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Guest Blogger: Adele Sage | November 9, 2012

A Cure for Customers' Survey Fatigue

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You just bought something at your favorite store. You walk out with a skip in your step thinking about when you might wear this new purchase. You give into your compulsion to check your email on your smartphone, and there, waiting for you, is a survey from that very company asking about your experience. You groan, but you click on the link. The survey isn't formatted for your phone, so you have to pinch to zoom in and out. You don't understand the first question. Or the second one. Frankly, you don't really care. You close your browser window, curse the company and every other company that has ever asked you to complete a survey, and you vow never to shop anywhere ever again.

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I'm no doctor, but I'm confident in my diagnosis: You are suffering from Survey Fatigue.

You're not alone. Survey fatigue has even made it into pop-culture as a known malady, thanks to articles like this one in USA Today. It's no surprise that consumers are irked; most companies' customer experience measurement programs and voice of the customer programs rely on surveys for the necessary data. As a result, consumers are getting barraged with requests for feedback, and, really, it's just because companies have good intentions. They want to know how they're doing and how they can improve the experience.

If you're one of these survey-reliant companies, what can you do? I'm working on some research right now on that very topic with our new analyst, Maxie Schmidt-Subramanian. We're exploring indicators of survey fatigue to help you spot the problem, as well as best practices for reducing any fatigue that does exist.

One best practice that has come out in a number of the interviews we've done so far is about transparency. Customers want to know that it's worth it to spend their (precious) time giving you feedback. Is the data going into a black hole? Is the company actually doing anything with it?

The truth is that your customers want to help you. If you let them know that you appreciate their comments and that you're doing something to fix the problem, they are far more likely to give you feedback again. It's human nature. They feel good. They're making a difference. They're being heard.

So how do you let them know you're listening? There are a few options. If you surveyed a specific group, like, say, in an annual relationship survey, you can follow up with information on what you found in the data and what you plan to do about it. Intel does this very thing, and even includes video messages in the follow-up emails. Here's another option: When you send a survey invitation, mention some of the recent trends you found or initiatives you started based specifically on other customer feedback.

You could even create marketing campaigns advertising the ways in which you are working to improve experiences based on customer feedback (think: billboards, TV spots, or banner ads). If that's too extreme, you could do what Delta did: The airline sent an email to its most important customers explaining why they survey periodically, encouraging them to participate, and directing them to a page on the website where Delta detailed its progress on major improvement projects.

Of course you take your customers' feedback seriously. Now you just need to show them that you do - and they'll take the time to give you even more of it, symptom free.

Want to fatigue us with your questions? Come see Maxie and me in person next week at Forrester's Customer Experience Forum West in Los Angeles (Nov. 14-15).

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Adele Sage is an Analyst at Forrester Research, serving Customer Experience professionals. She blogs at http://blogs.forrester.com/adele_sage and tweets at @adelesage.


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