Great communicators and leaders will tell you the importance of considering your audience before starting any endeavor. Surveys are no different, but who is this mysterious audience? What do they want from us, and how do we get them to offer us constructive feedback?
Regardless of your industry or customer base, at a high level, there are only four types of customers responding to your surveys. They can all be categorized as happy, angry, bored, or opportunistic. Each kind of respondent has different motivations for taking your survey. If you want to collect actionable insight, you must offer each one an experience tailored to their needs and emotions.
Let's start with the most fun type of respondent, the happy customer. Happy customers love us! They're motivated because they feel indebted. We may have helped them through a rough time in their life, went the extra mile to give them personalized attention, simplified a really confusing process, or even just surprised them by how flexible we were in meeting their needs. Whatever it was, we did something nice for them. Now, they want to return the favor.
Because happy customers are motivated to reciprocate our kindness, they're willing to jump through a few hoops for us. They're keeping an eye out for survey invitations. They'll answer extra questions, share names and specific details, and they'll rate us an 11 on every 10-point scale.
If there was ever a customer we could put safely through the wringer, it's the happy customer. As sales author Jeffrey Gitomer says, we've got "customer insurance." That said, as with car insurance, we can't drive recklessly. Here are a few ways to keep your happy customer a happy respondent:
I hope you're feeling warm and fuzzy because you'll need it to handle the angry customer. Like their happy cousins, this species of customer is motivated-on-steroids. You've crossed their path, and now you're going to get it! Angry customers are motivated by revenge. They perceive that we've wronged them, and now we must die.
Angry customers are just coming down from a traumatic experience. We've somehow broken their trust, victimized them, made their lives miserable, and we may even have even damaged them monetarily. You can expect this survey response to be subpoenaed, proving your organization had prior knowledge, before the CEO testifies before Congress.
Let's try to get through this survey without adding insult to injury. Here are some ideas:
The emotional rollercoaster is over, I promise. In fact, this type of customer is characterized by a lack of emotion. They're just plain bored. Boring experiences aren't bad or good; they're just another lame transaction. The good news is, this is the easiest type of customer to turn into a raving fan. The bad news is, they're not taking our surveys. They may not have even noticed them.
Furthermore, when they do take our surveys, details are scarce. Because their interaction with us didn't trigger an emotional response (happiness or rage), they probably don't even know what to say. They've never thought about it. This lack of emotional investment also translates to how little effort they'll put into responding. They just don't care either way, and they may even feel as if it's not worth the energy.
Use these solutions to make the most out of your bored customers' limited commitment:
Last and (in this case) least, we have opportunistic customers. These customers are the adult chat line workers of survey respondents. They're only taking your survey because you're paying them. The amount of effort they will expend is directly proportional to the compensation they're given.
Offering rewards for taking surveys is ubiquitous now, and the rewards seem to get less valuable by the day. Some "rewards" even require additional purchases to take advantage of them. Assuming opportunistic customers are even interested, they'll simply race through your survey with the minimum thought and effort required. Better yet, they may even use a cool smartphone app to take the survey for them and spit out a rewards code. You have nothing to gain from these responses. Please stop trying. By conditioning customers to expect a reward, you're making research more difficult for the rest of us.
If you insist, or if the survey is so needy that you must pay for responses, try this:
When you design your customer surveys with the first three types of customer in mind, you'll get higher quality responses from a more representative sample. If you found this article inspiring, join me for Session 401: Ho hum No More: Re-imagining Customer Surveys to Drive Results at the ICMI Contact Center Expo, May 13-16 in Ft. Lauderdale, FL.
Andrew Gilliam is a passionate customer experience innovator and change agent. He's developed new employee portals, created effective surveys, and built silo-busting escalation systems. Andrew's background in Information Technology put him on the front-lines of customer service as an ITS Service Desk Consultant for Western Kentucky University. His vision: deliver Amazing Customer Service and Technical Support™.
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