5 BIG Mistakes Companies Make on their Surveys – and How to Fix Them

Because in my line of work I’m called upon to evaluate programs, I almost always respond to survey requests from businesses. I do this mostly to see if companies are sending out GOOD surveys. But often, the surveys are, well, pretty awful. And that means you are not getting the feedback you seek. Constructing a good survey is not as easy as it looks, and sometimes it makes sense to hire a professional who has expertise in survey design and analysis.

Start with this question: WHY are you sending surveys to your customers? Hopefully, it is because you want their HONEST feedback. Sending a survey is one sign that you care, but sending a bad survey says you don’t respect your customers’ time or opinions.

Here are 5 common mistakes I’ve seen in surveys from airlines, application developers, marketing departments, auto dealerships, and online retailers.

1.    You require answers. This is a real turn off. You’re taking the decision-making power away from your customers. Let people answer what they want to answer. And even worse, don’t require a certain number of characters in the answer!  Instead, give your respondents the power to answer the questions they want, and write as much or as little as they choose.

2.    You have one survey for many audiences.  Generic surveys are bad. The survey gets too long, and questions don’t apply to everyone. This wastes time, makes people irritable, and results in decreased completions. Instead, create separate databases and surveys for each audience you want to hear from.

3.    You ask leading questions.  Your surveys should be free of bias and leading questions like this one: “How great was your service today?” Good surveys should elicit feedback and let you know both what you do well and how you can improve. That’s how you’ll grow and get better. Surveys seeking a superficial pat on the back tell us you don’t really care. Instead, just ask – “How was your service today?”

4.    You punish your employees. My auto dealership sends a service survey full of biased and leading questions, yet their advisors’ bonuses are based on survey results! If someone is unhappy with the repair done by the tech, why punish the service advisors? Instead, decide what areas of your business you want to asses, consider response rates (are you hearing only from unhappy people?), and use the results fairly and appropriately. A bad survey taken by only a segment of your customers should never be weaponized against your employees.

5.    You don’t listen to the feedback. I was in a group of people talking about a national home improvement chain survey that made us all laugh and roll our eyes because we never saw anything get better – and so we all quit responding to the surveys! If you’re going to ask us to spend time giving you feedback, be prepared to listen and respond. Tell us – or better yet, show us -  how you’ve improved based on feedback. You cannot make everyone happy nor can you make every change, but if you hear, repeatedly, that your customers can’t ever find anyone to help them, hire more people! Your customers know if you’re listening – or not.  

If you would like professional help designing and analyzing your surveys, contact RJAE Consulting. We will get you the results you need and that your customers deserve.