What's wrong with retailers' customer surveys?
Have you ever purchased something, somewhere? If so, then surely you’ve felt this particular pain: Along with your bag of goods comes all kinds of marginally necessary offers and calls to action. And, if you take “almost no time at all” to complete the retailer’s robust questionnaire, you — yes you! — might be the proud recipient of some type of prize.
A study by Interaction Metrics discovered that, despite good intentions of improving customer happiness and overall experience, retailers are largely wasting customers’ time — and their own — by conducting flawed satisfaction surveys.
The study looked at satisfaction surveys of several dozen retailers and uncovered a compound problem: Retailers are hurting their own efforts by collecting too much (often inaccurate) data, and they then fail to close the loop by actioning feedback.
Other insights revealed:
- The surveys were excessively long, having 23 questions on average.
- Nearly one question out of three was instrumented to force customers toward answers that the brands wanted to hear.
- 7-Eleven had the best survey — it was 13 questions, none of which were leading or used biased wording.
- Family Dollar had the worst customer survey—it had 69 questions, 29 of which were leading.
- Nordstrom, a brand widely regarded for customer service, presented a survey as taking two minutes — but, at 25 questions, took five minutes.
This begs the question: Is all that feedback helping retailers build their brands? According to Forbes, it’s counterproductive to the point it can actually damage the brand.
It’s quite the predicament for retailers who truly want to hear and respond to what customers are saying. Soliciting feedback with the intention of engaging customers and facilitating dialog is critical for positive brand building, but the mark is often missed due to overly-instrumented and poorly executed surveys.
There’s a lack of meaningful empathy, making it appear that the ‘outside-in’ approach to customer experience is not being taken. Surveys are inherently built to answer business questions and justify further investments, not to empower, inspire or engage the soul of the customer.
That’s likely why response rates are low and continue to drop. Many brands today see just 2%, leaving data gathered marginally accurate and usable. Customers are uninspired and simply worn out. Instead, retail brands should focus on simplifying their surveys, leveraging frameworks like Net Promoter Score, to increase response rates up to 30% or higher, and make the response data more meaningful by asking for feedback at the ‘moment of truth’ in their customers’ journey; then, actioning that feedback in real time to maximize impact on business results.
Over-incentivizing is another good intention gone awry. This is meant to combat resistance to taking surveys in general, but in the end leaves consumers frustrated, and fails to draw a clear correlation between customer feedback and business results. Companies need feedback from engaged customers who care about helping them improve– not random folks out to button smash to unlock a gift card.
Brands who are serious about reducing fatigue and spiking engagement need to change their whole approach by:
- Reducing the number of questions they ask
- Focus on open-ended feedback
- Take the right action quickly to close the loop
It’s easy to forget that surveys were borne of a world where information was hard to acquire. It used to be anything but easy for retailers serving big markets to decipher what their highly-distributed customers were thinking. But today, information is (almost too) plentiful. Brands need to understand what they already have in their systems, and what is needed to complete the picture.
Surveys full of unused and redundant questions should soon be no more. Today's world trades in exhaustion for engagement.