Are you rolling out the Crisis red carpet with your surveys?

The universal law of surveys is: everyone promoting a survey thinks they’re great and everyone receiving a request to complete one hates them.

Any communications professional will tell you that without a well-considered incentive or an already engaged survey population – it’s impossible to get people to complete them UNLESS they *REALLY* have something to say (read: they’re unhappy).

After returning home from a well-earned mini-break recently, my inbox starting pinging with surveys from all the companies that had got me from home to tropical paradise and back: how was my flight? My hire car? My accommodation?

Like most people, unless those requests land in my inbox with the promise of a discount or other tangible reward – they find their way to my deleted folder pretty quickly. This time, however, I really did have something to say about my accommodation provider – and the automated survey sequencing was so tone deaf I couldn’t believe what I was reading every time I clicked ‘next.’

Suffice to say the accommodation I’d booked online was significantly different to the accommodation I was provided. I’d chosen a well-known and trusted 4 Star provider that I’ve used on many other trips in many other locations. Not terribly fancy but clean, dependable and part of a reputable group of brands. I’d read the online reviews, everything checked out.

That is – until I arrived and checked in.

The room was clearly missing furniture – no table, chairs or lounge as the booking site had pictured- and it was located directly adjacent to a 14 hour a day water feature running at about 90 decibels. Noisy and under-furnished, I spoke with reception. A change of room was refused point blank even though the resort were still advertising a range of rooms available for the duration of my stay and when pressed, the best I could get out of the highly disengaged staff was “We’ll see what we can do…” Cue what would have been the deafening sound of crickets if you’d been able to hear them over that water “feature.”

So, when I (happily) checked out a few days later – and within hours received a keen automated email asking for some feedback – you bet I responded.
Hilarious Kermit The Frog GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

What happened next is the ‘What Not To Do’ for anyone that is running any kind of service based survey.

First – the survey was entirely tone deaf to the feedback being entered. I was rating various questions about my experience between 3 and 6 out of ten and there were no adaptive responses or prompts at all.

At the very least, before you push a respondent forward to more questions after they’ve rated you anything less than a 7, there should be a prompt expressing empathy “We notice you’ve selected a rating that falls beneath our service standards levels, could you please provide some detail about what aspect of X failed to meet your expectations?”

Secondly, the questions were poorly constructed.

No value in survey responses is gathered in isolation of context. If a customer rates you poorly, why? These little pieces of feedback are important because in most cases they are things that can be easily fixed. Aggregate feedback with context can also provide you with early warnings of systemic issues arising.

This particular survey was so stock standard it missed a huge range of customer service and experience opportunities that would not only add value to the business but also keep them out of crisis and issues management territory.

Thirdly – and this is a real crisis own goal – the survey then prompted me to log in to my TripAdvisor account to publish that very same review and negative commentary – making it remarkably easy, about 2 clicks, for me to make my private grievance very public and very permanent.

Survey’s – What’s in it for your customer?

If you aren’t taking a customer experience approach to your surveys – that is the survey is all about your organisation and its needs NOT your customers’ – you’re doing it wrong.

If you’re not incentivising your survey and providing the respondent with a tangible reward – that is if you’re an airline, flight discounts or prizes are on the menu – you’re doing it wrong.

If you’re taking a tone-deaf, automated approach to your surveys – that then encourage the sharing of poor performance and reviews publicly – you’re doing it wrong and rolling out the red carpet for your next crisis.

Review and rating sites can and will impact a business’s bottom line. Poor reviews and ratings demonstrate to prospective customers that you don’t have your customer service or experience delivery in focus when compared to your competitors who do.

Worse still, social media can amplify those poor results and, in some cases, land you in the news for – you guessed it – issues that should never have happened and would have been picked up if you had a feedback process in place that valued the customer over your own KPIs.

If you’re running customer feedback surveys, don’t roll out the crisis red carpet by default – take the time to properly construct and automate that survey so that it provides the customer with an incentive and value.

Don’t assume all feedback will be as positive as you’d like it to be and allow poor automation processes to encourage unhappy customers to publish their grievances publicly.

NB: After making a formal complaint to the booking site when I returned home, I was refunded about half of the total cost of my accommodation. Which I guess is compensation for the fact that half the furniture in my room was missing. I never heard from the actual provider.