Published: Fri 16th Jan 2015

Satisfaction survey: tailor the survey to your strategy

When designing or re-building your satisfaction survey it is important to tailor it to your corporate strategies and therefore continuously change the program to reflect your developing business. I have seen survey programs which has been developed and then left to run for years without any structural changes – ending up being only a tick box exercise.

In my previous blog, I spoke about the various methodologies, and the key points to keep in mind while choosing a methodology. In this blog I will talk about different types of surveys, how to choose type based on key elements such as strategy and my views on how often to survey.

Should I develop a transactional or relationship survey?

Companies are often faced with the choice between launching a transactional survey assessing satisfaction with one touch point (an online purchase, a bank transaction at a branch, a call to a service centre) or a relationship survey assessing satisfaction across multiple touch points (satisfaction with delivery process, product performance, account management and customer service).

A transactional survey investigating a single touch point needs to be short, timely and responses to customer issues need to be processed quickly (feedback typically needs to be given within a couple of days after survey completion). This assessment will give you performance measurement on operational (day-to-day) elements and will allow you to identify operational issues, performance of frontline personal etc.

A relationship survey is typical longer, more detailed and you have a longer time-span in terms of getting back to the customer (typically within 1-2 weeks after survey completion). The relationship survey will typically allow you to identify drivers of satisfaction across business areas, identify and prioritise key strategic improvements needed as well as identify and leverage good performance across the business.

What do I use the two types of surveys for?

Before deciding on type of survey it’s important to understand the nature of your business, the relationship with your customers and your current strategic roadmap. Is your main priority to push your customer towards a self-service platform - then transactional survey is ideal to start with, as you will need to understand the operational elements of your service and then later embark on the more strategic assessment. However, are you looking to implement strategic changes such as re-structuring your business you will need the strategic cross-business information from the relationship survey.

A classic mistake:

  • Trying to derive strategic actions from transactional surveys which only provide you with a very narrow assessment and won’t allow you to conduct a root cause analysis to understand the problem in its entirety - which are needed to develop strategic improvement actions.
  • In a transactional survey, the customer is asked to evaluate one incident which is affected by situational factors and/or factors that are outliers in an overall assessment. For instance, Friday afternoon the card terminals brake down causing long queues at your store. It does not mean that your store is generally understaffed on Friday afternoons – instead this was an isolated operational incident.

I would recommend starting with one type of survey and when your program matures, have both types of surveys as it will enable you to understand the overall drivers of satisfaction as well as the day-to-day performance of these. Starting small (one survey type) allow you to build the processes needed to act on the information and especially give you the time to educate the organisation in using the information.

In order to decide which survey to start with I furthermore recommend that you understand your burning platforms first by conducting few in-depth interviews with customers. Then combine those finding with your business strategy as well as look at which resources are available for turning data to insight to action. The in-depth interview will also provide input to developing the questionnaire and thereby taking a vital outside-in approach to your programme.

How often should I survey my customers?

The frequency of your surveys depends on how quickly you can identify improvement from the data, develop actions and implement these so it is noticed by the customer. If you are doing a relationship survey assessing performance of multiple elements you find that actions derived from the data typically takes at least 5-6 months before reaching the customer. In this case I would recommend a bi-annual relationship survey. If you, in this case, survey more frequently you are likely to get same results – and eventually get fewer and fewer responses as customers don’t see changes based on their feedback. Also make sure you acknowledge that the customers spend time and effort in providing you the feedback – or they will also stop giving it to you.

Another element to consider is how often you are in contact with your customers e.g. are you only in contact a couple of times a year then I would recommend an annual survey. Are you in frequent contact with your customer and continuously implement changes to improve their experience – then more frequent surveys can be done. It’s important to incorporate the assessment into the overall communication plan so you don't over communicate but at the same time utilize the great stories and communicate the improvement plan derived from the feedback – all driving up response rates.

In the next blogs I will address questions around closing both the small loop directly with the customer as well as the big loop such as deriving strategic actions from data, set targets etc.

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