How to maximize the value of your customer satisfaction survey process

The customer satisfaction survey has long been a tool for CX-focused businesses to collect feedback from their customers. Surveys allow people to tell brands what is or isn't working regarding aspects of their experiences such as product quality, customer service, and website performance. If structured right, customer satisfaction surveys not only measure customer satisfaction but also enable brands to gather ideas for how to improve the customer experience.

Although it was once a primary way of measuring happiness or discontent, there is now discussion among CX professionals about the usefulness of customer satisfaction surveys aside from measuring customer satisfaction. Artificial intelligence (AI) has fundamentally changed how businesses gather customer input. AI analytics tools can collect and analyze customer feedback from a multitude of sources, including social media, online product reviews, blogs, and contact center interactions.

This has created a wealth of information exponentially larger than that collected by customer satisfaction surveys. So, it's only logical to ask: Is the customer satisfaction survey obsolete?

The answer is no. Surveys are still an important component of a brand's customer experience management (CEM) strategy. Effective CEM programs rely on analyzing vast amounts of customer data that enable businesses to know their customers intimately. While survey results alone won't provide these comprehensive customer insights, they still provide good information about customer satisfaction, customer expectations, willingness to recommend, and customer effort. They can be used in a targeted way to understand transactional experiences, or at a more macro level to measure a customer's satisfaction with the business relationship.

Organizations should follow best practices to get the most value from their customer satisfaction survey process. This article will provide tips for how to maximize survey response rates, design surveys to collect the information you need, and analyze and act on survey results or customer satisfaction data.

Understanding customer satisfaction surveys

A customer satisfaction survey is a tool for collecting customer feedback about a specific aspect of a business. For example, a brand might administer a survey to measure satisfaction with their products or their e-commerce site.

Survey designs can vary, but they typically consist of a combination of scaled, multiple choice, and open-ended questions. Organizations also use a variety of formats for their surveys, ranging from hardcopy to phone to digital.

Customer satisfaction surveys offer numerous benefits. They allow brands to quickly measure satisfaction and collect feedback, both of which enable issue identification and solution development. The results can be used to track performance over time so that organizations can identify trends. And when combined with other customer data, customer satisfaction scores help businesses understand the quality of their customer experience.

It's important to be aware of the limitations of customer satisfaction surveys. While they are useful tools for measuring satisfaction with a certain aspect of a business at a specific point in time, they don't measure customer loyalty. Additionally, completion rates can be low (as discussed in the next section) and those customers who do fill out surveys tend to be extremely satisfied or dissatisfied, which can skew the results.

Despite these drawbacks, customer satisfaction surveys still deserve a place in your toolkit of CX measurement solutions.

Maximizing your customer satisfaction survey response rates

One of the biggest weaknesses of customer surveys is low response rates. According to NICE Satmetrix, the co-creator of the Net Promoter Score (NPS), average response rates for B2B customer satisfaction surveys is 23-32% (depending on the type of survey) and the average response rates dip to 13-16% for B2C surveys.

NICE Satmetrix chart/treemap chart

In other words, the average B2C customer satisfaction survey will tell you how 16% of your customers feel, but what about the other 84%? To capture feedback from more of your "silent" customers, follow these tips:

Automatically offer surveys when possible

The end of a contact center interaction is a perfect time to ask customers about their satisfaction with customer service. A key to higher response rates is to offer transactional surveys immediately following the transaction. However, response rates can be hampered if your survey process relies on agents manually transferring callers to the survey tool.

The right feedback management system can automatically present customers with surveys at the conclusion of an interaction, which can improve response rates and give agents one less thing to remember to do. As an example, one of our clients automated the handoff between agents and the survey system and experienced an increase in survey completion rates.

Structure the survey so that customers will complete it

Most of us have been on the receiving end of a bad, boring customer satisfaction survey, and some of us may have even bailed out midway through. To avoid this scenario with your own surveys, do the following in conducting customer satisfaction surveys:

  • Create a compelling invitation. Whether you send a digital survey or call customers to get their feedback, the invitation should hook them. Customers should know what's in it for them and it's also a good idea to provide examples of improvements that have been made based on past survey results.
  • Don't make the survey too long. And inform customers in the invitation and during the survey how long it will take to complete it. According to Survey Monkey, 60% of people are inclined to skip a survey that will take more than ten minutes, so respect your customers’ time and boost completion rates by streamlining your surveys.
  • Avoid survey burnout. Also along the lines of respecting customers' time is the need to avoid asking them to complete too many surveys. Every other company they do business with is also asking them to complete surveys, which can lead to survey burnout. Strategically selecting who, what, and when to survey can help organizations avoid this trap.
  • Make sure customer contact information is accurate and that you're surveying the right group. Some types of survey invitations need to be sent via channels such as email and voice, making accurate contact information essential for having strong response rates. Additionally, the response rate will suffer if the wrong group of people is surveyed. For example, if you want to determine satisfaction with the retail experience, don't survey customers who have only made online purchases.

Use multiple channels for your customer satisfaction survey process

Your customers are used to using multiple methods of communications and may even have strong channel preferences. To increase survey completion rates, use multiple channels to distribute customer surveys. This may include phone, chat, email, and more. And always make sure surveys are optimized for mobile use to avoid alienating hardcore smartphone users.

Send friendly reminders

Sometimes people just need a gentle nudge to complete their tasks. Sending a follow-up email or text with an engaging message about why customer feedback is important can be an effective way to increase the number of people who complete your customer satisfaction surveys. But avoid being spam-y or your reminders may have the opposite of the desired effect.

Offer a reward

Customers need to know what's in it for them when they're invited to complete a survey. Sharing improvements that have resulted from customer feedback can be a compelling way to encourage participation, but some people may need an extra incentive. This can be a tricky subject because survey results can be skewed towards one type of customer persona when you offer perks, so consider offering something like entry into a drawing for a gift card so that survey results aren't too distorted.

Ensure privacy and anonymity

Depending on the nature of your business, customers may be reluctant to provide candid feedback. For example, people might think twice about filling out a customer satisfaction survey for their insurance provider or electric company for fear of retribution. To overcome this potential barrier, you might want to assure customers that their input will remain anonymous. However, know that this will prevent your business from following up with disgruntled customers.

Using these tips for improving customer survey completion rates will help ensure you're collecting a large enough data sample from which to draw accurate conclusions.

Getting meaningful information

Response rates are only one variable in the equation. To get the most value from your customer satisfaction survey process, the survey results need to be meaningful and actionable. Let's discuss a few ways to ensure your surveys are producing useful insights.

Establish objectives

Before designing your customer satisfaction survey, determine what the ultimate objective is. Establishing goals for your survey will guide the design and the distribution methods, and help avoid scope creep.

Link surveys to the customer journey

Recall that customer satisfaction survey results are one component of a much broader CEM data set. Businesses should avoid surveying "just because they can" and instead take a more thoughtful approach by linking satisfaction surveys to specific parts of the customer journey. For example, surveys can be used to fill information gaps in specific phases of the journey. If the customer experience during the onboarding process is in the shadows, you can shine a light on it by designing and administering a survey specific to onboarding.

Design your customer satisfaction surveys right

Good design doesn't just help improve response rates; it also helps ensure you will get useful information from your surveys. Here are some tips for designing a customer satisfaction survey that produces actionable insights.

  • Design the survey to find out what's important to your customers. It's a natural and understandable tendency to approach survey design from the business's perspective. Are customers satisfied with that tiny tweak we made to the IVR menu? How do they like our new logo? Chances are no one noticed the IVR change and they really don't care about the logo. Instead, ask about topics that are typically important to customers, such as ease of use and product quality.
  • Use scaled questions. Asking questions such as, "On a scale of one to ten, where ten is highly satisfied, how satisfied are you with your customer service experience," enables you to quantify results. A numerical customer satisfaction score makes it easier to spot trends, share results, and include the information on customer journey maps
  • Use open text fields so people can explain their numerical ratings and provide suggestions. Without this color commentary from customers, you'll just have numbers on a page that you'll need to make assumptions about, which could ultimately lead you down the wrong path.
  • Arrange questions in a logical order. How you sequence the customer satisfaction survey questions can affect the quality of the responses. Because people tend to remember interactions as a sequence of events, the order of your questions should mirror that. For example, a survey about customer service might begin with a question about the IVR experience, then ask about wait times, and so on.
  • Don't include questions that don't support the customer satisfaction survey's goal. It can be easy for surveys to have scope creep. "Hey, while you're interacting with our customers, ask them about this." Surveys should be succinct and focused so that you get the information you need without muddying the waters. Plus, adding more customer satisfaction survey questions makes surveys longer, which could jeopardize completion rates.

Test your customer survey

It may make sense to test your survey before sending it to your entire customer base. Testing it on a subset of customers will allow you to determine whether the survey will provide the information you need. And when you solicit feedback from the pilot group, the testing process can help ensure the customer satisfaction survey process is providing a good experience to customers.

Avoid selection bias

If your survey will only be offered to a subset of customers, it's important to choose a representative sample so that you can accurately extrapolate results to your entire customer base. Conversely, you may want to intentionally survey specific customer segments in order to better understand them. In that case, consider flagging the survey results as not being representative.

Following these customer satisfaction survey best practices will help ensure your business is collecting information to support continuous CX improvements.

Making the most of your customer satisfaction survey results

Improve customer satisfaction score concept image

How you use the information you gather is probably the most important part of the customer satisfaction survey process. Surveying without action is a fruitless activity. Below are some ways to squeeze the most value from your survey results.

Close the loop with customers

Survey results will unearth some disgruntled customers that should be dealt with right away. Businesses should establish a process for contacting them to try to salvage the relationship and improve customer retention. Additionally, you can acknowledge highly satisfied customers or loyal customers - it's a good way to turn them into brand advocates who recommend your company to family and friends.

Segment survey results

If your business uses customer segments and/or customer personas, it can be helpful to analyze customer satisfaction survey results according to customer groups. Because customer preferences can vary widely, this segmentation of feedback can enable you to better pinpoint specific groups of happy and unhappy customers and develop relevant solutions according to segment characteristics.

Combine and analyze with other customer input

Because survey results only reveal one facet of customer opinions, they are most valuable when combined with other customer data such as purchase history, online behavior, product reviews and customer service interactions. A data set this large requires AI-powered analytics tools to transform all that raw data into meaningful insights. The analysis process should produce a comprehensive view of the customer that can be shared across the organization and used to inform decisions about CX strategy and initiatives. An equally important output is the identification and prioritization of improvement opportunities.

Benchmark, if possible

Average customer satisfaction scores are noticeably different across industries. For example, e-commerce retailers usually have high satisfaction scores, while utilities are low on the list. Benchmarking against industry averages can provide helpful context regarding your satisfaction scores. And if competitor data is available, benchmarking can tell you how big the positive or negative gap is.

Take action on the analysis insights

It's time to use that customer feedback to drive change! The main purpose of a customer satisfaction survey is to improve customer satisfaction. This is done by using customer input to make meaningful improvements to the customer experience. Many businesses have implemented cross-functional customer experience management teams that are responsible for managing the list of initiatives that are produced during analysis. These terms are typically responsible for collaborating across the organization to implement effective changes to the customer journey that will increase satisfaction.

To learn more about establishing a customer experience management program, read "Guide to designing and implementing a Customer Experience Management (CEM) program."

Share positive customer feedback

Unleash the power of positive customer feedback by sharing it internally. When employees know that their ideas and hard work are appreciated by customers, it can improve employee engagement and begin a cycle of continuous improvement and innovation. Spending time listening to what customers like about products and experiences also reinforces the importance of a customer-centric culture. And if customers mention employees by name, rewards may be in order.

Continuously measure

It's critical to continue surveying your customers to understand if the improvement initiatives are working. Plus, in CEM programs, data collection and analysis never end. To ensure you're comparing apples to apples, try not to make too many changes to your survey questions. This means you need to have a solid customer satisfaction survey in place when you baseline your satisfaction scores. Following the tips in this article should help.

Other types of useful customer surveys

While measuring customer satisfaction is a useful input into understanding how customers feel about specific aspects of your business, it isn't the only customer input you can collect from surveys. Newer metrics, such Net Promoter Scores (NPS) and customer effort scores (CES), can also help companies understand what's working and not working with the customer experiences they provide.

  • Net Promoter Score (NPS). Net Promoter surveys ask a simple but insightful question: "How likely are you to recommend [product or brand] to a friend or colleague?" The scaled responses allow organizations to calculate an aggregate Net Promoter Score as well as segment customers into groups such as promoters and detractors. NPS is a key metric used for measuring customer experience and is also a predictor of business growth.
  • Customer effort score (CES). The customer effort score indicates how much work a customer had to do during a business transaction. Because consumers value convenient, low effort experiences, it's highly relevant for measuring CX as well as identifying sources of friction within the customer journey.

When combined with customer satisfaction scores and other customer data, these two metrics can help paint a more complete picture of the customer experience.

Wrapping it up

As you can see, customer satisfaction surveys are more complex than they might appear on the surface. Proper survey design is essential for getting the kinds of insights you need to measure customer satisfaction and identify CX enhancements that will improve customer loyalty.

Focusing on survey completion rates is another challenging puzzle to solve. Using best practices such as taking a multichannel approach, automating survey offers, and streamlining surveys so they aren't overly long can help ensure you have a large enough sample size for your analysis.

Finally, putting the satisfaction survey results to good use will help your organization spot trends and identify improvements that can ultimately elevate customer satisfaction and business performance.

Do you have the right technology to support an effective customer satisfaction survey process?

Having the right feedback management system in place is critical for managing your survey process. Modern feedback management applications:

  • Allow end-users to configure surveys how they want so they can capture other CX-related metrics such as NPS and customer effort score (CES)
  • Can deliver surveys in multiple channels to match customer preferences
  • Share data easily with other systems
  • Include a plethora of out-of-the box reports and also enable users to design their own
  • Can be incorporated into agent desktops so agents can monitor and manage their own results

If these capabilities check off your requirements boxes, please visit our product page to learn more about our industry-leading solution, NICE Feedback Management.