Magnifying Glass

Conduct Surveys for Constructive Criticism, Not Praise

Surveys shouldn’t be about a vague sense of customer satisfaction levels. They should be about discovering the specific things we need to improve on and how we might improve on them.

Constructive criticism is what we’re looking for, not nebulous data. We need laser-focused data on the areas we perceive as our weaknesses and the areas our customers point out as our weaknesses when we ask them. And we have to ask them.

Be Specific

A vague question: “Did you find our website helpful?”

Seems like a reasonable question—basically just asking if the website is good or bad. But what do we mean by helpful? Helpful in learning what our company does? How to get in touch with us? How to use our products or services?

With vague questions like this, we’re throwing blankets over whole areas of our business—in this case, the entire website. There’s no such thing as a perfect website, so how could there be no room for improvement? Therefore, this question doesn’t provide actionable feedback.

To get feedback we can actually use, we need to ask specific questions and target those questions towards our weak points. For example, if we think our website is difficult to navigate (a cardinal sin):

A general question: “Did you find our website easy or difficult to navigate?”

A more specific question: “Which of the following would improve navigation on our website? Choose as many as apply. A: Larger link buttons, B: Drop-down menus…”

Don’t Beat Around the Bush

There’s no point in beating around the bush. If you want to know if something is a problem, ask about it specifically. If you’re not sure what might be a problem, ask your employees beforehand. Chances are pretty good your webmaster will know the potential weaknesses of your website.

An even more specific set of questions: “What did you come to our website to find?” “Were you able to find it?” “How many pages (roughly) did you navigate through to get there?” “Which of these would improve navigation…”

All it takes is one customer’s comment. While you may be pointing out a weakness to the customer, there’s a fair chance they’ve already spotted it. And by getting rid of it, you ensure it won’t be an issue for customers who follow. However, if you never ask and never know it’s there, you ensure that every customer has a chance to experience it firsthand.

Incremental Improvements Make Big Change

In today’s world of lean, agile business practices, the focus is on incremental improvements bringing about big change over time. In this environment, surveys provide regular feedback that companies can use for those incremental improvements.

When done correctly, surveys are fact-finding missions.

If the only reason a company is doing a survey is to show decent customer satisfaction ratings to their board or the media, they’re not taking full advantage. If a company has no intention of doing anything with the data, they’re just wasting their time.

But if a company is looking to improve their business—if they’re looking for actionable feedback—they need facts.