What are surveys actually measuring; customer or user satisfaction?
Surveying customers became much easier and less time consuming with the introduction of electronically asking for feedback. Almost weekly, we are asked to give our opinion about a service we just consumed or a product we’ve purchased. All are competing for your time, and some are bribing you with nice raffle prizes. Who wins these gadgets? We never bother checking.
This lowering of the bar to create and conduct these surveys also resulted in more creators of these surveys who became overnight “experts”. Some truly are, but others should probably not give up their day job anytime soon. Here are some of the annoying experiences:
1. Five minute-surveys end up being lasting double or triple the time
2. Questions are mandatory, while they shouldn’t be
3. Personal information is requested without being forewarned
4. Your answer is not listed and neither do you have the option to provide it
5. The “other” option is what you end up using for most questions, resulting in more response time needed
6. What is supposed to be one question is actually two questions combined in one; and to make it worse, each requires a different answer
7. The last free-format question is the one you were hoping for all the way through: “Please tell us what we can do to better your experience?”
8. You are forewarned that when answering a question with less than “excellent”, you will be prompted with more questions
And while every surveyor promises you that your feedback will be used to better the service or product, very few share with you what else, or what actually is being done with it. Suppose the survey is from your car dealer. You had a not so pleasant experience after you brought in the car for a routine maintenance and start venting away in the survey that was sent to you. You receive a written apology from the general manager, leaving you with the impression that this is the end of this chapter. What you didn’t know is that your notes also ended up in your records on file. Did you just lower your chances of getting a better deal, next time you want to buy a new car? No one can tell. Yes, that was easy picking on my part here on car dealers. I guess I just blew my own chances on a great deal…
By now, you get the gist of it. Surveying may not be considered a science, but it requires a lot of careful preparation, professional execution, follow up and due care.
From an IT Service Management perspective, customer surveys are the responsibility of the Business Relationship Manager (BRM) and are part of the of the business relationship management process activities. Business relationship management is a strategic process. The BRM operates therefore on a strategic level. So when we use the word “customer” in this context, we are dealing with those in the customer environment who act and operate on a strategic level. With these best practices in mind, let’s take a closer look at what is assumed here.
The BRM is a role that is deeply involved with the customer’s strategy and how the service provider can accelerate, enable, and support the customer’s business success through cutting edge, innovative, quality services that are ahead of the curve. The BRM may be involved with some tactical aspects, but for sure is not so much occupied with operational details. Agree so far?
So when surveying the customer, what are the questions targeting? The user experience, the customer experience, or both…? And who is being approached to partake in the survey? The end-user, the paying customer, or both…?
It may dawn on you where I am going with this. Take a hard look at your customer survey and see if you are asking questions addressing how you are performing on a strategic level. Something is telling me that very few questions actually are about obtaining feedback on your customer’s opinion about:
1. How well you know their business
2. How well you know the market they operate in
3. The degree to which you have enabled their business growth and success
4. The level of quality of your strategic advice that you have given them
5. The level of strategic expertise you bring to the table
6. The extent to which you were able to translate business needs into service and product offerings
7. The extent to which you enabled speed-to-market
Or am I completely off here? I can be wrong too…
I am not implying that the user experience is not important. Make sure though to target and survey the end user then. And maybe, as a start, call it a User Satisfaction Survey or maybe even better, a User Experience Survey.
Having said all this, honestly, look again at the list of strategic questions. Are these topics you put in an online survey? I hope not. These are recurring conversation topics you have with your customer. Every time you meet with them. Or at least you have those in the back of your mind with everything you do for your customer.
So maybe the moral of this blog is that there shouldn’t be such things as customer surveys. When you are managing your relationship the way you should (I think) you can speak freely, the relationship is open and honest, and there is a healthy amount of mutual respect and trust. No need to hide behind an electronic survey. By all means, speaking of respect or lack thereof…
And the next time, when you as the BRM seek feedback from your customer, conduct a face-to-face meeting, far away from the office, and in a win-win setting and worthy atmosphere.