A consumer’s experience with customer service is a lot like driving on the highway – we don’t really notice when things are going smoothly, but we become aware of even the slightest bump in the road when things get rough.
A 2016 survey by NewVoiceMedia estimates that poor customer service costs businesses $62 billion each year.
On the flip side of this, there’s no magic number telling how much revenue a company can generate by improving its customer service. But the general consensus is, listening to your customers and providing top-quality customer service is an initiative that is absolutely worth investing your time and money into.
But, as mentioned, your satisfied customers aren’t very likely to reach out and tell you what a great job your company is doing.
That is, unless you ask them to.
Getting Buy-In Through Customer Satisfaction Surveys
Running a successful business isn’t a guessing game.
Or, at least, it doesn’t have to be.
Customer service surveys can be a treasure trove of information in two ways. Through these surveys, you can gain information:
- As reported by the customer
- As discerned through careful analysis of their responses
In other words, while what your customers say is definitely important, what their responses mean is even more so.
Knowing this, you want to create your customer service surveys in a way that allows you to squeeze as much information as possible out of each respondent (without overwhelming them, of course).
The following sections will detail how to create customer surveys that elicit valuable information from your customers, allowing you to increase the service you provide them in the future.
The “What,” “How,” and “Why” of Customer Satisfaction Surveys
Effective customer satisfaction surveys include three main sections:
- Overall Satisfaction Questions
- Dimension Questions
- Demographic Questions
For each of these sections, we’ll detail what questions you should ask, how to ask them, and why the information you glean from them is important to your business.
Overall Satisfaction Questions
The first set of questions on your customer service survey should be rather broad in nature.
These questions will first address your customer’s experiences with your company as a whole, then will focus on their experiences with specific departments within your company. Depending on your industry, these areas might include customer support, technical support, customer service, and more.
You also might choose to ask questions about how your company helped your customer throughout various stages of the buyer’s journey. While these questions may seem redundant to your customer (since they inherently apply to their experiences within the departments listed above), you can gain a ton of information from their answers. We’ll get into that in a moment.
But first, let’s talk about how to word these questions in order to elicit a valuable response.
You don’t want customers to stay with you just because it's easier. You want them to stay because they want to. pic.twitter.com/GvWEpTAPvJ
— Shep Hyken (@Hyken) February 4, 2017
You’ve likely seen a Likert scale-modeled question before. These questions ask you to rate your experience on a scale, usually from one to five. Providing Likert scale questions allows your customer to provide finite answers regarding their experiences with your customer service.
For example, you might ask questions such as (Prefacing with “On a scale of 1-5 [with 5 being the highest level of satisfaction]”:
- How would you rate your overall experience with our service?
- How likely are you to return to our store?
- How likely are you to recommend our services to your friends and family?
For department-specific and buyer’s journey-related questions, you might ask:
- How would you rate our customer service?
- How would you rate our technical support services?
- How would you rate your understanding of our services upon leaving our store as compared to when you first came in?
Of course, a simple rating won’t tell you everything you need to know about your customers’ experiences, so you’ll want to include more open-ended questions in the hopes of eliciting more descriptive responses:
- What did you like best about our services?
- What did you not like about our services?
- What, if anything, has changed about our services since your last visit?
You might not get answers to these questions from all of your respondents, but you’ll garner valuable information from the ones who do have something to say (whether extremely positive or negative).
Side note: you may also want to consider including a semantic differential scale question in your survey too, depending on the type of feedback you want to collect.
So, you know what questions to ask. But do you know what the answers mean to your company?
Obviously, you can gain a decent understanding of your customers’ overall satisfaction with your service by assessing their answers by face value alone. And you can tell what areas of your company are doing well, and where you need to focus future improvements.
But you can dig much deeper than that, too.
Once you’ve gained a large sample size of surveys over time, you can compare past responses to more current ones (perhaps quarterly or annually). This will allow you to see trends regarding customer experience – again both good and bad.
Taken one step further, if you’ve implemented changes within your operations since the last time you analyzed survey results, you may be able to correlate these changes with improved or diminished customer responses.
It’s important to take care here, though: correlation does not necessarily equal causation. However, this is why customers’ longform responses are important: they may specifically state that your service improved in terms of x, y, and z, and their responses to the scale questions will tell you just how satisfied they currently are.
Your customers’ responses to these general questions can provide even more information when analyzed alongside the more specific questions discussed in the following section.
— Think BIG Sunday (@ThinkBIGSunday) November 10, 2016
Once you get the basic questions out of the way, you’ll have prepared your customers to get down to the nitty-gritty, as the saying goes.
Dimension questions deal with specific aspects of their experience when engaging with your company. Their responses to these questions will allow you to visualize exactly what their specific experience may have looked like, and how their experience made them feel both while experiencing it and after they went on their way.
In this section, you might choose to ask questions regarding some of the following topics:
- Staff helpfulness
- Staff willingness to help
- Staff honesty/transparency
- Staff’s understanding of customer needs
- Staff’s ability to meet customer needs and solve problems
- Teamwork and alignment among staff members
- Staff efficiency
- Staff accessibility
Like in the first section, you can use both Likert scale and short answer responses to get a well-rounded understanding of your customers’ experiences with your services.
Examples of dimensional Likert scale questions include:
- How would you rate the staff’s ability to meet your needs?
- How would you rate the staff’s willingness to ensure your needs were met?
- How would you rate the staff’s ability to work together to meet your needs?
Again, you might ask customers to explain why they rated x high, or why they rated z low. Also, leave a space for them to add any additional comments about their experience that may not have been addressed above.
The information gleaned from this section is certainly valuable on its own.
But it’s even more so when analyzed alongside the general information gleaned from the above section.
While analyzing a single customer’s response, you might notice certain correlations between their responses to general questions and dimensional questions.
Consider the following example:
In the first section, a customer gives their overall experience with your company a score of 1/5. They rate customer service 1/5. Then, in the dimensional section, you notice they scored your staff’s understanding of their needs 4/5, and staff’s ability to meet these needs 1/5.
Even though it seems your staff completely understood what the customer needed, the team was unable to help solve their problem – which completely destroyed the customer’s entire experience. Though you don’t have enough information to discern why your staff wasn’t able to help the customer, you can now focus on figuring it out – and improving that aspect of your service.
While comparing general and dimensional questions, you might come across some discrepancies, as well – which can tell you a lot more about what your customers want than you might first expect.
Here’s another example:
In the first section, a customer rates their overall experience 4/5. They rate customer service 4/5. They then rate your staff’s efficiency 3/5, staff ability to solve their problem 3/5, and staff honesty 5/5.
Though you undoubtedly will want to determine why your staff wasn’t fully able to solve this customer’s problem (and make the necessary improvements), there’s another important aspect to focus on here:
This customer was so impressed by your staff’s honesty (perhaps in admitting they weren’t able to completely solve the problem) that, despite not getting the exact results he desired, he still rated his overall experience relatively high. In other words, to this customer, your team’s honesty was a huge selling point.
“A unique selling proposition is what your business stands for.” – KissMetrics
Sure, this example is a bit extreme (as most customers would likely prefer positive results over an honest staff), but the point is this:
By synthesizing and analyzing survey results through a variety of lenses, you’ll garner much more information than if you were to simply take the data at face value. In turn, you’ll have a much better idea of what your customers actually appreciate about your service, and can focus on polishing these areas of your organization to perfection.
To wrap up your customer service survey, ask your respondents to fill out a few quick questions regarding identifying information, such as their:
- Marital status
- Area of employment, and their title
- Spending range
- The frequency with which they use your services/products
While not nearly as important as the information gleaned from the above sections, demographic information allows you to gain insight into the type of person that finds your product or service most useful. In turn, you can shift marketing and advertising initiatives to focus more on these target personas instead of trying to convince people who have little use for your product to do business with you.
“[Demographic information] can help you find previously undetected tactical opportunities for your product, service, or institution.” – James Heaton, Tronvig Group
And, again, by synthesizing demographic information with the rest of the data your customers provide, you might find a certain type of person looks for a specific point of value from service.
While some might value your employees’ honesty, others might place a high value on thoroughness. In other words, your unique selling point may be different depending on the demographic you focus on.
Of course, you shouldn’t let demographic data give you tunnel vision. When analyzed and assessed correctly, demographic information can actually expand your potential customer base – as long as you know what each type of person is looking for.
Wrapping It All Up
It bears repeating one last time: the information you glean from customer satisfaction surveys should not be analyzed in a vacuum.
Instead, use the data you collect to paint a more complete picture of who your customers are, and what they’re looking for.
By doing so, you’ll be able to focus on making improvements to your organization that actually matter to your customer base, and will almost certainly result in increased loyalty.