I know you get asked to take surveys all the time, because I do. Even the shortest business trip results in at least 5 surveys: Delta wants to know about your flight; Hilton wants to know about your stay; Enterprise asks about your car rental and on and on. But the most prevalent of all surveys is that one at the bottom of your sales receipt, the request from Apple, Kohl’s, Nordstrom, Target and virtually all retailers to “tell us how we did.”So last fall, two of my analysts and I set out to measure the quality of those point-of-purchase surveys (Point-of-Purchase Survey Study). We thought it would be interesting to know what level of science and engagement the nation’s largest retailers bring to their surveys. The surveys say they want to know about our experiences as a customer, but do they really want to know? Or, is this just PR spin? Well, friends, unfortunately… it’s PR spin. The nation’s largest retailers run tragically poor customer satisfaction surveys, they’re bad for customers, bad for companies—they’re a waste of time and money all the way around..
So what are these big retailers, like Amazon, Apple, Wal-Mart, Kohl’s, and Target, doing wrong? Are there lessons that can be learned from their mistakes? And how can you make your survey better than some of the biggest companies in the world?Let’s look at the two main problems: First, the vast majority of the surveys were riddled with biases, so we can’t imagine they provide anything but highly skewed data. And second, most of the surveys failed to show they care about their customers and the experiences they had.Let’s look at the problem of bias. There were five types of biases in these surveys, each negatively affecting data accuracy in different ways.
For example, Walmart asked 4 introductory questions irrelevant to the customer’s experience, and required the input of 2 receipt codes. Really? That’s a hassle.But the biggest, most consistent engagement mistake? Many of the surveys were just too long—the average length was 23 questions. A survey should certainly never take longer than the interaction itself, in fact, it should take less time.Family Dollar asked a whopping 69 questions in their survey—with 10 seconds a question that’s over ten minutes spent reflecting on items that cost a buck.Designing a quality customer satisfaction survey is a process, requiring multiple edits to reach the best version.
Throwing in every question is how NOT to design a survey. Think about what you want to know, and carefully craft your questions.It’s also important to set expectations at the outset, communicating how long the survey will take, and then meeting that expectation. Nordstrom advertised their survey as 2 minutes, but with 25 questions it took closer to 5 minutes. Most retailers didn’t provide any estimate of survey length, and instead simply let their customers click into the abyss.To execute a customer satisfaction survey that’s better than just about every major retailer, get serious about accuracy and engagement:
- Ensure your survey collects accurate and actionable data. Eliminate biases such as leading questions, forced wording, and faulty scales.
- Make every question clear and relevant to the customer.
- Show the customer that you respect and value their time by designing a survey that only asks what’s necessary and that states at the outset how long it will take.
If you follow even a few of the guidelines we’ve provided here, your survey will be leagues ahead of the biggest companies in the world.