Tuesday, April 18, 2017

"Go Real Easy On The Customer Satisfaction Surveys"

Surveys today are nothing like they used to be, and the way people respond to them is entirely different as well. There was a time when you could engage someone on the phone for 15-20 minutes and explore their likes, dislikes, preferences, and experiences in looking for a home or other product. They would openly share with us what was on their mind. If they liked something, they would say so. If they didn't, they'd share that too. In fact, they felt honored to have been selected to share their opinions with a company that actually cared about what they thought (and would actually say so). They felt they were making a difference in the direction of that product, service, or company.

Questionnaires done through the mail often were several pages in length and people liked doing them because they felt their opinion mattered and they were not inundated with several such requests in a week. In fact, they might only get one or two like this in an entire year - if that. Sometimes they were given a token incentive, and sometimes this wasn't used. People seemed to like participating, even without the bonus.

That was then, and this is now. People had landlines and took calls at home. Now, people use cell phones for much, if not all, of their phone conversations. They may not even be at home when the call is received or attempted. They could be driving. Voice mail is used to capture a large number of incoming calls, especially when the person being contacted doesn't recognize the number calling them. Telemarketing and phone solicitations have contributed to this in a large way. 

We all like to know that we are doing a good job, but a perfunctory satisfaction survey immediately - within seconds it turns out - after the telephone conversation or online chat does not seem appropriate. First, the person taking our call generally asks if they handled our case or question well. Sometimes a supervisor will come on the line for an additional question or two. Sometimes there is a extension of the call to complete an automated survey or a couple of questions. Then there is an emailed request to complete a survey. Sometimes there is a second email from someone else in that organization or a third-party retained by them, or someone in their marketing or customer satisfaction department.

Most of us believe that these questions are asked just for show. They really aren't interested in the feedback unless it's positive.

Enough!

While many marketing and social media texts, blogs, and articles encourage the use of surveys as a way of engaging our consumer, what if they have the exact opposite effect - instead of cultivating or enhancing a relationship they actually turn people away?

Because people are valuing their private time more and more, they resent the invasion of it that surveys cause. They don't like the intrusion, and many surveys are ignored, deleted, or tossed upon receipt. Others get far too intrusive in what they ask. Surveys must measure a limited amount of information. If several topics are the concern, more than one survey will be necessary. The questions must seem appropriate for the the stated objective. Routinely collectively (or trying to) demographic data on age, gender, income, educational attainment, occupation, home ownership, and similar information when there does not appear to be an obvious or direct relationship that the consumer can detect increases the chances of non-completion.

Telephone or email follow-up with the customer by the salesperson, whether a transaction has occurred or not, is quite appropriate. It is part of the sales process. On the other hand, surveys are impersonal. For the many reasons just presented, surveys do not connect well with consumers today. Let's rethink if we need surveys (online, telephone, or written) and use them very sparingly if we think that we do.

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Steve HoffackerCAPS, CEAC, SHSS, is a licensed Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist-instructor and best-selling author of universal design books. To learn about this and other programs for aging-in-place or universal design, visit stevehoffacker.com or call 561-685-5555. Also check out the "Aging & Accessibility" groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.