Surveys Aren’t Dead – but people don’t care as much as you’d like

Phil Durand

Phil Durand

Author Bio

Director, Customer Experience Management

Author Bio

Use insight to drive decisions that impact the customer

Someone once said, ‘don’t mistake your own enthusiasm for someone else caring’. I can’t remember who said it. I could use Google to find out. It may even have been me during one of my more catty moments. Either way, it seems applicable to some of what follows.

I’ve recently attended several conferences examining the topic of customer experience and why it matters. Clearly, I am on the side of thinking it does matter. Because it’s what I do. I confess, though, that at some of these conferences, it does feel as though we’re in danger of violently over-analyzing our very existence, rather than say, actually doing something.

For my sins, I’ve spent longer in the customer research business than I care to admit – which sits painfully close to all this CX stuff. In this time I’ve seen clients improve their business markedly by doing little more than listening to customers and then doing something to make things better. It’s only ever that simple. If anyone tells you otherwise, they’re probably up to no good.

Sadly, unlike the cases I mention above, I’ve known many who have spent all their energy on measuring and none on acting. Actually, that’s not quite true. They always seem to find a little bit of extra energy right at the end to express bewilderment that things aren’t any better even though they’re doing all this measuring. The conversations with these very dedicated, very passionate people feels a bit like this sometimes…

THEM: I’ve weighed the pig every day and it’s not getting fatter.

ME: Did you feed it?

THEM: I’ve weighed it.

ME: I heard that. I asked if you fed it.

THEM: Every day.

ME: Fed?

THEM: I weighed it. You’ve lost me. What are you saying?

ME: Feed it.

THEM: What?

ME: Never mind.

The other kind of businesses are the ones who also measure everything, but then run out of steam for taking actions because they get caught up in too much analysis. In effect they tie themselves into an unholy knot. Classic cases of analysis paralysis. And the worst part is, some of them seem to really enjoy being paralyzed. A little too much. It seems to bring them comfort. Or worse, it’s like they’re getting off on how clever they think they’re being, finding new and interesting ways to reduce their business to a series of complex formulae.

To be clear, I’m not trying to put down some of the magnificent brains at play in this field – we need them - but the intelligence needs to lead to an outcome. Dare I suggest it? A tangible business improvement? You can be as clever as you like, but if you’re not making a difference – or money – then perhaps it doesn’t matter, does it?

So all this enthusiasm for CX and whatever else is fine, but where is it all leading? Fewer people engage with the process these days. Not so many are taking the surveys, and fewer are following up with actions back in the office. And that tells me that the process is out of step with the people – both the customers and businesses. In fact, we’ve just released a whole report that bears this out.

I’ve recently been speaking with a number of organizations desperate to know how they’re doing – they want to take that first step because they know it’s the right thing to do. But few have a direct relationship with their end users. B2B2C in some cases, good old fashioned high street retail in others. They want to know, but they’ve no idea who to ask. Or how.

Building a survey is easy. Any fool can do that. Some can even write one that’s half decent. Well done.

But what about when no one cares enough to answer your questions?

“But … but … but … but we’re passionate about servicing our customer’s in-home requirements with innovative solutions designed to support a wide variety of ever changing use-cases with dynamic, real-time interventions.”

The problem is that in most cases, your customers don’t care as much as you. Nothing personal, they just don’t see why they should bother.

As I mentioned above, we’ve just done some of our own research, and it’s not just customers who are finding all this less compelling. Turns out, many of the client organizations are struggling to use the feedback they receive. They just get kind of stuck with the data and then … well, I don’t know. Just …. nothing. So even though they care enough to send you a survey, when you respond, many get all lethargic and stuck in some kind of ‘oh this is all too difficult, let’s just park it over there for a bit and see if it goes away’-type funk.

So, to recap:

  1. Customers want to give feedback, but they’d increasingly rather it wasn’t via a survey.
  2. Businesses aren’t acting on the feedback they get.

There is hope. And it lies in taking action. By all means, measure to your heart’s content, but have a plan to do something with the insight you gather. You don’t have to fix everything at once. But you do need to engage with the rest of the business and work with them to understand how the things you’re measuring can help drive actual decisions that impact the customer.