The Over-Surveyed Customer

Surveying your customers is a great way to learn about customer satisfaction, areas for improvement, perceptions about your brand, value provided, etc..  But I have noticed a trend of over-surveying, as well as surveys being used for a “beauty contest”.

For example, there is my car dealership, which sells a premium brand known for its high quality and service.  Every time our car is serviced, I receive a phone call (pre-recorded message) from the service manager asking me to participate in the post-service survey I will receive from the manufacturer.  He asks that if I cannot give the dealership the highest marks for service, I call him to discuss the reason.  There are two reasons I will not participate in the survey:

  1. If I have a problem with the service, he will be the first to know, without the need for a survey.  I am paying a lot for the service and if the service does not reflect the price I am paying, I will speak up.  Maybe others won’t but, hey, I grew up in New Jersey.  We have the car serviced about three times a year.  Do I need to be surveyed every time?  Can’t I just complete one survey a year?
  2. The survey is clearly being used to give the dealership some type of reward and for promotional purposes.  While I have no objection to this, I think a survey should also be an opportunity to improve performance.  With the “pressure” to give the highest ratings the company does not learn how people truly feel about the service they received.   I’m a tough grader and am annoyed by “grade inflation”.  A “10” to me means you went above and beyond what I expected for the price I paid and, yes, on occasion this dealer has gone above and beyond what I expected.

I had a similar experience after a mortgage refinancing recently.  My current mortgage company sent an offer to refinance at a lower rate with no closing costs (sweet deal, no hassle).  Post-closing I received an email from a person I exchanged three emails with to set up the time for the document signing.  She explained I would receive a request to take a service survey and she asked that I give her the highest marks.  Frankly, her role in the refinancing was almost incidental.  The person who handled the document signing and the person who I first spoke with when I received the offer did far more than this woman.  This survey seems to be an exercise in rewarding performance and not capturing customers’ honest feedback about service quality.

These are just two examples in a sea of over-surveying.  To be useful, surveys can explore:

  • Perceptions of value – If customers are paying a lot for a product or service, they expect a higher level of performance.  So the question should be: How do customers rate the quality of the product or service for the price they paid?
  • Improving the customer experience – Hearing from only customers willing to rate your company as a “10” breeds complacency that can prevent your company from innovating and improving.
  • Recommending to family and friends – Getting “10s” is nice, but it is really meaningful when a customer goes out of his or her way to recommend your company’s product or service.  This is a true measure of satisfaction.
  • Fulfilling the brand promise – Customers have an expectation when they interact with your brand.  A survey can uncover if those interactions meet, exceed or fall short of customers’ expectations and in what way.

So be mindful of how often you survey and what information you gather.  The mere number of requests might be a turn-off for some people.  And please don’t use a “survey” to make a sales pitch (three questions and then “I have the answer to your problems”).  You probably will not get the sale (at least not from me) and you will ruin it for all those who conduct true customer and market research.


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