Do you want to gather valuable feedback about how your customers perceive your business and the service that you provide? Are you seeking to maintain customer loyalty and satisfaction? If so, Customer Experience (CX) surveys will help you to achieve your goals. To help you prepare, this article offers you guidance and insights into what steps you should take when designing and distributing your own customer experience surveys.
“Working with Customer Experience is crucial for any successful company,” says Johan Montano. John is the CX Program Manager and Senior Insight Consultant here at Netigate. “Delivering a strong customer experience can ultimately improve the bottom line through increased customer retention, increased sales, more referrals and reduced costs. To achieve this, listening to customers is key. CX surveys are an important channel for your customers to be heard in a structured way. But listening is not enough. Progress is achieved by turning survey data into strategic insights. Which can be transformed into actions that, ultimately, lead to an improved customer relationship.”
Communication is key
Before you conduct any surveys, you should recognise the importance of clear communication. Throughout the entire process, you need to make sure that your intentions are clear both internally and externally.
Internally, bringing your colleagues on board is of utmost importance. You should collaborate closely with those who have direct contact with the relevant customers. They will have a good understanding of these individuals and can positively influence your planning. You should also create policies explaining the purpose of the survey, how the results should be used. Coupled with how external communications surrounding the outcome should be handled.
When it comes to external communications with customers, it should be immediately clear to them what the purpose of the survey is and how the results are going to be used. Once the survey has been conducted, it is equally important that you communicate how you have acted on their feedback. After all, you are giving customers a voice when you conduct CX surveys and it’s important that you actually listen to them.
The Customer Experience (CX) survey checklist
“When you’re carrying out CX surveys, the most common mistakes include not having a clear purpose. Not having a plan for addressing the insights gained and then failing to properly communicate the actions you will take,” Johan says.
Customers are often more likely to share bad experiences rather than the positive. Did you know it takes 12 positive customer experiences to make up for a single bad one?
To help you learn more about avoiding these critical errors, we’ve put together the following checklist that breaks down the most important factors of conducting a CX survey:
You have probably heard it many times before, but having a clear purpose is paramount to the success of your CX survey. Without a well-defined objective, you are more prone to experiencing misconceptions, underutilisation of the results. Ultimately failing to get the most out of your research.
The best place to start is at the end: what do you plan to do with the results of your survey? Ask yourself exactly what you need to know and why; or, more specifically, what decisions and actions will the obtained insights influence? Your answer to this will give you a clear focus and help you to make smart, targeted decisions throughout the entire survey process.
Let’s imagine that you’re running a chain of flower stores with an e-commerce element. After sending around your annual relationship customer survey (more on ‘relationship’ surveys later), you learn that your website is having a negative impact on the overall customer experience. The purpose of your next CX survey, therefore, will be to get more detailed feedback on the issue, in order to help you improve your online presence. This type of focused survey is referred to as a transactional survey, which we will look at in more detail in the next section.
2. Customer experience survey design
The first decision you need to make is what type of survey to conduct: relationship, transactional or both.
A relationship survey aims to find out how your customers feel about your company overall. This type of survey is often carried out at regular intervals (e.g. yearly or quarterly) and helps you to:
- Understand overall customer loyalty and satisfaction
- Get to know the overall perception of your brand/company
- Benchmark against internal and external key performance indicators (KPIs), e.g. Net Promoter Score (NPS)
- Identify business areas and touchpoints that need more attention
A transactional survey, on the other hand, is used when you need additional input to optimise different interactions— touchpoints— across the customer lifecycle. Essentially, it digs deeper into customer satisfaction and experience in relation to very specific interactions, helping you to:
- Identify strengths and weaknesses in customer interactions
- Create and track individual KPIs for different teams
- Find actionable insights at the transactional level
Relationship surveys are the typical starting point for most companies, followed by a combination of both survey types in order to continue understanding customer satisfaction on all levels.
In general, shorter surveys perform better than longer ones. If your survey is too long, the quality of the responses you receive can suffer, with participants allowing less and less time per answer, the longer a survey becomes. Worse still, you run the risk of the survey being abandoned by the respondent if they feel it is too time-consuming. Ideally, relationship surveys should take 5-10 minutes to complete, whilst transactional surveys should take no more than a couple of minutes.
Most surveys benefit from containing a variety of different question types and the ones you choose to include should be well-considered. Some common question types include:
- Scale questions: ‘On a scale of 1-5/from Strongly Agree to Strongly Disagree to what extent do you agree with the following…’ You know the type. They are familiar and easy for participants to answer, whilst still being valuable to you. Outputting straightforward, quantitative results, these questions are a great way of measuring customer attitudes and opinions over time. Remember to use the same scale throughout the survey to avoid confusing respondents.
- Single and multiple-choice questions: these questions are easy to use, intuitive to complete and output data that is easy to analyse.
- Open-ended questions: designed to capture detailed and meaningful responses. These questions give respondents the opportunity to speak their mind without being limited to a set choice of answers. They are a great way of gathering qualitative data.
To keep your survey as relevant and short as possible, you need to limit the number of items and only include questions on a need-to-know basis. When constructing the questionnaire, keep in mind the survey’s purpose. As well as only include questions that are relevant to achieving the most targeted feedback.
You should give surveyees the opportunity to identify themselves and have a follow-up conversation, particularly if they have had a negative experience on their customer journey. This shows that you are genuinely interested in understanding their concerns. As well as working together on service recovery i.e. finding a suitable resolution to the problem.
Test your survey
You should remember to take your survey for a test run before final release and you can enlist colleagues, friends or family to help you with this vital step. You will have the opportunity to identify problems such as navigation or technical issues, spelling errors, lack of clarity, or excessive completion time. It is also a good idea to do a pilot run with a selected group of customers before launching the survey among the entire target group.
Let’s consider survey design in the context of our earlier flower shop example. We know that a broader, relationship survey has flagged up customer experience issues relating to the e-commerce site. With this in mind, we now need to conduct a transactional survey with a view to getting to the crux of the matter: what is occurring at this touchpoint to generate negative feedback and how can we fix it?
First of all, we might want to start with a transactional NPS question to help us quickly garner overall customer satisfaction at this interaction point. This will output a quantitative figure that gives a good overview and comparison point. Then, we may want to include a selection of scale questions focusing on various elements of our site e.g. navigation, design, speed and available stock. Finally, an open-ended question would be a good way to capture detailed feedback and suggestions for improvement e.g. “How do you think we can improve our website?”.
3. Target group
The next step is determining who your target group is. Whilst there may be a temptation to contact everybody that you can, the best surveys will be carefully focused and tailored to a specific goal. Questions to consider when defining your target group include:
- Who can give you the feedback you need to fulfil your survey’s purpose?
- How strong is your relationship with this target group? How might that impact the decisions you make about your survey?
- What is the best way to reach the target group to ensure a high response rate?
- Do you have the necessary contact information for customers in the target group?
- What do you already know about these customers? Do you already have information, relevant to the survey, that you don’t need to ask for again?
When conducting a relationship survey that is broad in scope, you often want to draw conclusions from your entire customer base or a smaller, random sample. There may be practical limitations here, however, with regards to contact details and background information.
In the case of B2B surveys, it’s important to understand that what you call a customer is actually an account. Sending a relationship survey in a B2B scenario means sending surveys to many employees within an account. With this in mind, make sure that you only survey the relevant contacts that can answer your survey questions.
With a transactional survey, the target group is easily defined. They are the people who have experienced the targeted interaction with your brand/company. The challenge here is reaching the customers through the right channel and at the right time in order to ensure a high and accurate response rate.
Johan stresses that the relationship with the customer is important when sending out a CX survey. “The number one factor that affects the response rate is the relationship with the customer. Are you important to them or not?” To help with this, you should make it clear to the customer how the survey can benefit them; for example, by helping you to improve their future experiences.
Thinking back to our flower shop example, we know that the target group should be the people who are visiting and interacting with our e-commerce site. After all, our goal is to identify the issues at this touchpoint that are generating negative customer experiences. The best way to reach these customers is during the interaction itself, perhaps in the form of a pop-up whilst they are browsing the website. With this in mind, it’s not necessary to have interacted with these customers before and have their contact details. Whilst this makes soliciting the feedback easier, we cannot rely on an existing relationship with the respondents. Meaning that our survey needs to be especially quick and easy to complete.
Timing is paramount when sending out a CX survey. Relationship surveys can be sent at any time, but if they include detailed questions about a specific experience, it is important that the customers complete the survey whilst the interaction is still fresh in their memory. Some companies can also be limited by not having direct means to contact their customers. So they need to take the opportunity to conduct surveys whenever they can, e.g. after shopping in a supermarket, customers may be asked to complete a survey at the checkout.
Adjusting the timing of the relationship survey to fit the target group is another important consideration. Which days and times are they most likely to answer? What can you learn from earlier conducted surveys regarding this?
In addition to these external considerations, it is also crucial that the timing of the survey fits your internal processes. So that the results will reach you in time to influence important decisions and actions.
Transactional surveys need to be carried out as soon as possible after the relevant transaction occurs. When you place surveys at the right places in the customer journey, you have access to fresh, reliable and specific feedback. This is in contrast to feedback that isn’t collected in good time; human memory is transient in nature and the longer you wait to collect feedback, the less reliable and useful it will become. It can also negatively affect your response rate.
A word of warning regarding transactional surveys is to avoid sending them to the same customers too often. A customer that interacts with you frequently doesn’t want to be bombarded with surveys each time. The recommended level of survey frequency varies greatly between different types of customer experiences. Companies usually quarantine surveyed customers between 1 and 6 months.
Let’s look at our flower shop again: we’re going to want to catch customers who are in the midst of their interaction with our website, as outlined in the previous section. Gathering feedback at this point is crucial because it will give us access to the freshest, most reliable information about their experience on our website.
5. Insights & Action
All steps in the checklist are important! But if you don’t take action and follow-up on the results from the survey you will be failing to take advantage of valuable insights and information.
How to manage negative customer experience feedback
If customers have expressed dissatisfaction, you need to find out why. Ask open-ended questions to get to the core of their discontent, and if the survey is anonymous, give them the opportunity to opt-in to provide additional feedback on request. They should feel that they’re actually making a difference, and this is a perfect way to do that. Internally, you need to take negative feedback seriously and be proactive in addressing any issues.
How to manage positive customer experience feedback
Act on positive feedback and strive not only to meet their expectations in the future but exceed them. Good customers are hard to win and easy to lose, so you should do everything you can to maintain good relationships with them. In the long term, they will bring you continuing business and potentially more customers through positive word-of-mouth.
Where our fictional flower shop is concerned, we want to make sure that we use the feedback we receive to start making improvements on our website. For instance, let’s assume that our feedback points towards poor site navigation as the main issue that impacts customer experience. We would need to take active steps towards improving this. Then make it a priority to show our customers that we have taken their feedback on board.
If you are interested to see how this checklist can be applied to another concrete example, read our article “Using Customer Experience surveys to investigate customer churn”
Strengthen your relationship with your customers
“You take actions based on the survey results, but they need to be integrated into the processes you work with. Surveys should not be standalone processes that you do in isolation and then forget about. To get the most out of them, they should be integrated into your company strategy,” says Johan. “Every company should grasp the opportunity to strengthen the relationship with their customers. CX surveys are one of the best places to start.”
Johan ends our interview by explaining that Customer Experience is still such a broad concept. Even after working in the area for over 12 years, he’s still learning more all the time. But that’s just it: customer experience is about people— and people are complex. If you want loyal and satisfied customers, you have to continually work for them.