Fuzzy Logic

I threw together a one question survey last week to see if I could gain some perspective on why people respond to customer satisfaction surveys and, in general, what we as consumers expect from brands in return for our effort.

For those of you that are regular readers of this blog (thanks,  Mom & Dad), you might recall I conducted a personal experiment last year where I responded to every survey I was offered, regardless of communication method.  I took over 100 surveys and 97% (rounding down) seemed to go into a black hole; meaning I got nothing back, not even an acknowledgment of response.

So, if I assume this is representative, I got to wondering why, if the reply rate is so low, do we all continue to respond.  What do we expect in return for our time and opinion.  Maybe my expectation is whacked.  So, I asked the question: “When responding to a customer satisfaction survey, what is your number one expectation?”.  And here’s what you told me.

And I thank you.  Apparently, I’m not crazy…about this, at least.  58% of you answered that you expect the company to take action on your responses and report back to you the results.  I would fall into that same category.  So, where’s the disconnect?  Let’s look at the other responses first.

This one is on the opposite end of the spectrum and, at 23%, a bit surprising.  But this group said they simply want to share information with no other expectation of engagement by the brand.

14% of you simply want the company to acknowledge receipt of your survey input.  The level of detail of the response was not explored.  So, I assume it could range from an auto-generated email to a phone call back or a knock on your front door; if your survey was geotracked.

5% of folks look for some goodies, free stuff.  And, equally surprising as the 14% bucket was that nobody (that 0% up there) expects the company to contact you to ask for more information.

So, of the 58% that want action from the company, I can assume one of those actions is not a call back.  I guess its more like – “hey, I had this problem.  Go fix it and let me know you did it”.  That makes sense, I suppose.

So, because this isn’t any type of scientific study, I’m not going to try to make any specific conclusions here.  But, as we’ve heard rumors of, data is just data if its not actionable.  So, the action item I would say falls back to companies.  58% of the respondents here expect you to take action on their feedback and report back to them.  But, according to my experiment last year, 3% of you did that.

What conclusions would you reach from this?  As a consumer?  As a brand? (don’t worry. I won’t hold you to it).


  1. Personally, I gave up doing solicited customer sat surveys just for the reason you cited – no follow up. I could never tell if it was doing any good.

    As someone who is in marketing, I actually do know the results are viewed by the submitting companies. However, their question strategy is still lacking in providing accurate input.

    For example, learning that 80% of customers were greeted by somebody SHOUTING a "Welcome to …!" from the back of the store at you in the first 10 seconds after you entered is not necessarily the best gauge of good customer service!

    I must confess I still respond to those that offer a possibility of a prize – like on the bottom of a receipt. No expectations – just a shot at winning a prize. 😉

  2. Surveys have become like a lot things today and have a range of cost and value. I believe for the most part surveys are either very low cost and low value or higher cost with higher payback potential.

    I suspect many of the surveys you responded in your test were just busy work for sake of doing something.

    As consumers of either business or consumer services or products we are stuck with the cost of changing vendors more challenging.

    Consider Home Depot vs Lowes – one is two minutes away and the other a 20 minute drive which leads to the potential for a love hate relationship. All the while management at either would be touting their lastest metric at customer satisfaction.

    We have entered a new age with data flowing in all directions and for the most part a lot of it is just junk.

  3. This is a very interesting post. Our company, SERVICE 800, has been completing surveys for large companies for 20+ years and have noticed the same things.

    Those customers that are willing to part with their time to complete a survey (especially some of the long poorly constructed ones we all love) they want to see action.

    Asking for the sake of asking is going to do more harm than good. We always stress to our clients that when they get the feedback their surveys yield, they need to act on it and make sure to tell those who suggested the change its been made.

  4. Thanks all for your comments. I appreciate the dialog.

    @Hania that's great feedback on the feedback process! I'm gathering by the responses I got, you're not alone.

    @Allen it would be interesting from your point of view if you could share what you've observed as the macro level response rates over time. I'm assuming response rates might be trending down while survey volume by brands is trending up. Customers are finding that they get much more satisfaction, especially with negative experiences, by going to twitter or facebook or their blog than responding to a CSat survey. Even if they get no response from the company, the satisfaction of ripping the brand a new one in public gives the consumer a sense of control they have not had prior to social media. Ok, so there is clearly a consumer pathology there, but many consumers feel its justified.

    @Ron – yup, in many cases, just another pile of data (especially if its NPS that's the basis of the CSat survey. I would actually call that a pile of a different, more malodorous variety. But thats all I have to say about that) Surveys of any flavor give brands a false sense of accomplishment that they are actually listening to their customers. Its so easy to do, the value in terms of actionable data, and the organization's ability to actually act on the data is not in step with the ease of data collection.

    thanks again all!

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