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Beating Survey Fatigue

Collecting and analysing customer feedback, typically via some form of survey, is at the core of most customer experience initiatives. Survey fatigue, where customers become bored, frustrated or annoyed at filling out surveys has become a major issue, however. It can impact accuracy as well as the level of insight provided by feedback surveys.

Survey fatigue has become one of the most noticeable and negative issues impacting customer experience over the last few years. Many companies assume that it only happens when they develop a survey that is too long, or they are sending them out too often. This is part of the problem, but you also need to consider the amount of survey requests customers receive from all the companies they deal with.

Even if you make your surveys short and to the point, the sheer number of surveys people receive these days, can lead to considerable levels of fatigue. It can limit your ability to obtain accurate and meaningful feedback from customers. By limiting overall responses and diminishing the quality of those responses and customer feedback, it can prevent your organisation from achieving its CX and marketing goals.

Poor response rates skew data and insights

Poor response rates to surveys can lead to the data and insights you have about your customers being inaccurate.  Recently I worked with a client who were obsessed with their CSAT and NPS scores that they collected through surveys.  At first glance, they thought everything was fine and they were happy with the results. For 2.5 years their NPS score was consistently around 7.

What hadn’t been fully considered, however, was the response rate and the number of customers who had actually completed a survey.  When the data from surveys conducted over a 12 month period was stripped apart it was discovered that only 18% of customers opened the emails with only 10% responding to the survey. That meant the organisation was only obtaining feedback from a small percentage of their customers.

The analysis of the data obtained from surveys can be extremely skewed and biased. Experience tells us, it is either your angriest customers (who want to complain) or your already loyal customers who read and respond to everything you send them. So, the data set you are analysing is likely to be filled with extreme opinions while ignoring the opinion of most of your customers.

Survey fatigue can also damage what people of think your brand or organisation. Customers become annoyed and frustrated with constant requests to complete surveys. Particularly, if they see no or little action in response to feedback they have provided.

How to avoid survey fatigue

One way of obtaining feedback data and to avoid survey fatigue, is to look at other methods of collecting customer data. Living in the technological age that we do, there are other means of collecting data from customers without filling out surveys. There are analytic tools that monitor a user as they interact with your website and other digital channels. We also have a range of AI (Artificial Intelligence) systems available that will analyse what people say on various forums (social media, chatbots, etc) and data from transactional systems.

Data from these other sources can be used in conjunction with survey data to build a more accurate picture of what your customers are thinking.  For those who still need to go down the track of surveys look at making them less frequent i.e. only once or twice a year. It’s better to conduct fewer surveys but have higher response rates and a more accurate response for each survey that is sent out.

Consider connecting with a customer on a one-to-one basis with a 30 second phone call, asking if you can send a survey. This can appear costly, particularly if you have a large customer base, but the ROI in terms of learnings and insights can be significant. We tried this with the client mentioned above who attained an 80% response rate from survey requests sent to customers.

Personalisation based on customer profiles and segments can also be effective in overcoming survey fatigue. It means you are asking questions about things that matter most to individual people rather than broad very general questions.

Don’t fixate on a score such as NPS or CSAT for its own sake. Have a clearly defined business as well as customer experience goal for surveying your customers. For example, we want to feedback to understand what we need to do to improve customer loyalty (CX goal) so we can improve customer lifetime value (business goal).

Surveys can give you great insights about your customers. But remember your customers value their time and if you are too demanding of their time, they will choose to ignore you.

Brendan Tremble

Brendan is the Co-founder and director of the leading Customer Experience (CX) consulting and Executive recruitment firm, FT Executive, which he started with his wife, Laura. He brings over two decades of experience to the table and is backed by a successful track record in the realm of, Sales, CX and Customer Success. He focuses on providing effective training and development opportunities to upgrade the skills of employees, as well as enabling businesses to improve their customer metrics through customer consulting.