What is the Ultimate Customer Survey Question?

Posted by Gary Schwartz

June 11, 2014


three-questions-blogThroughout the time I’ve been involved in customer feedback, both as a vendor and as a collector of feedback, I’ve always been asked, “what question should we ask in a customer survey?”

It turns out that’s really important to get right for quite a few reasons. Primarily the reason is that people don’t have a lot of patience to complete customer surveys. I always lose the will to live when I see the question that starts, “based on your most recent experience with us, please rate the following on a 1-5 scale,” and ends with 50 or so things I need to rate. Next!

The reason these questions exist, of course, is that most surveys are designed by committee, with everyone involved wanting to know just one bit of information about their part of the business. The result is that customer surveys are generally designed with the company’s needs in mind, not actually the customer’s needs.

So when people ask me what they should ask, I tell them there are three things you need to know:

  • Did you like it?
  • Would you do it again?
  • Would you tell your friends to do it?

In real terms, this translates into three questions, about satisfaction, loyalty, and advocacy. The latter lets you calculate a Net Promoter score, a number many companies report to the Board, and on which they measure their business.

And you really need to ask all three. Just asking “how did we do” and providing smiley faces to click doesn’t tell enough detail.

customer experience

Anything else you get thereafter provides context for the above three questions.

What’s the best way to get that context? Ask an even simpler question: “Why?” Analysis of the unstructured data you receive, together with the sentiment expressed with the three questions above and aggregated across your customer base will give you what you need to:

  • Fix any individuals who had a bad experience (and turn them into massive advocates in the process)
  • Understand and fix any process issues in the business, whether central to business operations or related to a specific geography.

And the kicker is that once you get the context of the customer’s sentiment, you can drill down a little further with a “micro survey” that’s targeted around what your customer told you when you asked them “why?”

As your customer, I’ll gladly answer those few additional questions once I realize your questions are related to me and I don’t have to lose the will to live from being asked to rate those 50 items that are completely irrelevant to me.

Over the next few weeks we’ll examine these questions in more detail, as well as looking at questions designed to understand how hard or easy you make it for customers to do business with you – Customer Effort - to help you design feedback programmes that your customers will complete, and that will deliver insight that drives action in your business.

Not convinved? Here's a few reasons why you need to rethink your Customer Satisfaction survey strategy:

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Topics: Collecting Customer Feedback, Customer Survey

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