While many companies truly want your opinion to provide better products and services, some also use surveys to gather personal information in order to improve their marketing. How can you tell the difference? It’s often impossible to tell.
A good survey should be about the customer experience and not about marketing, Freed says.
“We want it to be real. We want to be honest about what we’re trying to learn from you and why,” he says.
A good survey is respectful of your time. ForeSee surveys are designed to take between 2.5 and 3.5 minutes to be completed on the web and just 60 to 90 seconds on a mobile device.
“When done correctly, it’s kind of a win-win,” Freed says. “It should be good in the long run for the consumer and also provide really valuable insight for the company that’s doing it.”
How should a company deal with this feedback?
“The critical part of the process is to act on that feedback,” says Lonnie Mayne, CXO (that’s Chief Experience Officer) at Mindshare Technologies. “When we give feedback, we’re asking for action.”
Mindshare’s online survey technology provides alerts when a response is negative. At Tony Roma’s, that email alert goes to the store manager who is required to contact the customer within 24 hours.
“We respond to every single complaint to make sure that we rectify the situation and solve the problem,” says Bradley Smith, the restaurant chain’s executive vice president.
Smith tells me about 40 percent of the responses are compliments. But good or bad, the company uses the feedback to improve and grow.
“It’s very important to us as we make strategic decisions from menu items, staffing, décor and even possible new locations,” Smith says.
With the increased use of surveys comes the risk of customer fatigue. But survey firms report that younger people who grew up with social media are eager to share their opinions. They tend to appreciate and respond to online surveys.
Into the future
Surveys are starting to change. Instead of asking 15 or 20 structured yes/no or multiple choice questions, they’ll ask for comments. How was the experience? How can we improve? What did you like? What didn’t you like?
You’ll be able to type in a response on the web or just talk on the phone. Technology that can analyze text and voice is making this possible.
“Now that’s a lot more user-friendly,” says Mindshare Technology’s Mayne. “Again, you still have to act on it. But that’s the future; that’s where we’re headed.”
My two cents
I don’t mind getting surveys when the questions seem relevant (designed to improve customer service) and do not ask for personal information. I also appreciate it when the company tells me how long it should take to complete the survey. Note to companies: If it’s more than about 3 minutes, you need to cut down the questions.
I love to get notices from companies that let me know about a change that’s been made because of customer feedback. That lets me know they’re listening and responding. That’s a big plus in my book.
I also believe that any company that wants my opinion should give me the optionto give them contact information. I also believe that if my answers indicate a less than satisfactory experience and I give the company my phone number or email, they have a responsibility to get back to me. If they don’t, they should consider me a former customer.
Before you go, could I ask you to take a one-question survey?
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