Customer satisfaction survey questions are an excellent means of improving your service provision by identifying what it is you do well and what you could do better. However, the survey process can be vastly improved via the use of new, interactive digital technologies. Chatbots and AI systems, in particular, are having a dramatic impact on how business go about doing getting feedback on their service.

As a conversational technology, chatbots are able to present the request for feedback in a far more informal manner, increasing the chance of a positive response. Customers are more willing to provide information concerning their interaction with a business if it’s delivered as part of a discourse. The technology is also a remarkably useful tool for engaging customers in a feedback system. Communication is instant and there is no opportunity to delay the interaction until later, as there is with an email request for feedback.

AI technologies are also impacting customer satisfaction survey processes by allowing for more natural, intuitive and human-esque interactions. As chatbots become more intelligent, businesses will be able to extract more detailed feedback from increasingly complex conversations.

However, whatever technology you’re using, the success of a customer satisfaction survey still depends on a business’ ability to ask the right questions.

It depends on how you measure “satisfaction”

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If you’re attempting to establish how satisfied a customer is with their experience of purchasing a product or service from your business, you’ll need a means of quantifying “satisfaction.” Defining satisfaction is problematic for many reasons. First and foremost, it’s an abstract concept that cannot be measured by any traditional method. There are no scales, tape measures, or speed gauges capable of quantifying the level of satisfaction someone feels.

Second, satisfaction is personal and, consequently, subjective. What satisfies one person may not satisfy another and, even if it does, it might not satisfy them to the same degree. This means that satisfaction is an inherently individual quality and therefore difficult to standardise.

However, experts in the field have developed a number of systems that attempt to provide a framework for the measurement of customer satisfaction. What you ask your customers will often depend on the system you employ. The principal systems are;

  1. Net Promoter Score (NPS)
  2. Developed and trademarked by Bain & Company, the NPS system is generated via a quick survey that asks customers to respond to basic questions on a 1-10 scale. A sample question may read, “how likely are you to shop with us again?”

  3. Customer Effect Score (CES)
  4. CES attempts to establish how difficult it was for a customer to complete the action that inspired their contact with your business. This purpose may or may not be finalising a purchase, as it could also include other tasks, such as requesting help from customer service.

  5. Customer Satisfaction (CSAT)
  6. CSAT is most commonly used to quantify satisfaction with a service or product. Common questions include, “how would you rate your satisfaction with the service provided?” Answers are provided according to a 1-5 scale, with 5 translating as “highly satisfied.”

As you can see, there’s a number of different measurement scales that can be used to measure satisfaction. Consequently, your first decision will involve establishing what it is you want to measure.

How to improve the quality of questions by understanding that it isn’t all about you

It’s clear that customer satisfaction surveys are of great use to businesses and that generally there’s nothing really in it for the customer, other than speaking their mind. This might suggest that the company designing and using the survey should focus first and foremost on its own interests and those questions it wants answering. In some way, this is true. The business does need to ensure that it’s not sending out surveys that return useless information.

However, a business that focuses entirely on its own needs is neglecting the most important component of any customer satisfaction survey – the customer’s own voice. If you’re not careful, it’s all too easy to design a survey centred on managers’ and marketers’ concerns, at the expense of the customers’.

One way of ensuring this does not occur is by approaching survey design through the eyes of the customer. How can you ask questions that give the consumer sufficient scope to respond in a personal and meaningful way, while still getting the data you need? How do you ask questions that allow them to talk about those things that are important to them?

Things change, don’t assume they always stay the same

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You may think that you know what’s important to the customer, but you should never take this knowledge for granted. You can be the most insightful individual in the business, but you’re still working within the office environment and are somewhat disconnected from customers. A company’s employees see the world very differently from a company’s customers.

This is important to note because it explains how a gap can open up between what businesses assume satisfies customers and what actually satisfies customers. The causes of customer satisfaction are always changing, evolving, and adapting. Though we may know what satisfies customers now, there’s no way of telling what may be the most important contributor to customer satisfaction in 5 years time. Today, it’s next-day delivery. Tomorrow, it could be carbon-neutral delivery.

Understanding which factors contribute to greater customer satisfaction is an essential part of asking the right questions. If delivery time is important to customers, is your business learning anything if it issues a customer satisfaction survey that fails to ask for feedback on the delivery process?

Understanding customers’ priorities

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That being said, it’s not enough to only know which factors are important, you also need to have some sense of how important they are. In other words, you need to understand the customer’s priorities. Like us all, consumers are not entirely rational beings – they can hold contradictory viewpoints at the same time. This makes establishing which factors are more or less important an essential step in working out what questions to ask. If we take the previous example of next day delivery vs carbon neutral delivery, this concept will become clearer.

A customer may express the opinion that their satisfaction is based on their purchase arriving the very next day. However, they may also state that carbon neutral or low carbon delivery is an important contributor to their satisfaction. Currently, next day delivery is only possible due to large logistics chains that utilise environmentally unfriendly transport such as cargo planes, diesel trucks, and a vast fleet of smaller vehicles. As the two factors are contradictory, it’s important to establish which is more important.

This has an effect on the content of your questions for two reasons. First, it provides you with context and greater depth when more general questions are asked. Second, it allows businesses to measure a customer’s satisfaction with those things that matter most to them. This helps to prevent us from drawing false conclusions.

For instance, if a customer responds to a next-day delivery question by saying they’re highly satisfied with the speed of delivery, we could deduce that they’re satisfied with the delivery process as a whole. However, what if environmentally friendly delivery was a more important contributor to that customer’s satisfaction? They may have responded that they were highly satisfied, but they’re still likely to switch to another business that does offer low-carbon delivery. The questions you should be asking need to enlighten us about those things that are important to customers.

How to receive more detailed feedback by allowing for open text answers

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If you only ask simple questions, you’re only going to get simple answers. Unless you provide customers with the opportunity to provide detailed feedback via an open text response box. This is an excellent means of collecting more information without over-complicating questions.

Not everything you need to know can be expressed in a simple 1-10 rating. Sometimes you need to give customers free rein to truly explain themselves. While too much text is likely to dilute the quality of the survey, making it too open to interpretation and both time-consuming and expensive to process, the opportunity to write freely at the end of a survey can yield useful feedback.

This can be included in a general request for additional comments, such as “is there anything else you would like to tell us about the service you received?” Alternatively, it could be utilised in a more targeted question, allowing you to go into greater depth about a particular subject.

How to ensure the accuracy of response by keeping things simple

Although undeniably useful, open text responses should be used sparingly to keep things simple. It’s also vital to keep simplicity in mind when wording your questions. Complex and convoluted questions are likely to frustrate and annoy users, causing them to abandon the survey, while a confusing survey will typically result in inaccurate responses. Both of these eventualities are undesirable and negatively impact on the quality of the survey.

To keep things simple, avoid technical jargon or industry-specific vocabulary. Consumers aren’t exposed to the language that most industry insiders use on a regular basis – they simply won’t have come into contact with many of the abbreviations, initialisms, acronyms, and terms that you hear on a daily basis in the office. The use of such language will only lower the reliability of response you receive.

It’s also a good idea to avoid over-complicating questions or employing double-barrelled questions. Double-barrelled questions cover two subject areas but only allow for one response. Instead, separate the existing question into two or do away with the least important part of the question.

Though we want to keep it simple when it comes to the phrasing of our questions, in some areas we need a more complex and insightful understanding.

Facilitate in-depth analysis through the use of demographic questions

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We often talk about “the consumer” as if there is a single, archetypal consumer that represents the desires, demands, interests, and beliefs of all other consumers. In reality, consumers come in all shapes and sizes and any business that wants to improve its performance needs to understand what type of consumer it is reaching and how that consumer behaves. One way to do this is by asking certain demographic questions.

As with all issues regarding customer data, it’s important to strike the right balance when asking about the users’ personal attributes, behaviours, and beliefs. If you’re too intrusive, you’ll anger some users. However, if you don’t press enough, you’ll end up missing customer information that could prove useful. Consider asking about the frequency with which a customer interacts with your business or makes a purchase. This will help you establish customer loyalty. It’s also good to look at useful identifiers, such as age, gender, education, location, and profession.

Isolate and identify problems by distinguishing the product from the brand

Though customers don’t often disassociate the products and services they purchase from the brand that provides them, it can be useful for businesses to do so in their survey. This is largely due to the way that it allows companies to identify where problems lie.

For instance, a loyal customer may express extreme dissatisfaction because, on one occasion, the product they purchased arrived late and damaged. Asking a question that relates to the specific purchase, followed by another that concerns the brand as a whole, allows a business to establish whether a customer is dissatisfied (or satisfied) with their most recent interaction or with the business in general. This can provide a business with the information required to remedy a problem or placate a disappointed, long-term, loyal customer. It also allows you to see whether your most recent interaction improved your reputation.

What next?

Every business asks their customers slightly different questions. There is no generic survey that offers the depth and complexity that a bespoke and tailored survey is capable of providing. Consequently, companies should utilise the above advice, alongside a survey template if necessary, to construct a survey that reflects their customers’ focus and generates useful responses.

Consistency is also important when surveying. Here at Inform, we recommend building feedback into your service delivery, meaning that, once set-up, your service users and customers can be surveyed and provide invaluable feedback with little to no effort on your part. We also suggest surveying on a quarterly basis, rather than sporadically or only at one time of the year to avoid compromising your results and embed surveying firmly within your company culture.

Finally, Chatbot technology has become by far the most effective means of engaging users in a feedback process. The conversational tone is ideally suited to such a process and emerging AI technologies are also improving our ability to extract the required information from complex feedback responses.

Have a question or want further information on getting feedback using chatbots? Our expert team have been providing customer contact solutions for over 25 years. Call us on 01344 595800 or drop us a line.