Customer surveys or online reviews or both?
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Is there still a need for customer surveys in a world full of online reviews?

best kind of feedback

Survey fatigue is rife. Completing those  long, tick box surveys is now considered tiresome and time consuming, and we are being asked to rate our satisfaction by every business we make a purchase from! No one has time for them all.

In an age when review-style feedback is becoming more common place, do we still need to send out surveys to gauge whether our customers are happy or not?

customer surveys

Our thoughts are (in terms of the long tick box survey), the answer is probably no; these are not needed (nor liked by customers). They’ve probably had their day.

BUT, in terms of short, open-ended, conversational surveys that allow the customer to say whatever they like about their experience, yes, we think these still have a significant role to play in improving customer experience.

Here are 6 reasons why:

1.Surveys are real time indicators, reviews are lagging indicators

Surveys that ask for feedback before or during an experience are invaluable in identifying where improvements to products, processes, people, price etc. can be made.

Most online reviews are generated after the event. Once an organisation becomes aware of a problem via a review, it is usually too late, and the review is out there for all to see!

Customer feedback should be ongoing and gathered at every touchpoint of the customer journey, whether it’s an initial phone inquiry, a personal visit or ultimately, the sale. Using email, SMS, telephone surveys, social media or website feedback tags, organisations can solicit feedback at the appropriate time for the customer either actively or passively.

customer survey

For example, a travel company can collate feedback after the booking, use an ‘always on’ survey during the vacation, then send a simple open-ended survey at the end of the trip. Any customer dissatisfaction can be dealt with immediately rather than leaving unhappy customers to wallow in their poor experience and share it with all their friends on social media.

Using these real time indicators, bad experiences can be instantly transformed into customer wins, which has a positive knock-on effect on loyalty, re-purchase and ultimately, the bottom line.

2. Surveys enable you to personalize your response

Pro-active outreach by way of a survey to the customer shows that you care about their business, want to hear from them, and (if there is an issue) want to make things right.

With surveys, you generally have all the information to pinpoint the customer who gave the feedback, whereas with reviews, you may not have the name or contact information for the reviewer.

Having the ability to reach out directly to the customer affords you the ability to customize your response based on the data you have about their transaction and really look into the issue and fix the root cause. Sure, it’s possible to respond to an online review (and you should!). However, due to the public nature of the response and the limited information you have on the reviewer, your reply may often seem generic or ‘canned.’

Businesses should seize any opportunity to demonstrate that it is actively listening – whether it’s responding to a review or a survey. It’s key to get in front of issues quickly and resolve them, before they go ‘public.’ Reaching out with a survey then correcting issues immediately may head off negative reviews and increase the number of delighted customers who want to share their experience. Surprise customers with your attentiveness to their issue, and give them something positive to talk about in their review!

3. Meet customer expectations

Surveys are the norm. We all expect to be asked if we are happy with the product or service we have received. It has become part and parcel of professional customer service. A hotel would ask if you enjoyed your stay, a dealer would ask if you were satisfied with your car service. It’s simply polite to ask and demonstrate that a business cares about and values its customers.

So don’t let your customers think you are uncaring and arrogant because you haven’t asked for their feedback. Send them a short, customer friendly survey so they can validate the service they experienced and don’t let the job fall to an impersonal, 3rd party online review host who really doesn’t care about their experience!

4. Surveys are a great source of new ideas

Surveys are often viewed as a source of complaints but in our experience, customer feedback is often positive. Survey respondents can provide a wealth of fantastic ideas for improved products, services, solutions or processes that an organisation may never have thought of.

We recommend businesses should regularly step into the shoes of their customers but that rarely happens. When you work within a company, it’s often difficult to identify problems in your process or service because you are so close to it. And, let’s face it, sometimes the flow of new ideas runs short and the creative juices dry up. Customers can provide a steady flow of innovative suggestions for improvement.

Customers rarely put their new ideas into their online reviews. But, if they feel a company is listening, they are much more likely to take the time to suggest new things, especially if you specifically ask them the question! Recognise these customers and base your innovation priority list around customer demands, not the business demands.

5. Obtain content for case studies and blogs

A customer’s own words are worth their weight in gold when it comes to marketing content. Nothing beats a customer story or quote from a real customer. Collect these through surveys, and use them for promotional purposes to evidence a positive experience.

It’s difficult to use content from a 3rd party online review host for this purpose. Gather your own, unique, proprietary customer feedback and, with the respective permission of the customer, re-purpose it for whatever marketing use you want – website, blogs, news, case studies, social media, training etc.

Seeing customer feedback being actively used in the public domain will encourage more customers to leave feedback and can really help build brand trust and loyalty and impact the bottom line.

6. Create richer insights

Surveys can allow you to connect the dots between feedback received and other important data points. What do customers who say they won’t return reveal about their experience? What makes someone likely to recommend? Which store locations have the highest prevalence of negative issues?

By capturing the correct data about the transaction (and storing it with the survey) and then asking the right questions on the survey, the verbatim responses you receive become even more valuable. Insights from text analytics can be sliced and diced many different ways, and feedback filtered down into smaller subsets to help you problem-solve at a micro-level.

So, if surveys still have a place in the world, where do reviews stand?

The number of online review sites is continuously growing. It is now accepted as common practice for consumers to be asked to leave a review after a purchase. Reviews are trusted and have now become invaluable when making any sort of purchase decision.

So which is best – surveys or reviews?

Our view is that both are equally important and have roles to play in validating and enhancing the service or product provided by any business.

In a nutshell, customer surveys give you the insight you need to improve customer experience and subsequently your bottom line. Positive reviews will help you increase your customer base. Negative reviews can harm your business. Note that if managed correctly, the fallout from negative reviews can at best be limited.

Our advice would be:

Use surveys if you want to:

  • Collect quantitative data alongside qualitative data
  • Retain control over when you ask for feedback during a customer journey
  • Keep feedback and insight out of the public domain
  • Use the customer interaction to improve customer relations
  • Decrease the number of negative public reviews with effective follow-up outreach

Use reviews if you want to:

  • Increase your brand visibility online – beware, this can backfire if you have a myriad of negative reviews
  • Build trust and loyalty amongst customers – very effective if you have lots of positive reviews
  • Benefit from potential free advertising and promotion via online sharing (again, this can backfire if reviews are negative)
  • Motivate and incentivise the managers of your individual outlets / dealers / locations / venues by tracking review comments that are visible in the public domain.

Surveys and reviews work best when used in tandem. One should not replace the other – they both have important but different roles to play when it comes to improving customer experience, loyalty & advocacy.

Taking Action: 3 Golden Rules

What is more critical than anything is that your business takes action on the feedback it receives.

  1. Whether you receive comments via surveys or reviews, contact unhappy customers, listen and empathise with them.
  2. Fix the root cause. Ensure senior managers are aware of the issues and take action to resolve them.
  3. Close the loop. Tell the customer you’ve resolved their issue. And don’t forget to thank happy customers for the time they’ve taken to send their feedback.

Show customers how important their feedback is to the business. There is no point asking for feedback if you don’t listen to it. Closing the loop with customers is critical if you want to build loyalty and advocacy.

And remember the Feedback Ferret team is expert in any type of customer feedback. Our text analytics solution can aggregate and code both surveys and reviews perfectly, so you can maximize the value to your business.