Don’t Ask For My Opinion If You’re Not Going to Do Anything With It

3 Questions to Ask Before Surveying Customers

Smart marketers have listened to their customers forever. With the expansion of social media platforms, customers can share their experiences with other prospects and customers more broadly. As a result, companies have started incorporating methods for gathering customer input, notably surveys, into their communications.

After a recent trip, I was bombarded with requests for post-travel feedback. While initially I was impressed that my travel providers were interested in my experience, my reaction changed when I read the automated email and survey containing what, from a customer perspective, didn’t allow me to comment on more than a very small portion of my experience. From a social media marketing-customer relationship perspective, don’t ask for my input if you aren’t going to do anything with my feedback! 

3 Categories of post-service responders

The reality is that customers are moved to comment on your product or service for one of three reasons.

  • Wow me. Beyond delivering a superior product or service and providing exceptional value, you go that extra step to surprise and delight customers. For example, I stayed at a bed and breakfast in Iceland where each room including bathroom and kitchen was hand decorated with unique features. Unlike other Icelandic bed and breakfasts, the owner created a small hot tub surrounded by volcanic rock in the backyard and baked fresh bread each night.
  • Piss Me-Off. Treat customers badly and they’re likely to tell everyone they meet. Once you’ve made a product or service misstep, work to turn the experience around since that can help you win a customer for life. Use the input from customer comments and surveys to uncover issues. Respond to customers and, where possible, try to make good. Remember, some customers may only look at the negative comments so it’s critical to at least show that you are responsive.
  • Bribe me. Remember from the customer perspective, responding to your survey may be viewed as work. Therefore, you may need to offer survey respondents an incentive in the form of a prize draw, special offer or recognition. In this case, understand that customers may feel that they have to tell you what you want to hear, invalidating the results.

3 Questions to ask

Asking customers to share their views with you implies that you’re going to listen to what they have to say and take action. Otherwise, don’t bother, because you can be sure if they’ve got a problem or gripe, they’ll find a way to let you know about it.

  1. What’s the goal of your post-purchase survey? Are you sending the survey to confirm internally held views of your organization and service? Are you perfunctorily sending surveys to appear concerned? If this is the case, know that customers can tell a mile away that it’s meaningless.
  2. What actions will you take based on the survey results? Be clear about your future actions. What information will you acquire that’s different from input received from other customer touch points including customer service? How will customers know about your being responsive? Why contact prospects if you’re not going to do anything with the information? Remember too many emailings and they’ll unsubscribe or report you as spam.
  3. What’s in it for your customers? While you may not view it that way, taking time to respond to your post-service survey is work. What are you offering your customers in return for their time? A special prize drawing, a special promotional offer or credits towards bonus? Remember it’s not about you, it’s about your customers.

The bottom line is don’t ask me for my opinion if you don’t really care and aren’t going to do anything with the information. The last thing your customers want is another pro forma emailing that’s computer generated and doesn’t provide value to them. If your customers don’t like your product or service, they’re going to take action either by returning the item or complaining.

Do you have any additional advice regarding post-service customer surveys?  If so, what would suggest?

Happy marketing,
Heidi Cohen


Here’s a related article: How to alienate your audience.

Photo credit: David Pfeffer via Flickr

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