Customer service survey mistakes to avoid

It seems like such a good idea.

Send out a survey to your customers to get some feedback. Your company looks like it cares and you might actually gain some ideas for improving service.

Just beware that any good idea poorly executed can quickly become a bad idea.

Here is a case in point.

I recently took my car to the dealership to get an oil change and complimentary inspection. A day or so later I received an email from my service advisor giving me a heads up that I would soon receive a survey asking me about my experience. The service advisor referred to the survey as her “personal report card” and urged me to contact her immediately if I was unable to rate my experience as truly exceptional.

The survey arrived via email the next day. I clicked on the link to open it up and was astonished to find 36 questions crammed into one long, rambling page. That’s right – 36 questions to ask about my oil change!

The survey seemed like a hassle. I was also concerned that my responses would reflect poorly on my service advisor if I responded that I was satisfied with my oil change but didn’t view it as truly exceptional. I decided to send her an email instead to provide my feedback and also share my concerns about the survey process. She didn’t respond.

The intent may have been good, but there are at least three big problems with this survey. Make sure you don’t make these mistakes if you plan to survey your customers.

Wrong Goal
The point of doing a survey should be to find out how satisfied your customers are and learn ways to further improve. The goal of my auto dealer’s survey seemed to be getting a good score. The heads up email, telling me the survey is my advisor’s “report card”, and urging me to give her a chance to fix any issues the survey may uncover all tell me her primary goal is earning a high score. If this wasn’t the case, why not just call or email me to ask about my service without mentioning the survey at all? Why not respond to the feedback that I did email?

If you are going to survey your customers, make sure you are doing it for a good reason.

Too Long
Does it really take 36 questions to accurately assess my satisfaction with an oil change? Really?! My level of satisfaction declined significantly with each survey question after the first five.

Keep survey questions to an absolute minimum and never ask for any information that you don’t specifically plan to use. Be respectful of your customers’ time when asking them to help you improve your business.

Dumb Scale
Most of the survey questions contained a response scale from one to ten with the following points labeled:

1 = Unacceptable

4 = Average

7 = Outstanding

10 = Truly Exceptional

This scale invites problems. If I answer truthfully, I’d give my oil change a 5. Is that bad? Not at all. It’s actually slightly above average. The problem with the survey is the average experience with my dealership’s service department is pretty good. There were a few minor points on my recent visit that were slightly better than usualy, so I’d rate the experience a little better than average.

I could also answer untruthfully if I felt compelled to rate the service as “truly exceptional” so my service advisor would get a good grade on her report card. The problem is I find it hard to imagine an oil change being truly exceptional. Maybe if they waived the charge, gave me a $100 gift card to my favorite steakhouse, and filled my car up with gas I’d rate it as truly exceptional. But they didn’t and I was just fine with their service anyway.

If you are going to ask for feedback, make sure you design a response scale that doesn’t lead to inaccurate or inconsistent responses.