There was an excellent article by Beth Teitell in the Boston Globe last night.

She’d taken the trouble to research something we’d known in our hearts for a long time – customer satisfaction surveys are growing like crazy. So much so, businesses are starting to annoy their customers through their overuse and type of use.

You may have heard of SurveyMonkey? They are now processing double the number of surveys than they were back in January 2013. Amazing.

This tells us two things – businesses are realising the importance of finding out what their customers are thinking, however so many of them are going about it the wrong way.

The comments section to this article inspired me to write this post. One commenter suggested that surveys were only sent to capture email addresses. This was the response:

“They wouldn’t be ten pages long if they were just trolling for email addresses.”

People simply don’t have time for the traditional 20 question survey:

“Any one who asks you to spend your time giving them info should pay for it. The business world does nothing without compensation.”

In the US – there’s clearly an issue with health insurers surveying. People can see through leading questions:

“… the surveys are set up for “caged” results, in other words, surveys built to give them the results they need to make a claim that they are the best health insurer.”

It seems that providing leading questions aren’t the worst of it – there are businesses tricking customers into parting with their credit cards through impossibly long surveys:

“The worst are the ones that say ‘complete our survey and get a magazine/$10 coupon/etc.’ Then at the end, they request your credit card to charge you $2 to mail it to you. Totally infuriating and I feel taken for a fool. I don’t fill them out anymore – it’s a complete waste of my energy.”

My favourite comment was from someone responsible for a Voice of the Customer program. She admits to not responding to most of the surveys she recieves, however goes on to make a point which I’m sure many of us will agree with:

“… when I believe a provider will act on my feedback, I’ll take the time to respond.”


That’s just the point.

People like to find out the results of their efforts. They’ve bothered to tell you something – how often do businesses give them the results of their feedback? What has changed? What’s improved? What are they sorry about?

When hundreds of surveys of dozens of questions are carried out and then analysed by “Acme Survey Company” – we’ve heard so many stories of results being supplied to customers 3 months’ later. By that time, everything is completely out of date and any respondent would have completely forgotten about their input. They won’t however have forgotten about the effort they’d gone to providing that input – especially when they’re asked the next time.

10 golden rules to not annoy your customers:

  1. Don’t ask 20 questions – one will do.
  2. Make it a relevant question if you’re going to ask one.
  3. Ask it in a timely fashion – immediately after a transaction has taken place.
  4. Only ask once.
  5. Make it simple to answer – don’t waste people’s time.
  6. Tell them why you’re asking it and what’s going to happen next.
  7. If a customer is unhappy in their response, set up a process to contact them quickly.
  8. Asking one question means you can ask questions regularly.
  9. Don’t rely on an annual satisfaction survey – it’s out of date immediately.
  10. Act on your data and findings in real time.

You can read the article here and form your own opinions.

You can also test out our 10 golden rules and sign up for a trial account right now…