Home » customer surveys

Tag: customer surveys

Your customer survey is bad, and you should feel bad.

Your Customer Survey is Bad, and You Should Feel Bad


Rob Markey
is a loyalty rock star.

Not just because he’s the co-author of The Ultimate Question 2.0, one of my favorite business books of all time.

Not just because he heads up the Customer Strategy Practice at Bain and is one of the most important thinkers in the customer loyalty field.

All of these things are great, but what pushes Rob from pretty cool guy to loyalty rock star is the fact that he maintains a database of real customer surveys used by real companies. You can check it out by visiting http://www.robmarkey.com/survey-files/ (quick and painless registration required).

As you peruse through Rob’s collection of surveys, you will likely come to the same conclusion as I did – most customer surveys are awful.

Even companies that otherwise excel at customer experience have terrible surveys.

Five Guys asks customers for their receipt number, but then asks you for the time of your visit, order total, and 34 pages of other data that they should easily be able derive from information given on the first page.

It takes longer to complete the Starbucks survey than it does to drink a venti caramel macchiato.

Marriott, a company I love, asks over 80 questions, including an absurd matrix that asks you to rate on a scale of 1 to 10 whether the hotel was luxurious, sophisticated, or engaging (amongst a dozen more marketing words that mean nothing to the consumer).

And in the height of “do as I say, not as I do”, Forrester sent a 20 page survey to all attendees of a customer feedback management conference.

Overly long surveys tell your customers that you don’t value their time. This is especially true for surveys that ask questions to which you already know the answer. Don’t ask for my receipt number and then ask me whether or not I ordered breadsticks (looking at you, Pizza Hut).

The good news is that there is hope. And it starts with us, customer loyalty practioners.

We need to stress out about the length of our customer feedback surveys. It needs to keep us up at night. We should take it as a sign of professional failure if it takes longer to take our survey than it does to purchase, assemble, and use our products. Any time we are even considering adding another question to our survey, we should ask ourselves the following questions:

  • Do we really need to ask this?
  • Will we do anything with this information, or are we asking just to ask?
  • Can we answer this question ourselves with data we already have?
  • What can we remove to make room for this question?
  • OK, seriously – do we really need to ask this?

And it’s not enough to simply prevent new questions from being added. We need to critically evaluate existing questions to determine if they are truly needed.

I once read that you should turn all of your clothes hangers backwards, turning them the correct way when you’ve worn the garment at least once. At the end of a year, any item of clothing that is still on a backwards hanger should be donated to a worthy cause because you’ve demonstrated that you don’t wear it.

Likewise, you should turn a critical eye towards every question on your survey at least once a year (if not quarterly) and ask your team a simple question: “When was the last time someone used the data that this question collects?”. If no one can offer up a concrete instance in the past 12 months, you should seriously consider removing the question from your survey.

Customer surveys don’t have to suck. Companies like Rackspace, Logitech, Intuit and Domino’s all manage to collect meaningful, actionable customer feedback without torturing their customers with page after page of needless questions.

If you remain diligent about what you are asking and why, your reward will be increased response rate, more actionable data, and clearer line-of-site for employees.

And then you’ll be a loyalty rock star too.