When I was learning about customer surveys, I was taught that if you do not plan to take action on what you learn from a question, then don’t ask it.  Made sense to me.  However, now I am coming to believe that many people do not use any of the information obtained from their surveys – can you imagine how much of a customer annoyance that is?

How do I know the survey feedback isn’t being used?

When I am at a customer’s location for a consulting engagement, I usually ask about their CSAT program.  Specifically, I like to look at their survey instrument and the results.  I am no longer surprised when I learn that they have not looked at their results for 6 months or more.  Either the SurveyMonkey® reports have had a quick scan by the “administrator” or the paper responses are piled up in a large box.

When I ask why they bother to field the survey if they are not going to even look at the results, the answers are usually something like this:

  • “My boss told me to do a survey and then she got distracted with other issues and never mentioned it again.”
  • “I have no time, resources, or money to take any action so why bother looking?  I keep doing it so that if I ever get the time or help, I will have a history to look at.”
  • “Customers tell me they like the fact that we survey customers.  If they ask what we have learned, I do a dance and quickly change the subject.”
  • “I look at the numerical results but reading and categorizing the verbatims (text responses) is a killer.”

Why isn’t the information being used?

Usually, if people thought the survey feedback was valuable, they would find a way to get the results and see if there were things they could implement with little effort – the “low-hanging-fruit.  Unfortunately, many people are finding other information sources to be more useful.  This is best understood by looking at the following graphic from InMoment.

Note: This data is from 100 respondents to a survey invitation whose companies had CX initiatives underway. The majority of companies were located in North America (41%) or EMEA (33%), with the balance from Asia (20%) and Latin America (6%). Respondents were generally executives and middle managers with responsibility for CX initiatives, representing a mix of small (47%), medium (23%), and large (30%) enterprises. Thirty-five percent reported annual revenues of $100 million or more.

From the graphic, we can see that the “best” source of actionable insight is employees.  This is probably because the employees understand the company, can identify with what the customers are telling them, and can report digested problem summaries with potential actions.

The next best source of actionable insight is unstructured customer feedback.  These are comments made by customers in their own words.  They can say what they want and are not limited to putting a checkmark in a predefined box with a description that may not resonate with whatever is bugging the customer.

The last choice is structured feedback – the survey.

What should the company do?

First, the company had better start using the data it is already collecting.  People invested their time to share their thoughts and quickly will get very poised if they are ignored.  But using the information is not enough – you also have to share you plans or results back to your customers.  For example, while I was writing this post, I received an email from a service I use.  Here is what they said:

This is how these things should work!

Once the business is using the on-hand data, they need to educate everyone about accurately collecting and reporting insights from the customer base.  The company needs a way to collect, correlate, analyze, and action these off-hand comments.  And they had better engage the employees to share their own feelings.

Key Takeaway

Insight can come from many places and the business has to be organized to use it.  If they don’t, the business will suffer.  People may as well get on board and use the insights for gain from the customers to improve the business.