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Customer surveys are dead

Updated: Jan 13, 2023

For as long as I can remember companies have been carrying out both one-off and rolling customer satisfaction surveys - and I’ve designed, delivered and analysed a fair few of them in my time too! Always with very good intent.

They were great for gathering feedback from prospects and customers to get their thoughts and feelings about products and services. You could see trends, what’s working, what’s not working and when and how improvements can be made. And if carried out regularly it gave you a rolling picture of how you were doing. I believe those days of surveys are gone.

Why do I think they’re dead? …..for quite a few reasons.

Firstly, we all know how busy we are just getting stuff done, so having, or if you’re really dedicated, finding or making time to complete a survey is difficult and probably not very high on any of our to do lists.

By asking customers to complete a survey it adds effort into their experience with your company - which is rarely a good thing for the consumer. And to me it seems too skewed to the benefit of the organisation and less beneficial for the customer.

Secondly, there can sometimes be an issue around timeliness, for both the customer and the company. For example, customer recall might not be accurate or the time taken to gather the data and analyse the themes and trends can delay the ability to act and respond if needed.

In a world of ‘agile’ and instant everything, being able to access, analyse and assess customer experience data (near) real time is essential. And the ability to blend data sources and share insight across the organisation is critical to build consensus and take action to improve.

Thirdly, Gen Z and millennials are using Google Reviews; while others are also using sites like Trustpilot to share their experiences - not to mention a good dose of social media ranting. So their desire to also complete a survey diminishes in terms of value for them.

And as a side note, for younger customers social media is less used to escalate issues and more seen as a business as usual contact channel, just like email or the phone (although I doubt many Gen Z'ers are rushing to pick up their mobile to call anyone).

And finally, systems are much more sophisticated than ever before - so analysing the data you already hold is simpler and quicker - whether it’s structured or unstructured data.

The use of data tools, the super brains that are data scientists together with AI, enables leaders to get those (near) real time views of what their customers are thinking, feeling, doing and how they’re interacting with the brand (or not). This enables quick operational decision making and informs your service design.

So asking your customers for more data, probably some of it you already hold, can be frustrating, drive up customer effort and take time to gather and analyse.

So what?

So taking all of this into consideration I believe surveys are dead. Instead, spend your time, energy and brain power on thinking through your service data model. Think about how you can leverage the data you already have to build pictures of customer experiences and insights into customer behaviour.

And if that data isn’t available, think to yourself whether it’s really needed or how you can build it for your organisation. That thought process by itself can help inform your customer journeys as well as internal processes and systems design.

Once you have a starting point (the work on data is an always evolving one) you can quickly and simply: access, analyse, assess and act.

I’d love to hear what you think, so leave a comment. And if you want to know more or think I can help please get in touch.

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