The client feedback and follow-through survey: Its advantages and challenges

The client follow up survey is useful and important in assessing your service success -- but be careful about its impact

Recently, I’ve noticed several businesses implementing automated follow-through surveys. If you make a call to for some level of customer support from a bank or online investment broker, a few days later, you can expect a some variation of a “customer satisfaction” survey. Or if you make a major purchase — say a cruise trip — you can expect a post-event survey.

The purpose of these surveys is simple: If you can get feedback right away, you can quantify your progress/success and (more importantly) seek client reactions in exceptional circumstances. The survey allows the company to discover if a customer had a particularly evil or pleasant experience. dIf things have gone wrong, then there is a chance for response/recovery, and of course if things go right, the story can be shared internally as an example of how to do things right.

These surveys, in theory, are especially valuable if they are administered by the company outside of the control of the front-line employees/managers delivering the service; but where the results can be shared with the employees.

All’s good, and while it isn’t too hard to implement a survey program, I have to say I am a bit cautious about the rush to follow the latest trend to capture data from client “touch points”.

First, you should realize that a survey is an “ask”, not a “give” and the process of completing any sort of even mildly long questionnaire effectively detracts from the client experience. In other words, your attempts to capture data on experience quality results in a mildly negative event. The solution to this problem is to package the survey with a bit of sugar; perhaps a customized and personalized thank you (maybe a modest gift or reward). A second solution is to keep the survey truly short, perhaps with the option for additional questions if the client wishes.

Second, and most important, the survey data needs to be applied both quickly (to resolve complaints/problems) and sensitively, to avoid the risk that staff will seek to “game” the survey results. The saddest situations occur when there are overt requests for clients to complete the survey and provide positive answers, when the actual operation lacks genuine quality.

So use the client survey — but be thoughtful about its impact and consequences.

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