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I did a little experiment this weekend. Every time I made a retail purchase, I kept the receipt to see if it had an incentive for me to take a survey about my experience. I have 6 receipts, and everyone is asking me to take a survey. I wonder why companies are surveying their customers, and what they are doing with survey findings? What’s your opinion?

I did a little experiment this weekend. Every time I made a retail purchase, I kept the receipt to see if it had an incentive for me to take a survey about my experience. I have 6 receipts, and everyone is asking me to take a survey. I wonder why companies are surveying their customers, and what they are doing with survey findings? What’s your opinion?

5/1/2012

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Question
I did a little experiment this weekend. Every time I made a retail purchase, I kept the receipt to see if it had an incentive for me to take a survey about my experience. I have 6 receipts, and everyone is asking me to take a survey. I wonder why companies are surveying their customers, and what they are doing with survey findings? What’s your opinion?

Answer

The industry, no doubt about it, is suffering from “surveyitis.” Some companies conduct surveys because they think it’s a good way to engage their customers, but they never plan to use the findings. Other companies survey their customers primarily to use the results for marketing purposes – they want to put out press releases claiming great customer satisfaction rates. Some departments survey for their own benefit only; there may be multiple departments in a company sending surveys to the same customers, but the findings are not shared among the relevant groups.

However, for all of the misguided reasons why companies survey their customers, there are two really serious issues. First, the companies do not use the information provided in the surveys – findings come in and are summarized into pretty charts and graphs and delivered to a senior executive who may (or may not) view the data, but no action is taken. The second problem is that companies do not close the loop and inform their customers – who gave their valuable time to share their thoughts and suggestions to the company – what they did with the information.

A few companies use survey results effectively and take immediate action based on feedback from their customers. There are also many examples of good survey practices. Unfortunately, too many companies do not understand the true purpose of surveys and, as a result, they do not conduct them properly or use their results appropriately, if at all. However, there is no doubt that many consumers want to share their thoughts with anyone who will “listen” – take a look at all of the social media sites dedicated to allowing people to share both positive and negative opinions (we listed some of them in the September 2011 Newsletter), as well as Twitter, blogs, etc.

Net/net: companies need to do a better job of listening, and if they are going to use surveys, they should follow survey best practices, which include having a corporate surveying strategy, applying findings on a timely basis, and getting back to participants to let them know how their feedback was used. Survey results should be a call to action and should be used to drive change as quickly as possible.

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