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Customer support surveys: why yours isn’t working

Customer support surveys tips

If you run a customer support team, you’ll probably be seeking useful feedback from customer support surveys. No doubt, you’ll recognize these issues:

  • You need a meaningful measurement about how customers feel about your service, not just how quick it was
  • Are you hearing about unhappy customers soon enough to do something about it
  • You’d like to hear from a greater universe of customers who raised a ticket – you’d like a better survey response rate
  • You need to understand the lifecycle of a ticket, not just find out how you did at the end (when it could be too late)
  • You want to understand how each agent is performing individually (according to the customer)
  • Chances are your customer support surveys aren’t getting the response rate you would like
  • Quick fire answers from agents don’t solve customer queries the first time

Having done this for a while now, I know that customer support surveys require a very different treatment to traditional market research or satisfaction surveys.

As Forrester says”

“Like many firms, we relied on customer satisfaction (CSAT) and advocacy metrics to understand what our customers thought about us. But those metrics provide no insight into understanding customers’ actual experience based on the most powerful human element of all — emotion. Without that visibility, one is blind. And being blind is scary…”
Forrester’s Head of Customer Experience

So if you feel that your customer support survey could be performing better for you, here are some key considerations…

1) Survey from a place of sensitivity

Customers who raise tickets are typically time-poor and focused on getting a fix. During this time of irritation and potentially high stress, answering a survey isn’t top of mind, and sending it can even be detrimental.

Pushing surveys inappropriately can damage your brand, and the customer’s view of their experience – especially if they don’t feel that the issue hasn’t been fixed when that survey reaches them. In the “emotional bank balance” that exists between you and a customer raising a ticket, you’re already on the back foot when that ticket comes in.

Long-format online surveys can address annual interests and broad trends but struggle to be effective in this personal, real-time world. Surveying from a place of sensitivity and understanding is really important. Look carefully at survey triggers to ensure they’re considerate and timed well.

If you find yourself signing off the phrase “This survey will only take 5 mins”… you might want to think again.

2) Consider the email side-effects

Many ticketing systems are email-intensive. In many cases there’s the “Thanks we’ve got your ticket” email, then an exploratory email back from the agent, then some suggestions, then a fix email, then a “This ticket is now closed” email and finally a “Please take our survey” email.

Consider how you can cut down this email avalanche and make the feedback process part of the natural course of your conversation with the customer, rather than an afterthought.

3) Are your agents hearing “nagging from mom”?

One of our customers told us that showing her agents satisfaction metrics alone was like being “nagged at by mom.” Eventually it becomes so routine that the noise outweighs the message.

She changed her environment so that customer verbatims were instantly sent to the ticket owner in real-time. Any issues are also emailed to the team leader in real-time for coaching purposes. So instead of doing a post-mortem on a ticket days or weeks after the incident, real-time feedback means agents can be trained on the job using the most powerful behavior-changer of all – real customer feedback.

“We share each red alert feedback at our team meetings in a spirit of co-operation and openness, so that we can collectively work out how to serve our customers better. Real verbatim feedback makes such a difference to these meetings.”
Head of Support, Facilities Management customer

verbatim customer feedback

Example of real-time comments alongside agent ticket responses.

4) The lifetime of a ticket has its ups and downs

Customer support interactions are highly “transactional” and can often include a number of emails backwards and forwards before a ticket is solved.

If a ticket’s going badly wrong, or the customer feels badly treated, you need a way of finding out fast, before it hits social media or drives the customer elsewhere with their business.

“We wanted the ability to react during the lifetime of the ticket”
Matt Casey, Customer Operations Director, Moonfruit

In some situations, it may be necessary to offer customers the chance to give feedback throughout the lifetime of the ticket, or at stages in that journey. If the ticket is complex, contains multiple interactions or is spread over a number of days or weeks, it’d be worth considering.

It’s also important to consider how that’s sensibly done without sending multiple emails – offering the chance within an email to offer feedback or escalate it, reduces the burden on the customer.

5) Are you waiting too long to get feedback?

In many cases, customer support surveys are triggered 24 or 48 hours after the interaction. That’s too long in customers’ memories, especially if they have multiple tickets open with you. And, if you got it wrong for them on that ticket, it’s several days in which they can let the bad feelings fester or vent on social media.

Changing the game on getting customer feedback means thinking about how to get it as soon as possible. That real-time feedback provides actionable commentary and feedback you can use to gain control of any situation and provide a positive outcome.

“If there are issues, our service managers can immediately reach out to end users, and that’s powerful.”
Mark Hopwood, Head of Service Operations, BT

 6) Build customer support surveys that are as easy as possible to complete

The harder a survey is to complete, the more self-selecting the audience becomes. This is called non-response bias.

Typically the happiest and (even more typically) unhappiest customers will be motivated enough to complete surveys. This means you can easily get a negatively-skewed view of how you’re really doing. The lower your response rate, the greater the non-response bias. In that situation, you just won’t get a true view of the entire population of customers who have used your support service over any given time period.

In addition, many customers simply do not feel that a ticket interaction warrants the filling in of a long survey at the end of the process – it’s just not a fair use of time for them.

“Making surveys short, fast and painless to complete can go a long way toward improving response rates. As tempting as it may be to ask numerous and detailed questions to squeeze every ounce of information possible out of the customer, a company is likely to have survey abandonment when customers realize the survey is going to take longer than a few minutes to complete..”
iSixSigma blog

customer support survey

Two VERY different email survey formats

Take time to look really hard at what you’re asking customers to do. Seth Godin’s brilliant point that “every question you ask (in a survey) is expensive in terms of goodwill and loyalty” should be top of mind here. Ask only what’s critical. And then cut that in half.

About the author

Lindsay Willott is CEO of Customer Thermometer (1-click feedback surveys for support teams).

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