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February 2, 2022
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 min read

You don't (always) need a survey to measure customer satisfaction

You don't (always) need a survey to measure customer satisfaction

Eighty-three percent of customers feel more loyal to brands that answer and address their complaints. But to stay on top of issues and concerns, you need to regularly gather insights and measure customer satisfaction.

Many product and service teams use surveys to get an accurate feel for customer satisfaction levels, but the surveys don’t always tell the whole story about customer satisfaction. In fact, qualitative customer feedback across other support channels is often a more reliable measure of customer sentiment and retention.

Surveys are the obvious choice for measuring customer satisfaction

Brands, customer support teams, and product owners all like implementing surveys because they give customers a platform to speak their minds. They’re an opportunity for users to give honest feedback about the product and any issues they’re experiencing.

Low-lift surveys are often used to produce quantifiable data for quick insights into customer loyalty, sentiment, and customer retention. They usually don’t take very long for teams to design or for customers to fill out. But they do indicate how customers feel about your products, so you know if you’re heading in the right direction.

Some useful data points that customer satisfaction surveys can help measure include:

  • Net Promoter Score (NPS): A metric that determines loyal customers and brand detractors. It’s calculated on a scale of 1-10. Usually, calculating the NPS score consists of one straightforward question on a survey: “How likely are you to recommend our product to your friends or colleagues?”
  • Customer satisfaction score (CSAT score): CSAT surveys attempt to measure the quality of your customer’s experience on a numerical scale. The survey will ask respondents something like, “How satisfied are you with your product?” and they’ll respond on a scale of 1-10 (or similar).
  • Customer effort score (CES): CES indicates how easy it is for your customers to use your product, interact with your brand, and resolve any issues that come up. To calculate this score, you’ll ask a survey question like, “How easy do you find it to use your products?” and they’ll rank their answers on a numerical scale. The Gartner CES is measured from 1-7, for example.

These scores and surveys alone don’t yield the deep, qualitative insights that are needed to drive meaningful decisions about your product. To make up for this gap, brands and customer insights teams often include fields for long-form responses in their surveys. Those responses are harder to aggregate, but customers then have the space to be honest and thorough about their experience.

Surveys can’t capture your full Voice of Customer

As useful as they are, surveys alone can’t give you a true indication of how customers feel about your product or what problems they’re experiencing. That’s because customers are becoming more and more reluctant to submit feedback surveys, leaving you with a crucial gap in your Voice of Customer (VoC) data.

“...a significant percentage of customers are dismissing surveys as not worth their time, and companies are [now] getting less and less value out of customer surveys,” says Utpal M. Dholakia, Ph.D., the George R. Brown Professor of Marketing at Rice University.

There’s an enormous lack of consumer trust in surveys, thanks to the way some brands have clumsily handled them over the years. Have you ever had a service representative tell you that anything less than a 10 is considered failing and subsequently felt pressured to give a perfect customer satisfaction rating? Or have you felt the company is asking for feedback before you’ve actually been satisfied with their product? These are all common complaints that Dholakia received about customer feedback surveys.

The Los Angeles Times dug in further. They found that sales and service reps will exchange goodies for positive feedback ratings. Think free floor mats from a car dealership for a great survey rating. They also reported that employees at one company would butter up customers with a routine rebate — making them think it was a special offer. 

But when survey results artificially balloon, it doesn’t help you understand your customers’ true feelings and experiences.

“If I give chocolate to my students and they give me better ratings, does it say anything about whether they learned anything in class? No. And that’s the problem with methodology that relies blindly on metrics,” Giorgos Zervas, a professor at Boston University, told the Los Angeles Times.

Trust isn’t the only reason you have to worry about declining responses. Customers might not respond to your survey for all kinds of reasons. They might not answer because it’s too long. They might not answer because it’s too short (yep, that’s right). Or they might find the questions too confusing.

For well-constructed surveys, response rates tend to hover around 33%. But qualitative surveys are time-consuming for your team to create, and you’re still not getting feedback from all or even most of your customers. There’s a huge information gap here that surveys just can’t cover. Luckily, you have other sources of feedback to rely on instead.

Capture and analyze customer feedback across every source to truly measure satisfaction

Your customers are already talking to you every day across plenty of channels, flagging issues or letting you know they’re happy with a new feature. That collective feedback is a more accurate indicator of customer sentiment than any number of surveys.

Your sales and customer success teams log daily calls where current and future customers, unprompted, give you brutally honest feedback. Customers reply to you every hour of the day on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and every social media app you can name. They storm the App Store reviews every time you ship an update with a bug.

This qualitative feedback is already packed with valuable insights, and it’s more honest and reliable than surveys. Customers are willingly providing you with their thoughts, not in exchange for bribes but because they’re invested in your product. You’re often gathering more truthful feedback in the field because they aren’t holding back. When satisfied customers have a good experience, they want to share it. When they encounter a problem, they reach out directly to let you know where you can improve.

Do surveys still have a place? Yes. They’re helpful for conducting user research and gathering quantifiable customer satisfaction metrics. But they’re not a replacement for canvassing customer insights at a granular, organic level. You’ll learn so much more about your product — and how to actually spearhead growth — by analyzing customer comments about their most pressing issues in real time.

Qualitative feedback produces a lot of data to unearth and categorize. There are often hundreds of user feedback tags to choose from and apply to each individual user comment or support ticket. But a comprehensive feedback system helps product development teams build from accurate learnings and keep customers thrilled.

Implement an automated feedback system to speed up time to resolution

Manually tagging customer feedback places an enormous burden on your team. The resulting taxonomy is often inconsistent and unreliable, and it can take time for product issues to surface. Your customers are left waiting for their concerns to be addressed — and that’s plenty of time for them to think about how a competitor’s product might be better. 

An automated feedback taxonomy organizes and analyzes data, so you can act on it quickly. Thousands of feedback items across dozens of sources and formats are automatically connected, unified, and analyzed in one central taxonomy. Your team can shift the focus from mindless tagging to actionable insights — and shorten the timeline to results. Learn how Notion cut down time spent on their user insights report from two weeks to three days with Enterpret.

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