by Lydia Dishman
If you’ve shopped anywhere within the last years, you’ve certainly had this happen. A cashier presents you with a receipt that would give a roll of toilet paper a run for its money. Then points out how if you just go online and “just take a moment” to fill out the retailer’s survey, you’ll be entered in a drawing to win a prize, a discount on a future purchase, or some other small reward.
Not solely confined to a brick and mortar cash wrap, e-commerce merchants have gotten in the survey game. Many have cleverly leveraged customers’ contact information to send emails shortly after a purchase has been made, asking for feedback about the experience. Not to mention pesky pop-up windows that dot e-commerce and mobile sites.
Global survey company SurveyMonkey estimates it helps its clients (which they say includes 99 percent of the Fortune 500) collect more than 2 million survey responses daily. That translates to billions of surveys per year.
Is all that feedback helping retailers build their brands? “Not at all. In fact, our research shows that surveys can actually damage your brand,” OpinionLab CMO Jonathan Levitt tells FORBES.
Research from the company that specializes in collecting and analyzing consumer feedback from retailers and brands suggests that shoppers are pushing back on surveys:
- 66% of customers prefer to give feedback by actively reaching out.
- Nearly three quarters (72%) of consumers said surveys interfere with the experience of a website.
- 80% of customers have abandoned a survey halfway through. 52% of customers said that they would not spend more than 3 minutes filling out a feedback form.
It’s a conundrum for responsive retailers who want to hear what their customers are saying, especially if they aren’t sharing on social media. Levitt asserts that the intention of soliciting feedback to establish a dialog and involve customers in a process is critical for positive brand building. “In most cases, surveys aren’t the right vehicle for achieving these goals,” he says, “They are usually instrumented and executed poorly.”
Levitt posits that the disconnect happens because surveys are marketer-centric, and often designed to satisfy business curiosities and justify marketing spend. “They are not designed to illuminate the hearts and minds of customers.”
As a result, he’s observed response rates dropping over the past 20 years, from about 20 percent to a paltry 2 percent today. “You are annoying your customers and not getting the answers you want anyway,” Levitt says, “It’s a lose-lose.”
Levitt tells FORBES that customers of all stripes are suffering from survey fatigue. He suggests a different strategy: inviting them to provide feedback on their own terms to drive engagement, loyalty and sales. Here’s what else he told us about the current state and the future of feedback.
Stores like Lowe’s offer customers a “chance to win” money or products if they fill out the survey. Do you think this helps the experience?
No. These tactics are designed to overcome the fact that people simply don’t want to take surveys. But it still leaves consumers frustrated with surveys that are too long, and there is generally never a clear connection between survey responses and subsequent business changes.
From the brand’s perspective, they want feedback from engaged respondents who care about making the brand better – not people who will put in 35- 40 clicks to get a free cup of coffee or cash back. The truth is that the data quality really falls off in these surveys.
Sweepstakes are not a solution to survey fatigue. Brands who are serious about doing it right need to change their whole approach to prioritize opt-in participation; dramatically reduce the number of questions they ask; refocus on open-ended feedback and, most importantly, respond and prove that they are taking feedback seriously.
As social media channels offer a way to get instant gratification for posting feedback, why do surveys at all?
Our research shows that consumers would much rather share their opinion directly with a brand than on social media. Nearly 75% said that, following a bad experience, they would first tell the company itself using email, phone or feedback. Less than 3% would go directly to social media.
This tells me that people are more discreet than we often think, and that they don’t like to be seen as whining or complaining. They are wiling to give brands a chance to make it right before they start to make their complaints public. In many ways, social media is a forum of last resort. It is a customer service channel designed to put out the most burning of fires, and doesn’t serve the same function as direct customer feedback.
Brands also need to be aware that that are still a lot of people who don’t think of social media as a customer service channel at all. A significant part of your customer base may not be active on Twitter, so it is a mistake to rely on social listening as the sole source of customer insight.
I personally find the follow up email nudge to rate a product I’ve purchased rather annoying. Isn’t there some algorithm that retailers can use to target only customers who actively leave reviews and feedback?
I agree – this bothers me too and I think consumers are tired of being bombarded with requests for their feedback.
The future of all customer feedback is opt-in. Brands are gaining a tremendous amount of information about shoppers as they move across channels, and are beginning to develop ubiquitous shopper profiles that merge data from mobile, CRM and social. Ultimately this profile will let brands know if a consumer has actively opted in to feedback, coupons and special offers or if she has opted out and should not be solicited.
Remember that surveys emerged in a world of information scarcity. It used to be very hard for retailers to figure out what someone in Phoenix or San Diego thought about your product. We are now in a world where information is plentiful. Brands need to understand what they already have (from CRM, POS, the social graph) and what is missing. The future is to use opt-in formats to fill in the missing blanks. With permission, brands will ask a small number of really relevant questions. Gone are long surveys full of silly and redundant questions. The new era is all about focus instead of fatigue.
This article can be found here.
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