Ask for customer feedback like you mean it

September 22, 2015


dan natividad

Dan Natividad

Have you ever taken a customer satisfaction survey and wondered if the business really cared what you thought?

Maybe it was just a box-ticking exercise that left you disillusioned when your feedback was ignored.

Don’t be that business. Follow these tips to ensure your survey is properly implemented, well managed and gets you the results you want.

Make it quick

Completing the survey should be painless. Decide which key areas you want to measure and ask a maximum of 10 questions. Be sure to capture a rating of overall satisfaction.

If your survey takes more than five minutes to complete, reduce the number of questions.

The slicker the experience for customers, the greater the response rate.

Don’t cherry-pick

Use an automated method of inviting customers to participate in surveys. Manual selection introduces the risk of cherry-picking customers who are most likely to give a positive result. That does not make for objective survey results, and you won’t really learn anything.

Ideally, offer surveys to all your customers. That gives you the best possible response rate, the most broad representation of customers’ views and the most reliable data.

Don’t change questions

Decide which questions to ask before you launch your survey and then stick with them.

Changing questions later makes it difficult to track trends over time against areas of satisfaction.

If your survey responses suggest that you need to probe further into a particular area, then add a question about that rather than revising an existing one. But be aware of the overall length of the survey.

Force meaningful answers

Consider the range of answer options you give customers. Avoid giving a middle ground option, such as “neither agree nor disagree,” to keep customers from sitting on the fence.

Such responses are usually meaningless, unless you are trying to determine customers’ appetite for a new service. In that case a “couldn’t care less either way” option would be meaningful.

Having a couple of degrees of positive and negative response is not a problem, but force customers to go one way or the other with their opinions.

Respond to bad feedback

Don’t be afraid of negative feedback. Embrace it as an opportunity to show how much you value your customers and face the criticism head-on.

Investigate every instance of negative feedback, resolve any outstanding issues and contact customers to tell them what you’ve done. They will be pleased that you have listened and when they realize you’ve made a change based on their feedback, you’ll retain the customer and create a new advocate for your business.

Reward positive feedback

When customers are saying good things about you, make sure this is passed on to the relevant team or individual in your business. If you don’t already have one in place, consider introducing rewards for employees who excel and recognition when they do.

Track trends and make improvements

Your survey results are an invaluable source of guidance on what you’re doing well and where you’re failing.

Capture data accurately and regularly so both high-level and detailed results can be reported easily. That will help you identify and track trends key areas of dissatisfaction.

Record what you’ve done to correct dissatisfaction as well as the ways you’re counteracting negative trends.

Publish results

Be brave! Publish your results for your employees as well as your customers. As long as you are taking actions to address any areas of dissatisfaction, you have nothing to fear.

Even if your early results are poor, you’ll be able to clearly demonstrate how your business is responding positively to feedback. You can be confident future reports will show steady improvement in satisfaction.

Ultimately, continuous improvement in customer satisfaction will pay dividends in retention, sales and business growth.

Designing, implementing and managing your survey by following these rules will give you the best results. Your business will drive a culture of customer engagement and continuous improvement, especially if you reward staff who excel.

When you actively engage with customers to resolve dissatisfaction, your customer retention rates will improve. That sparks a cycle in which satisfaction levels steadily increase through better customer service.

Ultimately, the setup and administration costs of the survey will more than pay for themselves when your business is transformed.

Dan Natividad, a Stockton native, is a partner at Port City Marketing Solutions along with Kristen Dyke and Erin Diego. Dan can be reached at

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