Customer Experience, Personalized Service, Work

Are Customer Satisfaction Surveys Annoying Your Customers?

Customer Satisfaction Surveys are a familiar concept to everyone working in customer service – in their simplest form, at the end of an interaction with a business, customers rate the quality of the service they received. This data is a goldmine of insight. Voice of the Customer (VoC) information is arguably the most important information there is in assessing the effectiveness of the service you provide. It’s as close to impartial, objective, and honest feedback as many businesses can often get. But could asking customers for feedback actually be damaging your business?   It sounds impossible, right? But let me explain.

Melissa’s Story

I was talking to a friend last weekend about the problems she’s been having with her internet provider.  Melissa was moving house, and she had called her old internet provider to arrange for her service to switch to her new address. She’d clearly confirmed the move date to the rep she spoke to – only to find that as move day approached, her internet service got cut off without warning. Moving house is a tricky time requiring a lot of communication with different companies, so this was disastrous for her. After many complaints, she’d finally managed to get the issue resolved – although not without having to complain on several channels – before finally getting a dongle to tide her over until she moved. I sympathized with her situation as she vented. “Honestly, even though I got my issue sorted in the end, it was so, so stressful and such a waste of time. They’re useless – from the rep who couldn’t even take down my move date correctly, to the annoying text messages they send me after every call asking if I’m happy. I’ve expressed very clearly that I am not at all happy!”

The Problem with Post-Transaction Surveys

Many post-transaction customer satisfaction survey processes aren’t clever. A server somewhere simply gets customer data, and pings off an email or a text message in response.  It doesn’t matter if you’ve already expressed to a rep that you would rather get your toenails pulled out than have to repeat business with their company. Most processes automating CSat simply fire off requests for feedback quite indiscriminately.

And for some customers, that’s incredibly annoying. Many companies don’t make it clear whether feedback given in a survey is actioned in the same way as it would be while talking to a rep.

I’ve known customers work themselves up into a frenzy on automated post-call surveys, as they feel they’ve had to repeat themselves – once on the call to an agent, once to a faceless system. For these customers, lack of clarity around the aims of survey process results in suspicion. Many aren’t sure if a human being looks into post-call survey results at all. Other customers suspect that soliciting feedback is simply a way to put a PR-friendly, benevolent mask onto an uncaring corporate monster. All this can be prevented: Customers shouldn’t be asked to give feedback via an automated system when they’ve already told a human rep how they feel.

In this age of omnichannel where customers expect service across phone, chat and social to be joined up – shouldn’t our surveys be the same?

My Story

Love them or hate them, Amazon has changed the face of eCommerce, if you still have any doubts check out the recent us trade data. I’m quite¬†firmly in the ‘love’ camp. Since I moved to Canada I’ve missed eBay, widely used by Brits like me to get items they need shipped right to their door. eBay doesn’t seem to be ‘a thing’ here in Canada, so Amazon has stepped in to fill the gap for me. I end up talking to customer support a reasonable amount, from asking about pricing to delivery options to postage queries.

After my contacts with them, I always get an email in my inbox from them asking if I’d like to rate the transaction. And honestly, they’re burning me out. Getting a survey after every single interaction feels overkill – as a customer, it feels transactional, not relational. I’m a regular customer, and Amazon already know I’m happy, so I shouldn’t need to tell them again.

The Future of Customer Satisfaction Surveys

As the customer service improvement trend boomed, it was difficult to consider how a harmless request for customer feedback could result in negative situations.

But times have changed.

In the same way that omnichannel is making customer service smarter, AI is making technology smarter. And as a technological process largely untouched by AI, post-transaction customer satisfaction surveys are ripe for disruption. AI can help us weed out those customers who are frequent purchasers and will get annoyed at being sent a survey every time. It can help us identify customers who are happy and have little reason not to be unhappy. It could even stop surveys being sent to customers who’ve spent very low values and who simply won’t see any personal benefit in completing a survey.

And one day, CSat surveys could be obsolete. AIs will rate and score customer sentiment from conversational cues, to provide an objective look at customer satisfaction without even needing to ask the customer.

Until then, companies shouldn’t believe that customer satisfaction surveys are the savior of customer experience, able to do no wrong. The devil is in the details. Like any customer experience initiative, you’ve got to consider the customer’s entire journey with you, not just a series of touchpoints.

So what changes can you implement now to prevent your customers getting burnt out on surveys?

Maximize the value of your feedback – for you and for your customer – by asking for feedback from infrequent visitors and purchasers, and customers less familiar with your brand. Do this by tracking survey history alongside regular wrap up metrics, and determining a ‘sweet spot’ where feedback surveys sent are less likely to be perceived negatively, and more likely to yield truly helpful data.

A Final Thought

Imagine if your partner were to text you constantly asking you to tell them whether you still love them. You’ve already told them how much they mean to you, but still, they keep asking. You’d almost certainly perceive them as needy and insecure – they shouldn’t need this to be constantly and repeatedly reaffirmed.

Well, a lot in good customer service isn’t that different from holding down a good relationship. It’s not necessary to ask for feedback if your partner (the customer) has already clearly told you how they feel. And you shouldn’t be risking driving away your customer by annoying them with repeated feedback requests.

Don’t risk becoming the needy partner in the eyes of your customers. Try out some smarter survey processes and see your customers reap the benefit.


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