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5 common customer survey traps

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At Customer Thermometer, we spend a lot of time researching the best ways to conduct customer surveys. But even if you follow all the great advice available, there are still plenty of pitfalls that might just catch you out. We’ve pulled together five of the most common customer survey traps…in the hope that we can help you to avoid them!

1. Asking too many questions

This is undoubtedly the easiest trap to fall into. It can be tempting to try and ask everything in one go, to ‘make the most’ of your customer surveys. But this can be hugely counter-productive. If you ask too many questions, many people simply won’t respond at all – they’ll quickly assess that it’s going to take up more of their time than they’re willing to give. This is especially problematic if the product or service delivered was perceived to be of low value.

It’s important to be ruthless about what you ask – cut it back to the bare minimum that you need to know. The less you ask, the more responses you will get. A large number of responses to one key question will tell you much more than just a few responses to many questions.

For more about the pitfalls of using long customer surveys (and what you can do differently), why not download our eBook:

Improve engagement with your customer surveys

2. Sending too many customer surveys

Each of your customer surveys needs focussed thought and planning to make it a success, but this can lead to the overall picture being overlooked. It’s surprisingly easy to unwittingly burden your customers with too many feedback requests. I recently stayed in a hotel where I was asked for feedback in four different interactions over a 36 hour period! The surveys were well intentioned, but they quickly became an annoyance.

At best, over-surveying will cause your response rates to drop as customers stop bothering to reply, and at worst it will lead to frustration and irritation.

The last thing you want is for your customer satisfaction survey to be the very cause of a customer’s dissatisfaction.

Take a step back, look at the whole customer journey, and review all the places that your surveys are being triggered. It’s probably a lot more than you think. Think about which interactions you really need to get feedback on – fewer, well-placed surveys will tell you much more about your customer base than constantly bombarding them with different questions.

3. Allowing staff to choose who receives the survey

We recently heard from a company whose telephone survey system allows the agent to decide which customers get the survey at the end of the call. Whilst this isn’t unusual, it definitely isn’t an approach we’d recommend! It will certainly lead to survey data that isn’t truly representative. The problem is, your responses are being filtered before you’ve even received them. No one likes receiving ‘bad’ feedback, so there’s a huge danger that your survey will never reach the people who are most likely to have something negative to say.

Although it can be painful to receive negative feedback, it is incredibly valuable. If you never hear from customers who aren’t happy then you’ll never have the chance to put the problems right. It’s much better to give all your customers the opportunity to let you know how they feel.

For more on why it’s good to encourage complaints, take a look at our eBook:

10 reasons to encourage complaints

4. Waiting too long between the interaction and the survey

With customer feedback surveys, it’s all about ‘striking whilst the iron is hot’. Time colors people’s opinion and can often completely obscure it if they’ve had more than one interaction with you. They could even confuse your company or product with another. It also means there’s more effort involved on their part, as they must cast their mind back to the original interaction and try remember what they felt about it. As a result, your response numbers will fall, and the feedback you do get won’t be as reliable.

It’s all about ‘striking whilst the iron is hot’.

Try to send your feedback request as soon as possible after the interaction with your customer. This way the experience is still fresh in their mind and it will be easy for them to provide meaningful feedback. They will know exactly what you’re asking about, and they’ll be able to respond quickly and more accurately about their experience.

5. Incentivising survey responses

There’s no doubt that incentives will increase your response rate, but the quality of your data will suffer. Here are some of the primary reasons for this:

  • There’s a danger that your choice of incentive could inadvertently discourage some groups of people from responding, and therefore skew your data demographically.
  • You may attract ‘serial’ survey respondents – people who simply want to rush through the questions, ticking anything to finish and get their reward. Your data quality will not be so reliable as a result.
  • People who are being incentivised have a tendency to ‘return the favour’ by giving positive feedback, regardless of what they really think. Consequently your data reliability will suffer.

High response rates are vital, but they shouldn’t be gained at the expense of data quality. Try to identify why your response rates are low – it’s much better to treat the cause than the symptom, so start by addressing some of the common issues. Make sure your surveys are as concise and easy to complete as possible. Review the format to check that they are clear, engaging and mobile optimised. Don’t wait too long to ask for feedback – ask whilst the experience is still memorable.

For more on how to increase your survey responses, have look at our article on maximising your response rate.

Enjoyed this post?

Why not check out our other posts about customer surveys including:

– 20 customer survey response rate facts

– When surveys run amok

– Example survey questions you can ask with Customer Thermometer


Try Customer Thermometer’s high response rate 1-click survey for free now…