Survey: How quickly do you expect a response to an email?

I'm conducting research to learn how quickly people expect a response to the emails they send. The survey also asks for your response time expectations for Twitter and Facebook messages sent to businesses.

  • The survey is open now through Friday, April 13.
  • The results will be posted on this blog on Tuesday, April 17.
  • The survey should take approximately one minute to complete.

Take the survey

Five Characteristics of a Powerful Customer Survey

Customer are constantly getting pummeled with survey requests.

We get them via email. They pop up when we visit a website. The auto mechanic pulls us aside after an oil change and begs us for a 10.

A 2016 study from Interaction Metrics found that more than 80 percent of America's top retailers offered a customer survey on purchase receipts. The study also found that most surveys were total garbage.

Most customer service leaders I know are concerned about their surveys. They recognize customers get too many. Leaders also aren't certain what to do with the data they're collecting.

This post aims to solve that problem. 

Below are five characteristics of a powerful customer survey. Use them to put your existing survey to the test. And, if you want more help, I'm willing to do an evaluation of your existing survey at no cost or obligation (details at the end of the post).

#1 Purpose

Always start with why. Understand why you want to survey your customers. Whenever possible, be specific.

Customer service leaders typically respond by saying, "We want to collect feedback." That's not enough. It doesn't provide clear direction because there's no action involved.

Here's a better reason I recently heard from a customer service leader:

Customer retention is a key driver of our company's success. We want to use our survey to help pinpoint the causes of customer churn.

See the difference? A clear purpose will help you use the survey to drive action.


#2 Choose the Correct Format

There's a lot of debate around which type of survey is best. Here are the three most popular:

  • Customer Satisfaction (CSAT): measures customer satisfaction with a product, service, or transaction.
  • Net Promoter Score (NPS): measures a customer's likelihood to recommend your product or service.
  • Customer Effort Score (CES): measures how easy it was for a customer to resolve their issue.

So here's a secret: there's no single survey type that's best!

Choosing the wrong survey type can yield less helpful data, so it's important to choose the correct survey type to match your goal.

A municipal utility probably shouldn't use an NPS survey because they have a monopoly on their service so generating positive word-of-mouth isn't the goal. The utility would be better off using a CES survey to find ways to serve their customers more efficiently.

Here's a primer that can help you decide which survey is best for your situation.


#3 Ask the Right Questions

A survey is only as useful as the questions it contains.

Most surveys contain too many questions. Those questions are frequently poorly designed and do little to reveal useful information.

You can ask better questions if you keep a few things in mind:

  • What's your purpose for doing the survey? (See #1 above)
  • What type of survey are you using? (See #2 above)
  • What will you do with the data?

If you don't know what you will do with the answer to a question, there's no need to ask it. In fact, I challenge my clients to use just three questions whenever possible:

  1. How would you rate (product, service, experience)?
  2. Why did you give that rating? (open text response)
  3. May we follow-up with you if we have additional questions?I challenge my clients to 

This short explainer reveals the rationale behind each of these questions (and why you usually don't need any more).


#4 Make Your Survey Easy

Offering a survey is really asking a customer to do you a favor.

The easier you make your survey, the more likely your customer is to do you that favor and to feel okay doing it. This means your surveys should follow a few simple principles:

  • Easy to access
  • Offered in a timely manner
  • Easy (and quick) to complete

A 2011 study from SurveyMonkey found that survey completion rates drop 5-20 percent once a survey takes 7+ minutes to complete. The same study discovered that's usually around 10 questions.


#5 Take Action

The number one survey gripe I hear from customers is the survey doesn't matter. 

Truthfully, they're usually right. Studies consistently show the vast majority of survey feedback is never acted upon.

You need to use surveys to drive improvement if you want to avoid wasting your customers' time. That means analyzing the data for trends and identifying opportunities for improvement.

Your survey serves no purpose if you're not doing that.



Here are a few more resources to help you improve your existing customer survey or implement a new one.

Training Video: Using Customer Surveys to Improve Service

If you don't have a subscription to either source, you can get a 30-day trial account by dropping my name.

You might also want to check out my customer service survey resource page.

Finally, here's my offer to review your survey:

Send your survey as a link or PDF file to jeff [at] toistersolutions [dot] com by June 30, 2017. In your email, answer these three questions:

  1. What is your objective for this survey?
  2. How are you offering the survey? (Ex: via email to customers who contact you)
  3. What are you doing with the survey data?

I'll respond with notes about your survey's strengths and some suggestions for improvement.

How Rating Your Customers Can Change Service Perceptions

Surveying your customers can bring some interesting benefits.

You can gain valuable insight that allows you to improve service. And, as I noted in a recent blog post, just asking for feedback might increase loyalty and spending.

There's another trend that's worth watching. Survey scores appear to rise when customers are also rated.

This post explores how this might be happening.

Who Is Rating Customers?

There's at least a few companies doing it now. They include Uber, Lyft, and Airbnb. Ebay offered this feature until they discontinued it in 2008.

The idea behind rating consumers is to encourage better behavior. The Uber website explains:

"The rating system works to make sure that the most respectful riders and drivers are using Uber."

Uber also posted an explanation on their blog that indicated passengers with low ratings might not be able to continue using their service.

The concept appears to work to a certain extent. A recent New York Times article explored several examples where passengers made a point to be more polite when they were using Uber.


How These Ratings Change Perceptions

There may be a downside to rating consumers.

A Boston University study compared ratings for vacation rental properties that are evaluated on both Airbnb and TripAdvisor. Airbnb allows properties to rate their guests while TripAdvisor does not. 

The results? Ratings on Airbnb averaged 14.4 percent higher than the same properties on TripAdvisor. 

Clearly, the knowledge that they too will be rated has affected these guests' ratings. What's not clear is why. There seems to be a few likely explanations:

  • Airbnb reviewers are naturally more lenient than TripAdvisor reviewers.
  • Airbnb reviewers rate higher because they know they'll be rated.
  • TripAdvisors give harsher ratings because they don't face any consequences.



This could be a trend to watch. I'm a big proponent of civility. It's important that we try to be kind and respectful to the hardworking people who serve us. 

If rating customers helps this, I'm all for it. On the other hand, I'm wary of any move that artificially manipulates survey scores and prevents problems from being solved.

Where do you come out on this?

Five Ways to Capture VOC Data Without a Survey

Ugh. Not another survey.

Customers are tired of surveys. You might be tired of your own survey too. There’s even a term called survey fatigue.

Maybe your customers are getting tired of the survey you’re doing now. Perhaps you stopped doing a survey because response rates were too low. It might be that you’ve put off implementing a survey because you’re worried that customers can’t be bothered.

Voice of the Customer (VOC) data is important. You just don’t want to annoy your customers in the process. There’s got to be a better way.

Here are five ways you can capture VOC data without resorting to a survey.

1. External Review Sites

Are your customers already reviewing your business on an external review site such as Yelp or Trip Advisor? These sites can be a treasure trove of VOC data.

They can even offer a few advantages over traditional customer service surveys.

  • Customers tend to leave more detailed feedback when writing an online review. 
  • You can respond directly to reviewers and give yourself a chance to fix a problem.
  • High ratings equal free advertising that will bring in new customers.


2. Social Media Monitoring

If your customers are talking about you on social media, why not join the conversation? Monitoring social media for mentions of your company, product, or service is a great way to capture VOC data.

There are plenty of tools to help you do this. Brandwatch put together a great list of 10 free social media monitoring tools


3. Google Alerts

Google alerts offers an easy way to monitor the internet for mentions of your company, brand, products, or services. You can sign up to be notified automatically when key words that you specify show up in search results.

Combining methods 1 - 3 can provide your company with a comprehensive amount of VOC data. For example, let’s say someone reviews your company on Yelp, blogs about a recent experience, and then Tweets a mention of your brand. 

This is a great opportunity to interact with a customer who is talking about your brand online. You can reinforce the connection if they’re happy. Or, you can try to resolve the problem if they’re taking to the web to rant. 


4. Contact Type Reports

Many companies keep a record of the reasons customers contact customer service. This can captured through your CRM system, your IVR software, or even an old-fashioned tick sheet. Understanding why customers are requesting service can help you pinpoint and diagnose problems.

In many cases, this approach can work much faster than waiting for customers to fill out a survey. For example, if you notice a spike in calls related to a specific product, you can quickly investigate the problem and diagnose a root cause.


5. Ask Customers Directly

You don’t need a survey to get between you and an individual customer. Don’t be afraid to ask customers to share their feedback directly.

This is a great source of data since you can often ask for more detailed information than you might be able to capture in a survey. And, it also gives you a chance to make things right if the customer’s feedback involves any sort of service failure.


Surveys CAN Be Useful

This post provides some alternatives to customer service surveys, but that doesn’t mean surveys can’t be extremely useful ways to gather Voice of the Customer Data.

This training video on can provide you with step-by-step guidance. You'll need a subscription to view the entire course, but you can get a 10-day trial.


Want Even More VOC Ideas?

Here are a few more posts you might be interested in: