Why your customer satisfaction survey isn’t working

Barbara Jackson

9 min read Last Updated May 29, 2020

Customer satisfaction surveys are a familiar part of the customer experience. For example, giving a star rating to your Lyft or Uber driver. Giving feedback to your local auto shop. Or even rating your experience after shopping at Target! Customer surveys have become an expected part of commerce. Though they are commonplace, customer satisfaction surveys can still give your business important insights. In this article, we are going to explore what your current customer satisfaction survey is missing, and how you can improve it. 

Why are customer satisfaction surveys important?

Before we get into the details, let’s first explore why customer satisfaction surveys are important to your business.

Understand customer experience

Surveys help businesses keep up a relationship with their customers. Let’s say a customer (Rebecca) went to her local grocery store and had an unpleasant experience at the checkout counter. By filling out a brief survey, the manager learns that Rebecca felt like the clerk was asking her too many questions, which was bothersome because she was in a rush. Now that the business is aware of this, management reminds the checkout clerks that they should refrain from conversing with customers who look to be in a hurry. 

Without getting feedback, it is difficult to know how customers feel about a business. When done well, surveys are one of the most straightforward ways for businesses to understand their customer experience. Effective surveys help businesses know where they went wrong, and where they can improve. 

Bad news travels fast

While one poor experience with a customer should not define a business’s customer experience overall, bad news travels fast. Did you know that 39% of consumers avoid a business for over 2 years after having a negative experience? What might have been a one-off experience can quickly be blown out of proportion. 

One easy way to avoid this is by offering customers a way to communicate with the business. Surveys help customers vent their frustrations, and when a business responds appropriately to a negative survey, the business can turn a bad situation into a good one. Take a look at how companies like JetBlue are focusing on customer experience now more than ever.  They are especially good at responding to negative feedback and using that response as a way to advertise their brand. Take a look at how JetBlue handled this interaction with a customer:

JetBlue helped increase customer satisfaction on Twitter.
JetBlue helped increase customer satisfaction on Twitter.

Customers like to see that businesses care about their experiences, and responding to negative feedback is one way to demonstrate that your business cares.

Why your surveys might not be working

Perhaps you already know why customer surveys are important, but your business is still struggling to gain valuable insights from them. Here are some common mistakes that businesses make when crafting their customer satisfaction surveys. 

Questions are too vague

Though many customer satisfaction surveys will have similar questions, it is important that you make your survey questions specific. Instead of saying something like, “How was your experience?” you could try, “Did you find all of the items you were looking for?” or “Was our team helpful?” Make the survey questions specific to your business, it shouldn’t look like a carbon copy of an unrelated business’s survey. The more detailed feedback you can get from your customers, the more helpful the survey will be to you.

Survey is not unique

In addition to making the questions specific, you also want to make them unique. If you are sending the same questions in every survey to your customers, they will likely get irritated. No one wants to answer the same questions over and over again. It feels like a waste of time, and it may feel like the business is not reading the feedback or taking it seriously. Personalizing the survey will help your customer feel important and make them more willing to respond. Adding the customer’s name is an easy personalization to make, but it often isn’t enough. Make sure that the content of the survey is also unique to the customer’s situation.

One way you can do this is by creating a survey that follows a particular flow depending on your customer’s answers. For example, let’s say you asked, “Did you find what you were looking for today?” and the customer answered “No.” Your survey could direct the customer to another question, like “Did our team assist you in looking for the item?” If the customer answers “Yes” to that question, then they could be asked, “Were you satisfied with the help you received?” This unique flow offers better insights into how customers feel when they are not able to find the item they were looking for, and gauges how employees are responding to that situation. If the customer answers “Yes” to the first question, then the survey could be much shorter.

Unique surveys produce unique data. The more you are able to curate surveys to match specific customer interactions, the more likely you are to receive valuable feedback.

Survey is too long or too complicated 

Make sure that the survey is both easy to fill out, and convenient for the customer. The survey should not be overly complicated. The questions should be specific, unique, and as short as possible. Be sure that you are not asking the same question in multiple different ways. If you are, try to narrow down the most important questions, and limit your survey to those.

Timing may be off

Sending a survey at the right time is key. It is best to send a customer satisfaction survey within 24 hours of the customer interaction, that way it is fresh in the customer’s mind. 

Remember, when a customer fills out a customer satisfaction survey, it is a favor to your business. As such, making sure that your customer satisfaction surveys are as easy and convenient as possible increases the chances of response. 

How you can fix your customer satisfaction surveys

Now that you know where your surveys are going wrong, here are some tips on how to make them stronger.

Keep it short

After making sure your survey questions are unique and specific enough, take a look at the overall length of your survey. Is it more than 5 questions? Try cutting it down. Shorter surveys are more effective for two reasons, 1) It is intimidating to see too many questions on a survey, and 2) Too much data is not helpful. 

When a survey is too long, the data your business is collecting becomes muddled. In order for customer feedback to be helpful to your business, it must be organized. 

Let’s say you’re a clothing store, and you ask the following questions to a customer who called ahead to see if size XS pants were in stock.

  • Was our team helpful in assisting you with your purchase? 
  • Were you able to find the right clothing size for you? 
  • Do you feel that our store has enough style options?
  • Did you find what you were looking for? 
  • What brings you to our store? 
  • Do you feel that our store should have more footwear options?

Some of these questions are not specific, and others are irrelevant to the customer. Instead, you could shorten the survey to get a more useful response.  

  • Was our team helpful in assisting you with your purchase?
  • Did you find the item you were looking for?
  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how likely are you to recommend our business to a friend? 

        1 (Not at all likely)                                         10 (Very likely)

Shorter surveys receive more organized responses, which helps your business make use of the data more easily. 

Give customers the chance to explain their response

If you are asking customers to rate their customer experience on a scale from 1 to 10 (1 being a terrible customer experience, and 10 being fantastic) what is the big difference between a 7 and an 8? Sure, one is lower than the other, but aside from that, what valuable information are you receiving? What is keeping your company from getting a 9 or 10? Maybe a customer gave you a 7 because they are polite and felt a 6 would be too low. Or maybe they gave your business an 8 for a tiny mistake that you believe should still earn an overall experience of 10. 

The only way to understand what your customer ratings really mean is to let your customers explain them. The more responses you receive, the more you will be able to detect patterns across your business’s customer experience. With this information, you will begin to understand the true differences between a 7 and an 8, and how to turn those numbers into 10s across the board. 

Make it accessible

Making your surveys accessible is extremely important. If it is difficult for a customer to understand the survey questions due to the use of internal jargon or an overly serious tone, they will be put off from answering the survey. Write your survey questions with a conversational tone, and be sure to use language that is easily understandable by your customers.  

Another way to make your surveys more accessible is by optimizing them for mobile use. If you are sending your survey soon after you interact with the customer, they will likely be on-the-go. If the customer sees that the survey is not being displayed properly, or has limited functionality on their mobile device, they are not going to battle with the technology just to fill out your survey. Making your surveys optimized for both desktop and mobile use is essential. 

5 tips for making a great customer satisfaction survey

To summarize, here are the main things to keep in mind when creating a customer satisfaction survey:

  • Make your surveys straightforward, easy to understand, and convenient. Remember that your customers are doing you a favor, so keep the user experience as clean as possible. 
  • Make your questions specific and unique. Creating a survey with a flow that matches customer responses will give your business more useful data. Create different surveys for different types of customer interactions, and try to add personalizations where you can (like the customer’s name).
  • Keep your surveys short. Too many questions make it less likely for your customers to respond.
  • Keep surveys timely. Send within 24 hours of a customer interaction. 
  • Make surveys accessible. Optimize surveys for both mobile and desktop use. 

Improve your customer satisfaction surveys with BirdEye

Want to get started making more effective customer satisfaction surveys? BirdEye can help! More than 50,000 businesses use BirdEye to collect feedback, build closer customer relationships, and improve customer experience. Find out how BirdEye can help you create the best surveys for your business. Call us at 1-800-561-3357 or send us an email at sales@birdeye.com.