Join Jeff Toister for an in-depth discussion in this video Understanding survey limitations, part of Using Customer Surveys to Improve Service.
- Surveys are great tools, but they do have some disadvantages. Let's briefly explore a few. One challenge is surveys rely on customers' memories. Our memories are notoriously faulty, so it's easy for customers to misremember key details. Customers' memories are also affected by their emotions. That means a happy customer and an upset customer might have a very different recollection of the same experience. For this reason, it's a good idea to complement your survey with data from other sources such as information from your customer relationship management system.
The sample is another limitation. A sample refers to how many customers actually take the survey compared to how many total customers you have. A poor sample can make it hard to draw concrete conclusions. Some samples are too small. Let's say you have 1,000 customers but only 10 take the survey. Your sample size would be 10, or 1%. That survey might give you some interesting information, but it doesn't necessarily mean that the 10 customers who took your survey represent the opinions of all 1,000.
Some samples are too narrow. If a survey is online, then it might include website visitors, but not people who visited physical locations. This makes it important to select the right sample when creating your survey. Surveys also represent just a single view of the customer, the customer's opinion. That means a survey might not reveal critical information. For example, if the customer is angry about a problem, the survey may not tell you what really happened or what caused the issue. There might not have even been a real problem.
The customer could have just been venting. Survey data is helpful, but it's important to consider it carefully before making any big decisions. A survey might contain errors that can lead you to the wrong conclusions. Sometimes survey questions confuse customers, and they'll give an answer that doesn't reflect how they actually feel. It's important to ask short, simple questions that are difficult to misinterpret. Finally, surveys are subject to manipulation. Many employees receive an incentive based on the survey scores they receive.
They might even get into trouble if too many customers give them low scores. This leads many employees to try to manipulate the results. They might focus on asking only happy customers to complete the survey. Others will be more direct and say, "I'll get into trouble if you don't give me a good score." Some companies have even caught their employees entering fake surveys in an effort to make their scores look better. The best way to avoid this problem is to focus on using surveys to improve customer service, and not as a scorecard for your employees.
We'll take a closer look at solutions to all of these problems as we move throughout the course. For now, keep in mind that surveys are great tools, and like any tool, they have a distinct purpose, and there's a way to use it properly.