Why complicated surveys are hurting your insights

Why complicated surveys are hurting your insights

You’re probably already running customer surveys. But are you happy with the results you’re getting from them?

I’m not just talking about a high CSAT or NPS score—although if you’ve got one, that’s great. I’m talking about the quality of the insights you’re extracting from your customer feedback. Is customer feedback having a tangible impact on the future and growth of your business?

Companies everywhere rely on customer surveys as their default choice for hearing from customers. While surveys aren’t the only way to generate customer data, they’re far and away the most popular. Unfortunately, many companies are shooting themselves in the foot by creating long and complicated customer surveys that make it hard to generate meaningful insights.

Why do you need customer insights?

Collecting customer data—via surveys or other channels—is a means to an end. Simply having more data is never the goal. That data needs to be processed, structured, and contextualized before it becomes useful. After all, the point of gathering customer data is to get to know your customers better so that you can better serve them.

Customer insights enable you to understand why your customers act in certain ways, enabling strategic decisions, faster action, and improved customer retention.

Put simply, you need customer insights because your business won’t thrive without them.

Complicated surveys cause a lot of issues

Customer insights are the single best way to make sure you’re setting your business up for future success. That’s why many businesses invest in survey platforms, voice of the customer (VoC) programs, and feedback analytics tools.

The process seems relatively easy:

  1. Draft a survey with a bunch of questions

  2. Fire it off to hundreds or thousands of customers

  3. Collect data and find meaningful insights

The problem is that many companies are finding that this process is creating little-to-no meaningful insights. Data quality is poor, sometimes leading business decision-makers in the wrong direction. Why is that? What’s gone wrong?

It may all start from the very beginning—with how you’ve built out your customer surveys. Complex, lengthy surveys cause all kinds of downstream problems.

Long surveys create a poor customer and user experience

Very few customers actually complete surveys. If you’re using long or complex surveys, even in those lucky cases where customers and users want to complete your surveys, chances are they’ll encounter mental fatigue. Asking too many questions, wording questions in confusing ways, and failing to structure your survey logically can all contribute to this problem.

Mental fatigue in customers taking surveys can be caused by: Asking too many questions, wording questions in confusing ways, and failing to structure your survey logically

These draining, poor-quality survey experiences are a guaranteed way to make sure that customer never completes another survey for you again, effectively eliminating any chance of future feedback from them.

Complicated surveys decrease response rates

This point is related to the previous point. The more complicated your survey, the less likely your customers will take the time to fully complete it (or choose to start it in the first place). This means that results for certain questions, or potentially the entire survey, won’t necessarily be representative of your entire customer base. If you’re struggling with low survey response rates, it could very well be due to the fact that your surveys are too complex.

Complicated surveys are inherently biased and can compromise results

If you’re asking customers to rate you on specific things you think they care about, you’re automatically biasing the feedback you receive. You’re only reinforcing your assumptions, and you’ll never figure out what your customers actually care about.

For a simple example, if you ask somebody “Who is your favorite tennis player?”, you are already assuming the other person has an interest in tennis. That isn’t necessarily true, and requiring a response to this question would trigger inaccurate responses. In order to allow the customer to voice what is on their mind and what they think is important, make sure to include a good balance of open-ended questions.

Complicated surveys are prone to misuse

If a customer has a bad experience, they’re likely to give you bad scores across all scoring dimensions (if they bother to complete a survey at all). They don't care about giving you a precise breakdown of which areas were good or bad. They’re frustrated, and scoring your survey poorly across all areas is one small way to vent their frustration.

For example, say you ask a survey with a number of rating scale questions:

  1. How likely are you to recommend us to your friends and family? 3/10

  2. How would you rate the staff? 3/10

  3. How would you rate the store cleanliness? 3/10

  4. How would you rate the product quality? 3/10

  5. How would you rate the ambient music? 3/10

Was your store really unclean? Did your choice of ambient music really have as big of a negative impact on their experience as your staff did?

When you see a survey response like this, it’s impossible to understand if it accurately represents the customer’s feelings. It’s far better to ask one question—like the first one above—and then follow up with a broad open-ended question where they can share whatever is most important to them.

A better way to design customer surveys

The good news is that there is a better way to create customer surveys—and it’s often easier, too. When you have the proper processes and tools for turning survey data into insights, this approach can transform your customer insights initiatives.

Pick one top-level metric to measure in each survey

When it comes to surveys, one size does not fit all.

In other words, don’t try to do everything with one survey. Trying to cram Net Promoter Score (NPS), Customer Satisfaction (CSAT), and Customer Effort Score (CES) into one survey is almost certainly a bad idea. Doing this—or something like it—literally asks too much of your customers.

A better approach is to think strategically about your customer journey. In most cases, there’s one key metric or KPI that makes sense to focus on at any given point in the customer journey:

  • If they just contacted your support team, maybe it’s CSAT or CES.

  • If they’ve got a renewal coming up in a few months, maybe it’s NPS.

  • If they just finished your onboarding process, maybe it’s CES (phrased in a way that asked about how easy the onboarding experience was)

Don't try to measure several top-level metrics within one survey. Focus on one top-level metric at a time so you can be more specific about what you’re asking your customers.

Focusing on one top-level metric brings more specificity to what you’re asking your customers. It forces you to think about what you are actually trying to measure, clarifying your organizational goals. As an added benefit, it also makes your surveys shorter and easier to complete, which usually means you’ll see a higher response rate and richer, more valuable open-ended responses.

Value open-ended questions and responses

Open-ended questions—like “How would you describe your experience with our support team?”—are often undervalued because they aren’t immediately quantitative.

But that’s the wrong way to think about them.

Open-ended questions are the only place in your surveys where your customers can share whatever is on their mind. They are the clearest path towards understanding what your customers are thinking and feeling. They’re the most valuable part of your survey.

We’ve talked about bias before, but make sure you’re creating bias-free questions by keeping the questions as neutral as possible. That means don’t ask “Why is our product the best ever?” Instead, try something like “What’s the most valuable part of [Product] for you?”

Another benefit to this approach is that focusing on one top-level metric and a few open-ended questions can also make your surveys shorter, increasing the odds you’ll get more responses.

Better responses and more responses? That’s the ideal!

Invest in tools that can make sense of unstructured data

Given that open-ended questions can have so much value (and are commonly used in general), it’s imperative to figure out how to put unstructured data to use.

A few years ago, that was a really hard problem to solve. Fortunately, relatively new advancements in Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Natural Language Understanding (NLU) have overcome this challenge. Tools like Kapiche make it easy for companies to tap into the hidden value of unstructured data, processing massive data sets in just seconds or minutes.

This automated, software-enabled approach to understanding unstructured data is more efficient, more accurate, and more useful than the manual methods of the past.

Better surveys leads to better insights

Surveys are great tools, but they’re most valuable when you can use their data to generate insights that move your business forward. The best way to do that is to get smart about how you’re structuring your surveys and to invest in the tools that make it easy to tap into their value.

And remember, surveys aren’t your only source of customer feedback. You can merge survey data with data from your product, customer transactions, CRM, market research, social media, and many more sources to get a 360-degree view of your customers. Kapiche can do all this—and far more!
If you’re eager to unlock valuable customer insights, check out a demo of Kapiche today.

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