A significant proportion of customer satisfaction surveys out there are not really research surveys, they are just customer engagement exercises masquerading as survey research. We have all had these…. on their face they look like surveys but if one looks closely they appear to be something else.

The biggest hint that it is not really research is the phone call you receive after the survey seeking to get more information about your poor rating of some aspect of the experience you had.

Now I get it, how else is management to understand your experience with their company in a world in which only a small percentage of people complain to the manager. People are too often going to exercise their displeasure with their feet and/ or their mouths — telling everyone they can about their bad experience. Companies want to rescue these relationships and the survey is the guise they use to follow up.

From a consumer point of view there is value in providing feedback to companies since this enables them to improve their offering and service but giving up your anonymity should be something that is done consciously though a specific disclaimer and or option at the end of the survey.

In fact, the minimum standard for customer satisfaction research should be that you must give permission to have someone call you to discuss your findings. I have seen this done well in surveys where the survey has identified an issue and the respondent actually wants an opportunity to tell someone in management what was wrong.

The gold standard is independent and¬†anonymity. It can get all of the information an organization needs to improve its relationships without being overly focused on the customer. Lets face it…. if you are going to call me to explain my survey results (with ¬†no compensation for the call or the survey), then I am going to ignore your surveys.

Things to look out for:

  1. A promise of anonymity at the beginning. This is a sure sign that the survey is primarily research and a lack of such promise means that your responses (even your name) might be shared internally and may be used to follow up with you.
  2. The company running the survey. Does the survey look and feel like a survey from the company you did business with rather than an independent company? if yes, this is a sign that the survey is probably not motivated by research interests.

How do you feel about completing customer satisfaction surveys?