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Customer Surveys – Satisfaction or No Satisfaction, What are the Questions?

Every business wants to deliver customer service, but what customer service do the customers want?

What is valued, what isn’t?

What is a waste of time and what gives a return on investment?

That’s why we do customer service surveys. Isn’t it?
Or is the issue at the source of many a service lapse a problem that starts with customer service surveys.

How can two surveys with the same subject matter conflict?

Ask any statistician and they’ll reel off a list of reasons why two surveys can give completely opposite results.

But whether it’s differences in the sample, the questionnaire or the interpretation, the fact is that many businesses, especially large ones, put significant store by their customer measures.

But are we just kidding ourselves? Can we really measure customer experience objectively? In short, that depends on the questions — the most important being those that you ask before you even put pen to paper.

Here are the three important questions to ask before you start planning that next customer survey:

1. What is the survey for?
a. To give a consistent year-on-year picture for performance management
b. To compare relative performance in specific areas across a competitive set
c. To understand what customers want; what they value; and how they decide “who to use” and “who to recommend” (not always the same).

2. Who are you asking?
a. A representative sample of current customers
b. Anyone that’s in the market for your product / service
c. The “best” customer groups (e.g. most profitable / most enthusiastic etc.)

3. What are you asking them?
a. How their experience compares to their expectations
b. How your delivery compares to that of your competitors
c. What they like, and how they are likely to behave (e.g. would you return, would you recommend to a friend?)

Each combination of the above (and it isn’t an exhaustive list) should lead you to a quite different approach.

You may find you don’t need a survey after all — just to spend some quality time with real customers in a real environment, or perhaps you’d benefit from a number of different views to give a more rounded picture.

Either way, surveys and statistics do have a role to play in understanding your customers, and how well you’re delivering. But they are only a part of the picture. In isolation, they can be confusing, contradictory and quite simply.

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