What's Really the Most Valuable Question on your Surveys?

By Rachael Perez,CCXP posted 07-20-2020 12:35 PM


gold_puzzle_piece.jpgIf you’re a VoC expert, the first thing that probably popped in your mind is the Ultimate question – “How Likely are You to Recommend”… the Net Promoter Score’s indicator for Customer Loyalty. That’s a good question, but not the one I’m thinking of. 

I’ve been a CCXP® for years and focused on creating great Customer, Partner & Employee Experiences for nearly 20 years. I’ve found that the first step in gaining real customer understanding (after the customer journey map) is getting meaningful customer feedback. In many organizations, this starts with surveys, so your surveys must work. 

I was creating a training deck today on Survey design and best practices. As I was working on the deck, I realized that while a great survey platform and following best practices will help a lot, the biggest problem with most surveys are a few common mistakes and failing to ask the most valuable question at all. That’s one thing I don’t see on any of the Best Practice guides on so far, so I hope to fix that with this post. Please feel free to share and let me know your thoughts!

The 3 biggest Survey Mistakes your team may be making

1 – No Clear Objective – Often teams try to get as many objectives as they can fit in a single survey. It’s the “While we have you” mentality and usually results in poor response rates, abandoned surveys, and biased results. Each survey should have a strong purpose, and a clear, singular objective of that survey will help make sure it’s a good use of your time as well as your customers. It’s usually the biggest ‘push-back’ conversation I have when creating an enterprise-level survey, but trust me, it’s critical. 

2 - The Nice to Know group – Even with a clear objective, there are important questions and there are ‘Nice to Know’ questions, those questions that will not change the outcome of the survey and add little value at all. Many of those questions can be answered via mining your operational data, or earlier surveys, but others are just filler questions. I coach teams to consider the business value: if the question is not critical to the objective, and doesn’t directly benefit the customer, don’t ask the question. You can know for sure the real value of the question by asking yourself – “If this was the last question my customer answered for me, would I want it to be that question?” Or is something else just a little more important? Keeping the survey to no more than 10 questions and asking the value question will make it easier to identify those Nice to Know questions and remove them from your survey.

“If this was the last survey question your customer ever answered for you, would you want it to be that question?”

3 – Asking questions at the Wrong Time – while it’s ‘nice to know’ what they want in a year, 2020 has shown us that the future is uncertain. Many companies have their resources and project plans fixed before the year starts, so it's not always possible to take immediate action on feedback.  I’m not advocating avoiding the issue; chances are you already have feedback that tells you it is a pain point. But asking about something you already know about, and you won’t fix in the next 3-6 months is not helping.

Imagine, you’re sitting in your apartment, with no A/C in 90+ degree heat every day. One day, you hear a knock on the door, and the person asks “Hi, Is you’re A/C working? Would you feel better knowing that they know how you feel, or would you like the A/C repaired?

“Hi, is your AC working? If not, would you like it fixed? I can do that for you sometime next year, will that work?”

The Most Valuable Question on your Survey

So, you’ve eliminated the 3 mistakes above from your survey design and methodology. Your customers will appreciate it! But what is the key? I alluded to it in #3 above – it’s the Action question. Answering that question is the real objective of the survey, and assuming there is no way to get that information from existing feedback or Operational data, etc., then the most important question of the survey should give a clear answer that will allow you to take action, or prevent action on the objective. 

Amazingly most teams fail to ask that specific question or fail to ask the necessary questions that will meet that objective. A quick read of your survey and the honesty to ask yourself “Could I present a definite Yes/No or Clear direction to the CEO based on the answers to questions asked in this survey?" will tell you if you've asked the Action question. If the answer is No, prioritize a clear, concise question or group of questions that will answer it for you and put it right up on top! I’m always surprised at how many surveys don’t actually answer the question that generated the survey in the first place, or the question is buried at the end and often not answered by respondents. The result? More surveys, less insight, fewer responses.

“Prioritize a clear, concise question that will answer the objective for you and put it right up on top!“ 

So, the moral of the story? Ask what you need to know and remove the rest. Your surveys will be shorter, more concise, and far more actionable. And better yet, because your customers see that you’re acting on their feedback promptly, they’ll be more likely to give you answers to other surveys in the future, increasing your response rates.