The art of a good customer survey

I rarely fill in customer surveys. Mainly because I don’t feel that any of my answers will be noticed or acted upon. Just recently I  did answer a customer survey questionnaire, gladly. I hope they don’t mind if I take  you through the reasons why I would fill in this survey and perhaps you or your brand may learn from this. Alternatively you may have or have seen an awesome customer service questionnaire, I’d love to see it (leave a link in the comments.)

The survey was for Hildon Water from whom I order water on a regular basis. I have always rated their service and the delivery whilst their site could benefit from some PayPal support I have little to complain. I think, therefore that the brand loyalty or sentiment you feel will play a large part in whether you fill in a survey or not.

The second reason I chose to complete it was the offer of a free case of water. That was a valuable offer to me and one that I felt was a valuable exchange for my time. There was no prize draws or unrelated gifts to patronise me.

The questionnaire itself was two pages long with a link to an online version if I wished to. It was not daunting and shouldn’t take long.

The fifth question on the survey really impressed me – ‘What social networks do you use’? I thought this was a great question, finally a brand was paying attention to this shift in consumer behaviour. I think it would have been beneficial if they had asked my Twitter username – that way if they came onto Twitter they would at least have a base of people they could connect with.

The home delivery question threw me a little, did Amazon count as a ‘home delivery service’? That’s what I wrote anyway – the question could have benefited from some clarification.

On page two there was a slight wobble. I was asked my age, occupation, wife’s occupation, income and the age of any children in the house. I put a line through this – I didn’t see it was relevant to the survey but thought it was very interesting.

I can understand why they wanted this information – such data can be used to profile their audience like a Mosaic profile. Such profiles have been the backbone of customer research for years now and still play an important part for marketing. But in this instance they had already asked me about myself with their social network question. I understand that they cannot check every profile, although I would argue they should, but we had gone from page one ‘let’s learn about you’ to page two, ‘lets put you in a box’.

With marketing evolving at such a rapid rate there is a very real chance to understand your customer to become someone real, more than just a number or a socio-demographic group. I am not saying that Mosaic style profiling should not be used but there must be a potential to integrate this better into the overall ‘customer picture’.

The rest of the questions were good, asking about their service and would I be interested in another service they may offer and whether a recent promotion was my incentive to purchase.

Overall, this was a great survey from a great company. They didn’t give me an envelope or stamp to send it back [or I have lost it, that is a possibility]. The lack of stamp and envelope is not a biggie but could delay the sending of a survey until you root around to find what you need. Again, the online survey negates this issue.

So, a good survey from a good company which is why I completed it. I think there is a bigger picture to think about with the evolution of consumer profiles from ‘what box can we put you in’ to ‘who are you’ – no doubt with associated data protection and privacy issues.

That’ll do.

2 thoughts on “The art of a good customer survey”

  1. On behalf of survey makers everywhere, I think I should comment on this. First of all, the “putting you in a box” part is exactly right, but it should be done to classify the answers by type of respondent (e.g. Is everyone over 50 saying they don't use email?), not to profile the respondent using an external measure. Especially as the only thing MOSAIC really needs is your postcode.

    But these considerations don't actually count for anything here because this is the dreaded self-selecting survey methodology, the very worst kind of survey anyone can waste their money on.

    You say: “I think, therefore that the brand loyalty or sentiment you feel will play a large part in whether you fill in a survey or not.” Well, it could be that. Or it could be you were absolutely incensed about it so you filled-in a survey. Or you were just bored and looking for something to do. Or you (this is “you” in the abstract, naturally, not you personally. Unless this is what you did.) filled-in the form for a joke and made-up your name, occupation, what you thought of the product and so on to prove that Donald Duck lives. I've seen these responses, and ones from Minnie Mouse and the rest of the crew. So funny.

    The only way to find-out what your customers actually think is to do a random sample of them, preferably by phone, so you can interact with them and encourage them to take part in the survey. Even offering big incentives such as a case of water doesn't guarantee representative participation – it's just buying responses. Personally, I would have taken part in this just to get a case of water for 10 minutes of my time. Does it guarantee accurate answers. Representative opinions? What do you think?

    The reason customer satisfaction surveys are done like this so often is because it's cheap. It satisfies ISO9001 (Do you have a mechanism for finding-out what customers think? Yes. Box ticked. Does it work? Irrelevant). You spend the money on incentives – and you can't budget for that, because you don't know how many people are going to reply. Then you can kid yourself you know what your customers want. You actually know what people who respond to incentive offers want and that can be very useful indeed. But it's not even vaguely the same thing.

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