Paul Beaumont column: Customer Surveys – are they worth all the aggravation?

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In today’s e-shop dominated world you can’t buy anything without receiving some sort of customer satisfaction survey a split second after the transaction finishes.

But, do these things serve any real purpose and do we get a better service as a result next time we buy?

We would like to think so, wouldn’t we?

Unsurprisingly, like a lot of things it’s all a matter of “you get out what you put in”. If you plan the questionnaire carefully before you send it or telephone your customer, prudently select who you are going to ask to answer your questions and use the appropriate media to deliver your questionnaire, you should get good and valuable data.

Surveys broadly fall into two categories – questions that are product related (are you happy with the product/how can we improve it?) and questions that are service related (how did we do/are you going to come back again?).

How you carry out a survey can make a difference to your return rate. Email is used extensively for more in-depth surveys and often re direct you to a website to fill it in.

The return rate on a survey carried out via email can be quite low as they do tend to be bigger and therefore need more time and attention but also they fall foul of “straight into spam” or “straight into the trash can” syndrome.

Short and to the point surveys consisting of one question such as “How did we do? Give us a mark between 1 and 10” lend themselves to text messages. This is a fast and cheap medium and quite often 85–95 per cebt of SMS’s actually get opened; the other good news is that there is no automatic spam or trash folder!.

Lastly, there is the much abused method of telephoning your customer and actually talking to them – probably the hardest method but if it’s done right probably the most effective. You are not guaranteed to find your customer physically in and if they are in they might not want to talk to you for a whole host of reasons but at least you might get the chance to ask them when it would be convenient to talk and make an appointment. If you are ringing people choose

your timings correctly: - ring business people during the day (Fridays are often a good day) and ring residential customers on an evening, but ring pensioners during the day – be practical and think first. Another big decision when telephoning is “do we do it ourselves or do we pay someone else to do it?”

If you get someone else to do it they can often get more accurate and meaningful data as the person on the other end of the phone won’t be embarrassed to tell them everything “warts and all”.

Lastly, if you go to all the trouble and expense of carrying out a customer survey please do use the data effectively because it’s amazing how many firms just collect it, tick the box and then ignore it.