5 reasons online customer satisfaction surveys don't work

Online customer satisfaction surveys don’t work. There’s a survey response rate crisis and customer experience professionals need to be aware of the 5 drivers causing it. Here’s why…

1. Online surveys don’t drive service improvement.

This week, HR Magazine released a survey which said customer service teams are “measuring what’s easy.” It called for companies to change the game and focus instead on “how customers perceive the value of their relationship with the company.”

I’d take that one step further. Not only are firms measuring what’s easy – they’re also doing what’s easy with the results. Consider it from the other side of the fence. As a customer yourself, how many times have you filled in a customer satisfaction survey – online or otherwise and ever had any kind of response from the company itself? So many of these surveys simply disappear into a corporate black hole.

As B2B International’s customer satisfaction survey report puts it: “The purpose of customer satisfaction research is to improve customer satisfaction and yet so often surveys sit collecting dust. Worse than that, customers have generously given their time to assist in the survey believing that some positive action will take place. Their expectations will have been raised. The process of collecting the data seems easier than taking action to improve satisfaction levels.”

2. Response rates  for online surveys are low so they are not usefully representative.

Anecdotal evidence from across the web suggests a typical response rate for an online survey is much lower than 10%. That means the vast majority of your customers (90%+ ) are not telling you what they think. You might be able to argue that away statistically but in reality are you happy that so many of your customers don’t have a voice?

3. Online surveys don’t drive service recovery action

Asking customers to fill in a long survey, then pushing a button and outputting a report you can circulate is not going to fix any problems that your customers are actually experiencing right now.

It’s putting in place a system of immediate action that generates the true ROI from customer service. As HR Magazine says “81% of respondents said they believed that gaining an understanding of service ‘from the customer viewpoint’ is very likely to lead to positive ROI, with 74% saying gathering and acting on customer feedback is what will produce real business ROI.”

4. Customers dislike filling in long forms.

Most people really hate filling in forms. They are a chore at the best of times. Add to that the fact that, because they are easy for companies and departments to set up and fire out, online customer satisfaction survey tools are everywhere. Most consumers, especially online, get asked to complete several a day which is why response rates are dropping so fast.

I’d urge companies to consider the use of the “long survey” format in the first place. Why on earth would you ask a customer 50 questions when trying to pinpoint their one issue with your service? Isn’t that pretty lazy? Isn’t that hiding behind the data rather than taking the bull by the horns and saying

“I want to know exactly what your issues are and I want to fix them?”

I’ll use a real life example here. This morning my grocery service delivered my groceries. They had charged me for milk but it wasn’t amongst the bags that were dropped off. I emailed them asking for a refund and had to go out and get it instead – wasting money on gas I was hoping to save by not having to go to the store. They emailed me back with a refund and asked me to fill in a long online survey about my experience! I’m already annoyed at the store – what makes them think I want to waste more of my morning them that the driver was great, the delivery was on time, the food was fresh but they forgot my milk!? Why should I have to do all the work when they had let me down?

5. Online surveys are a snapshot in time

As Seth Godin has said, in an online survey ‘every question you ask is expensive’. (in terms of both goodwill and loyalty.) So it stands to reason that you can’t use online surveys all the time to get the real-time picture as it unfolds. If fewer than 10% of your customers are willing to fill in a form once a year, one imagines the response rate for 6 times a year would be even lower.

But in a real-time world, this is a really important point:” People’s views change continuously and the performance of companies in delivering customer satisfaction is also changing. Measuring satisfaction must be a continuous process.” B2B International White Paper

With this backdrop, surely the role of long online customer surveys has to be questioned? Can these sorts of surveys really be expected to drive positive remedial action and customer service improvement? Perhaps it’s time to embrace a better way of doing it.


Is it time to do things differently? Find out why our method of delivering a customer satisfaction survey actually works for both you and your customers.

Enjoyed this article? Why not check out these posts too…

-See how AnyPerk sources customer feedback using irresistible micro-surveys in its email signatures

-Read our popular post “Customer satisfaction surveys don’t work any more. Here’s what to do about it”

-14 ways to improve your survey response rate

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