Anatomy of a Lousy Survey

This blog has spent a lot of time on surveys lately. 

There's a post on how to write a great survey with just three questions. There’s another post on five ways to capture VOC data without a survey. You can even read about five signs your survey may be missing the point.

This post focuses on that last topic by giving you a detailed breakdown of a lousy customer service survey from Buffalo Wild Wings.

Tip: You’ll get more survey responses if you make it easy for people to respond.

Here’s the survey invitation. There’s no QR code and the survey site itself isn’t optimized for mobile, so guests are discouraged from completing the survey on their smart phones.

Tip: Don’t bother your customer with questions you should already know the answer to.

The survey asks a lot of questions that could easily be tied to the survey code or a customized survey link. Examples include the store, date visited, and the time of day. Each of these questions are on a separate screen which makes the survey even more tedious. 

So far, we're at 8 screens:

Tip: An annoyingly long survey will remind customers how annoyed they were already.

This survey is tedious! Customers don’t have the opportunity to share any feedback until they reach the 15th screen.

Tip: Cut out extra questions and give customers a comment box instead. 

The survey also assumes it knows what’s driving customer dissatisfaction. The question in screen 15 (above) asks customers to provide an overall rating. The question in the screen below (screen #19 in the survey!) presumes to know what might drive customer satisfaction.

The danger is these questions might be irrelevant to the customer, but they're required to complete the survey.

Tip: Keep questions to a minimum by avoiding repetition.

By now, the questions are starting to get repetitive. Didn’t someone in marketing check this survey before giving it the green light?

Here's the question on Screen 15:

Overall, compared to your expectations of what a restaurant can and should be, how would you rate your experience at Buffalo Wild Wings?

Here's the question on Screen 26:

Compared to your expectations of what a restaurant can and should be, how would you rate the Buffalo Wild Rings you visited on providing you with the "ultimate social experience for sports fans in your community?"

Screen 26

Tip: Surveys should have a single purpose to give them razor-sharp focus.

The questions just keep coming! Buffalo Wild Wings really makes you work for that $5 coupon. Now, they want to gather some demographic data.

It looks like someone in another department said, “Hey! You’re doing a survey? Can I add a few questions?” This is the 35th screen.

The final tally on this survey was a whopping 39 screens!

The effort required to complete it is a big turnoff. Here’s an example of a survey that’s far easier to complete. It’s limited to just five questions and customers are giving two options to access the survey.

(Please excuse the blurry picture.)

Note: My personal policy is to share negative feedback privately before naming a company in a blog post. Members of my party (including me) attempted to share our feedback with the store manager but he refused to come to our table.

In this case, I'm grateful for the poor service we received since their survey provides an excellent illustrative example.

Service Failure Interview with John Ippolito

John Ippolito invited me to be a guest at the Carte Blanche San Diego Book Club a few months ago. We recorded a brief interview where I shared a few thoughts about my book, Service Failure.

  • The customer service disconnect - companies think they're doing well when they're not
  • The process of writing the book
  • How Service Failure is different from other customer service books

You can view the interview here:

Social Media Thought Leader Panel at CCExpo 2014

One of my favorite features of ICMI's Contact Center Conference & Expo are the Thought Leader Panels.

These are short panel discussions on specific topics featuring thought leaders from the contact center industry. I had the privilege of moderating the Social Media panel at the 2014 conference.

Here's the video (click here if you don't see it):

New Training Needs Analysis Course Launched on

A needs analysis is the first step when developing a new training program.

It can help you identify what training participants really need and connect that training to business objectives. In many cases, a good needs analysis allows you to create training that's faster, cheaper, and more effective.

My new course on will take you step-by-step through the needs analysis process. It’s intended for instructional designers, but anyone who creates training programs can benefit. 

Topics include:

  • Setting project objectives
  • Identifying the target audience for training
  • Selecting data sources
  • Facilitating focus groups and interviews
  • Designing effective surveys
  • Identifying participant needs
  • Defining learning outcomes
  • Presenting results to project sponsors

The course is part of’s online library of video-based training programs. Using video allowed me to create some interesting visual examples.

In the sample video below, you’ll see me meeting with a Vice President who requested an interviewing skills training program. Initial meetings like this can help trainers discover a lot of really useful information. (Click here if you don’t see the video.)

You’ll need a subscription to view the entire course. The good news is your subscription gives you unlimited access to all of their courses. 

Even better news? You can drop my name and get a free 7-day trial.