As promised, we’re blogging every Wednesday in January about ways customer care executives can make their organizations better.

For this post, I’d like to focus on the ever-present customer survey.  As an industry, we measure the customer experience pretty much every time customers even think about us, so it’s important that we are asking the right set of questions.  Managing customer surveys—trying to figure out which questions are most important, balancing survey bloat with corporate stakeholder needs, design and deployment details—can be a challenge, and we often hear executives asking us what should and shouldn’t be on their surveys.

I’d suggest it’s time to get back to basics.

Let’s make 2011 the year that we trim the excess and focus on the actionable questions that will help us as service organizations become better at what we do…and here’s the starting point I propose: 

  1. Overall experience—The Customer Effort Score  (“How much effort did you personally have to put forth to handle your request?”) is the best way to predict loyalty based on the customer service experience.  Period.  (see previous post for more detail)
  2. Rep experience—Rather than internally measuring things such as “professionalism” and confidence, ask your customers.  After all, it is their interpretation of these “softer” qualities that really matters.  To help with this endeavor, we’ve compiled the six best survey questions to measure rep-level drivers of a low-effort experience.  For example, ask customers if the rep acted in their best interest or made the service experience easier than expected.
  3. Online experience—One of the best ways to learn about the online experience is to ask what went wrong.  Online satisfaction scores won’t tell you much, but if you ask customers about their intentions for visiting your site, and whether or not they were successful…you begin to paint a better picture of outcomes.  The most progressive organizations focus on identifying specific online failure points that are driving customers to other, more expensive channels.
  4. Repeat contacts—A direct path to high customer exertion is multiple/repeat contacts.  Although you will probably want to supplement customer-facing questions with internal FCR tracking, it’s always a good idea to ask the customer how many times they’ve contacted you to resolve this specific issue.  You’ll probably find that customers disagree with whatever you think your FCR rate is.

Note that I didn’t say “ask the customer whether or not their issue was resolved”…often times the customer will have no way of knowing the answer, or, if it wasn’t resolved to their satisfaction (but there’s nothing you can do about that), the score to this sort of question can be a false indicator.

And, of course, at the end of day…no matter what ends up on your customer survey, it comes down to whether or not you are acting on that data.  Asking customers for feedback is one thing, but making them feel heard is completely different.

Ok, readers…what do you think?  Is this a good start to a better survey?  What would you add?  Better yet—what ineffective questions on your current survey would you like to remove?  Why haven’t you?