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September 26, 2013


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Joseph Ratliff

Why not create an interesting (as in, NOT boring) document or video series (or both) addressing common questions with your product or service.

In fact, why not put all of these in a dedicated area for each customer (What? Making me feel like a member of a community? No way!). Provide a dedicated login, and let me keep track of my own purchases and manuals, and FAQ, and... and... and...

That does mean "customer experience" comes into play though, and that requires work.

That said... it also deepens the relationship with a customer, and heck, they might be more willing to give more thoughtful answers to your survey questions.

It boils down to the difference of getting "I just need to get through this survey to shut them up" answers... versus "Yeah, I'll give my honest feedback" answers.

One is a valuable answer... the other is not.

David Koopmans

David, great reminder. I am sure I have been guilty of this. You're keeping me honest. Thanks.


Very true. Airlines are terrible at this too, from email surveys to handing them out during a flight (where you have to answer questions such as "how was deboarding" before the plane has even landed). Funnily enough, I always fill them out during flight (I must have done 15 for KLM) and I always put in the comments "I would like to help you improve your service, contact me at [email]". I have yet to be contacted, so how much do they value my opinion?

And it can be so simple. If my opinion is valuable to you, and you're an airline, give me some miles for filling out the form. Now it's a win-win, you get something, I get something, and you prove to me that you understand my time has value.

I once flew an airline that sort of understood this and then went on to insult its customers on what that value would be. As a reward for filling out the form, they offered to raffle off 1 voucher of $100 per month across ALL the people who filled out that questionnaire. By my estimate, that came down to $0.01 per questionnaire!

Guy Letts

Hi David

Brilliant! This is exactly my experience as a practitioner in this field. I did exactly the bad things you described in the large company that I used to work for (shame on me), and yet it didn't make any difference to customer satisfaction (measured by revenue and retention rather than survey ratings).

So I introduced very short surveys
- sent at appropriate times (not annually);
- taking less than 30 seconds to complete;
- welcoming candid feedback.

And two CRITICAL things in addition, that you also never see in the examples you mentioned:

- we acted on every response;
- we made the customer comments visible to the (excellent) people we employed, who all of a sudden knew exactly what they needed to do to keep customers happy and they got better and better at it.

It was so successful (embraced by customers and staff) that I set up a software company to make this possible for other people. And we don't LET you send long surveys!

To be honest, I'm not sure about giving content of value at the same time. I haven't tried it, and I do absolutely believe in that approach for marketing, but so far our customers have had great success with just treating this as an occasion to show the customer that you care by checking for satisfaction. (And actually, after a while, the responses are almost entirely positive because the company gets better at what it does, and those 5 star ratings are a huge boost to morale every time they come in).

I guess it is offering value of a different form though - the value is that the customer feels they haven't been ignored because their response will be acted on reliably and quickly. And that blows their socks off because it's why they bothered to GIVE feedback, yet it's so rare.

In response to your question, there are companies doing it the right way (all our customers!) but we tend to sell to small and medium sized businesses rather than large enterprises (even though that's where I had most success with this idea!).

Well done for calling this out.

[Disclosure - I founded a company in this field. I don't feel it's right to promote it here, but if anyone's interested Google me and read our blog to also learn about the futility of customer service benchmarking, more effective ways to get customer feedback, and my experience of doing this stuff as a practitioner with P&L accountability.]

David Meerman Scott

Joseph - I love the idea of a dedicated area for each customer! So I just purchased a printer from Apple - the drivers and FAQs are right there along with info on my iPhone 5 and MacBook Pro. Brilliant.

David - Thanks. While I do not personally do surveys, my speaking clients do and they ask about how me and the other speakers did. What those speaking clients should do is send a link to re-watch my speech on video and then ask opinions. But almost none do that.

Gerard - Ugh. Yeah, the airlines are terrible at this because one person in the "satisfaction department" can have access to millions of passengers. Further to your math, if just one percent of millions of people get annoyed by the frequent email survey requests and opt out of the emails, that's thousands of people they can't communicate with ever again.

Guy - Wow. Many thanks for your comments. Since you are an expert I'm happy to have you jump in and feel free to mention your company name next time!

Jane Dalea-Kahn

What about the automotive companies (Mercedes Benz, Lexus) that want you to "rate" the poor employees who you just bought a car from? The employees are so terrified that you will say something bad that they actually tell you to expect a phone call and a survey and ask you, will you please rate them favorably because their job/bonus etc depends on the results of the survey?

At least companies like Body Works least offer you $10.00 off your next purchase to participate in a telephone survey, but in return they ask that we'tattle-tail' on an employee. How demeaning for that employee to have to hand someone a receipt and inform them they can receive $10.00 for possibly tattle tailing on you? That you could lose your job if, God forbid, you offend someone. If they don't like you for some reason.

I really don't like these surveys. Thanks for writing about them.

David Meerman Scott

Jane - My Audi dealer does that. After my annual service they warn me of the call and plead with me to say good things. It seems counter-productive in my mind.

Gerardo Dada

David, great post - in fact you inspired me to finish a post on the same topic: wp.me/pkYTD-5Q

I wonder if providing resources in the same email where you ask for feedback can skew the results as some customers may think you are trying to survey about those resources or you are trying to pad the results by offering some value.

Either way, your point is spot-on: instead of spending so much time asking about customer service, companies should focus their customer service teams on being helpful.

Thank you!

David Meerman Scott

Gerardo, your blog post provides an excellent analysis. I particularly like the idea of having a truthful message on the recording when waiting instead of that ridiculous "higher than usual call volumes." But I expect very few companies would do that.

I think that tying the nature of a service call to the content that is delivered makes perfect sense. Why companies feel they need to measure the call instead is just so stupid. If I call with a printer problem, why not send me to the printer FAQ? Why just ask me how the reps did? Ity seems insane.

Mary McNeight

Amen David, Amen!

Anne Sorensen

Hi David! How are you? Really enjoyed this post - thank you. It got me thinking. It seems to me we're asking customers to do something on the promise of some future value to them. The future customer value however is only realised if the survey feedback is actioned and if the customer returns to experience the new and improved service that results from their input. The only value the customer actually derives from completing an organisation generated survey is perhaps a feeling of generosity experienced by completing the survey for the company, and possibly a sense of partnership in that they have collaborated with the organisation to co-create a better service that in turn might deliver further benefits to them as the customer.

Previously, marketers have offered a reward or incentive for customers taking the time to provide input. Perhaps the promise of a better product/service is now considered sufficient. But clearly it is not.

Organisations that facilitate customer value via the creation of useful content as you describe, are likely to receive a greater amount of better quality customer feedback, forge deeper relationships and retain more customers. To me, facilitating value (giving) demonstrates respect, which is important in all relationships and particularly vital, yet perhaps under attended, in organisation-customer relationships.

Thanks for the thought provocation! ☺ Hope you had a great weekend.

David Meerman Scott

Thank you for jumping in Anne. It is an interesting proposition, isn't it? What is the motivation for doing the survey.

Busy people won't do it, but those who have free time will. What does that mean for results? Or if the company offers an incentive of some kind, then they get people who want the reward, not people who want to fill out the survey. The sheer volume of survey requests (I get dozens a month) means there must be very few people who aren't jaded.

Anne Sorensen

Agree David – it’s important to ensure results are of value.

Being clear at the outset about a survey’s objectives and the intended audience then creating value via the right content would surely increase the likelihood of quality feedback. The process of securing feedback is an opportunity to build the brand, product and most importantly the customer relationship. Content valued by customers trumps short-term incentives for organisations seeking to achieve these ends.

Thanks so much for highlighting something that needs better marketing attention.

Eric White

Yeah, I've never done those surveys and never plan to. I don't think ANY sane person does... it's crazy that Nike, Apple, etc are still in our email inboxes with surveys ha! I like the idea of sharing content instead, further developing the relationship as opposed to letting it end and then immediately asking a million questions about it and how the customer thought it went down. CHILL! Let's keep talking. Show me the blog, show me the customer service. Then later on I'll tell you how you're doing, when I'm ready!

Nice one David!

John P. Wheeler

Hi David!

Great insights! I personally believe that customer surveys are now outdated. Doesn't do anyone any good anymore.


Totally agree! If you're not bringing value, than you're useless. Does anybody want to deal with useless service? I think the answer is no.


So how do we get the feedback? I work in this area for an auto manufacturer and all we ask is that the dealer contact the customer and address their concern if they indicate a less than average rating on the survey.

That's it. No score requirement,either; we only ask that they submit a representitive sample of customer contact information.

The real problems has to do with the internal pay plans at the dealerships. Begging for scores, my kids won't eat unless you give me al 5's, etc.

David Meerman Scott

D - If anybody begs me for scores, I immediately drop their scores. I'm too busy to do surveys. If somebody wants to talk with me, fine. But asking me to be one input of a thousand in a multiple choice instrument is an insult.

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