Tips for Designing More Meaningful Customer Satisfaction Surveys

Last week, as I grabbed my latte at a new Starbucks that opened in my neighbourhood, the cashier and the barista pointed out to me the customer satisfaction survey about the new store. They told me that it should take 5 minutes and that my reward would be a code for a free drink. It sounds fair.

It wasn’t my first time at that particular store. I basically have nothing to say against my experience there. In fact, I enjoyed the place. But they lost me when they insisted that I gave them a 5 because everything lower than a 5  was worthless because it is considered as zero by Starbucks’ headquarters. Sorry guys, but I don’t fill customer surveys that only aim to be a pat on the back.

This “gaming the satisfaction survey” mentality is typical of corporate America but I refuse to be a part of it. I mentioned Starbucks, but I could have used many, many large businesses to illustrate my point. Just remember what the car salesman told you after you signed your new car contract at the dealership. These experiences made me think about what is missing in most customer satisfaction surveys: actionable results. And to get actionable results, you should seek answers that tell you something about what you do.

The old 1 to 10 rating system might have be replaced by a 1 to 5 star system or better by Very Dissatisfied, Dissatisfied, Neutral, Satisfied, Very Satisfied. Who answers Neutral anyway? My point is that if you request the opinions of your customers, give them a chance to tell you what they think. If you are listening to what people say about your brand on social networks and regularly talk to your customers, you already have an idea about your strengths and your weaknesses. Why not propose answers that will allow you to assess their sentiment and if you are going in the right direction.

To get actionable results, you must go further than adding “Very or Little” to adjectives. Instead of asking them to rate your overall customer service with a score, ask them to tell you if You need to improve a lot, You are Getting There, You Are OK, You Meet (or slightly exceed) my Expectations, You Are Awesome. Let your customers show you their passion and feelings towards your brand. My goal is to get the customers more emotionally involved when they answer the survey. The added value in providing a set of narrative answers is that it is a shortcut to measure qualitative data.

For this method to work, you would require a different set of answers for each question. It would probably require a few iterations before you get the questionnaire right; especially at first. Be prepared to test, learn and iterate. Since you can get results in real-time, you should be able to quickly act if you need to make a few adjustments.

Whatever method or survey service that you use to assess your customer satisfaction, make sure that the results are meaningful and can lead to actions. As a business owner, I prefer to get the facts that I need to run a successful business than to brag about obtaining a 95% customer satisfaction score by gaming the results. As a customer, I am more loyal to companies that show me that they value my feedback and care about providing products or services that matter to me. What about you?