Surveys Done Right, Part 2 – Customer Satisfaction

I have been dreading writing this entry since I came up with the idea for the series (have you read part 1 yet?).  It is not that I don’t know what to say, or that I don’t want to do it.  It is simply that my fear of providing “sample” survey that will later become “real surveys” for all people without customization or personalization really, really takes hold in this arena.  I mean, who has not had to write a customer satisfaction survey in the past?  It is probably the most used, misunderstood, and poorly implemented of all surveys out there.

If we go by the surveys that I have seen, customer satisfaction surveys should only have one question since that is what most people care about anyways: “overall, how satisfied are you with us?”.  It seems that if the customer says they are overall satisfied then there are no problems.  Further, as long as we get a sufficient number of customers to say they are satisfied (somewhere in the mid-70s to mid-80s), and the number remains consistent or (gasp) even grows a little  we are perfectly set from the customer experience, loyalty, and satisfaction point of view.  After all, if 80% of people are satisfied – isn’t that good?  Well, yes and no.  I wrote about how you can ensure you will get a 90% of more in customer satisfaction surveys in the past (second most popular post in this site).  It is possible to score high – even increase your scores, and not be doing a good job.

So, before we jump into the description of the survey and the sample questions (and before I beg you again to personalize and customize them), let’s make sure we understand one thing about this survey.  This “sample” survey is not intended to tell you how many people like you.  It is intended to, historically, provide a trending line of your customer satisfaction overall – but more important it is intended to give you real answers to partial satisfaction questions (e.g. were satisfied with the speed of the answer?) in accordance to your strategy (you do have one of those right?).  Finally, consider that I used these questions for customers that have customer satisfaction as a key metric and part of the insight.  I still believe thatcustomer satisfaction is too flawed as a metric to be used reliably (also read this one), but a trending report cannot hurt – as it wouldn’t with any other metric.

Too many words to get here, so here are the the essentials of a customer satisfaction survey (part 3 of this series, best practices for writing surveys – stay tuned!):

  • First, the most important part – KISS (keep it short and simple).  I use the rule of 5+/-2 (five, plus or minus two), with five being the magic number, and three and seven the limits.
  • Second, you MUST personalize the questions to the specific items you want to measure satisfaction on – which is why there are some questions below to use, but they may not fit what you are looking for.  Tie your questions to your strategy
  • Third, send them out every business cycle (varies by industry and function), and make sure you use panel management tools so you won’t keep sending them to the same person over and over (we know what they think – no one should get more than one a year), and that you don’t send them to people who won’t respond.
  • Fourth, statistical significance is great for market research or election day polls, not so much on customer satisfaction.  Make sure you get a large enough number to make it varied (I suggest at least between 3-4% of the population) and I am talking responses – not invitations.
  • Fifth, make sure you use the same questions the next time you send them out (yes, exactly the same wording) so you can keep historical trends.  Remember, customer satisfaction is an OK metric to keep as long as you use it as a historical trending metric, not a KPI

Those are the basic rules for these surveys, but more will arise as you begin to implement them.  Of course, best practices for EFM and Surveys apply, so those are to be considered as well.  Now, without further ado, the list of questions I’d like to propose for your consideration:

1. Overall, what is your satisfaction with Company XYZ? (hate this question, but it is an easy one to answer)

Now, this question is to be answered in a numerical scale, I favor a scale of 1-4, you can use whatever works for your objectives.  A scale of 1-10 is popular with people who endorse NPS (Net Promoter Score), but I don’t buy into that.  A different way to ask this questions, which I prefer, is:

1. Overall, would you say you are satisfied with Company XYZ?

This question is answered with a simple YES-NO.  Why do I like this question? Two things, first the wording predisposes the respondent to say yes (which is a positive score).  Second, you can setup your scripts to react in the case of a negative answer – and since the question predisposes the respondent to say yes, when someone says NO they really mean it.

From the following questions, pick some of the ones that reflect your objectives, vision, strategy, and purpose for this survey.  Remember, personalization and customization are highly encouraged – so if these don’t fit your needs go ahead and change them accordingly.

2.1.  What is your satisfaction with Company XYZ web site / self-service solution?

2.2. What is your satisfaction with Company XYZ representatives on the phone?

2.3. What is your satisfaction with Product ABC from Company XYZ?

2.4. What is your satisfaction with Company XYZ return policies?

2.5. What is your satisfaction with Company XYZ use of email for customer service?

Well, you get the idea.  Keep in mind that how you ask the question is going to depend on the answer, and see Q1 above to see some examples of different ways to write the questions.  Needless to say, again, the questions you chose for the second part are related to your specific, strategic goals and are bound to change for your survey.

This is the longest post I wrote since we started this blog, but I wanted to make sure it was clear and explicit.  There is, of course, lots more to read and write about customer feedback, customer service, customer satisfaction… well, anything dealing with customers.  You will read more and we move along – but how do you like this post?  Interesting? Are you using it?  Please let me know your thoughts and experiences… and thanks for reading!