Curing A Business of the Survey Addiction

When companies list their assets, the usual suspects make the list: inventory, property, equipment, and the like. But, rarely do businesses list their most valuable asset — the customer. They don’t list customers as assets because rarely do companies think of them as such – but what asset could be more valuable? Customers are the sole reason a company stays in business.

Given that customers are the most important, most valuable asset a business can possess, knowing and managing the performance of this asset should be just as rigorous as efforts to measure sales and revenue. Unfortunately, the measurement of customers typically begins and ends with the survey. There are numerous flaws with this approach.

Surveys are not holistic: The surveys most companies use are fixed on a singular point in time, rather than capturing the customer’s entire experience with the company.

The results are often skewed: Customers who answer the typical customer survey are usually extremely happy with their experience or extremely disappointed. The sentiment of the vast majority of customers who fall towards the middle of the bell curve go untracked.

Surveys are often structured to impinge upon customers’ goodwill: Ever agree to take a customer survey, only to find it’s 12 pages long? It’s happened to just about everybody. And, guess what? Most customers bail before ever getting to page three.

The score becomes the end game: When surveys are the mechanism to measure performance with customers, raising the level of the score becomes the priority, instead of improving the business’ performance with the customer.

 Instead, companies should be working to increase the experience of the customer and measure the customer’s sentiment throughout his or her relationship with the business. This can be achieved by employing three very specific tactics via surveys:

Increase Brevity: Keep it simple. Keep it short. Most companies make their surveys entirely too long, impinging on that goodwill mentioned earlier. The trick is to try to tailor the length and essence of the survey to leverage a customer’s goodwill but not infringe upon it. This means the survey might be only one or two questions long or a yes/no kind of thing. By making surveys easy and quick, conversion rates on capturing information will go up.

Increase Breadth: Or, capturing data across more touchpoints – the engagements a customer has with the company. Now that we have shorter, simpler surveys, let’s use them in more relevant places and across a broader representation of the customer lifecycle. Thus, collecting input across wider array of touch points provides a more holistic view of your customer – and better insight to how they feel about you throughout their journey.

Increase Frequency: Attempt to collect mini-surveys more frequently to have a better beat on what customers are thinking. Think about this input in the context of a trend over time rather than the result of one survey.

Through this process, businesses will begin to be able to answer some key questions, like “why were customers acquired for a specific period, in both volume and value?” Or, perhaps, “why were customers lost during the same period?” And, most importantly, “how did we do as a whole at serving this asset across the entire operation and throughout the entire customer lifecycle?”

All of the answers to these questions provide clarity on the the customer relationships which drives business’ financial performance. That’s the potency of viewing customers as the assets they are – it begins the process of connecting customer experience to ROI.

By making the paradigm shift of viewing customers as assets and stopping the survey insanity, companies will begin the process of asking themselves if what they are doing is ultimately adding value to the lives of customers, which is the true objective for any lasting business.

David Trice is co-founder and CEO of Engage.CX.