Shortly before Christmas I made a quick stop at local Canadian Automobile Association (AAA in the U.S.) to grab some maps and tour books for an upcoming vacation. The person who helped me was fast, courteous, and friendly. I was in and out in about 4 minutes. A few days later I received an email with a follow up customer service survey attached.
With the busyness of the holidays, and with nothing to complain about, I ignored it.
A few days later there was another email saying they noticed I hadn’t responded to the survey and would really like me to do it. The mild guilt trip worked and I opened the file on my phone and got started. The survey had an intro page, 8 pages of multiple choice or short comment questions, and a submit page.
Several of the questions didn’t apply to my visit while others seemed repetitive. By the time I clicked “submit” I’d spent more time on the survey than I did in the store. And then the link failed and wouldn’t accept my survey. All my comments were very positive, and I’m a happy member of the CAA, but I wasn’t going to start over from the beginning. Instead I posted a tweet describing the experience and included popular retail and brand commentator @UnMarketing. After his reply tweet the CAA twitter account jumped in to offer an apology and assistance. I sent them the link to my survey in a private message and, at their request, gave some feedback on what I think would have been a better survey experience.
Is there a lesson here for other organizations? I think so.
Many of us have become eager to get customer feedback. But there is little evidence that automated surveys really give us the kind of data that drives impactful decisions. In fact, the survey turned my very positive experience into a frustrating one.
If you’re using surveys, be ruthless about keeping them brief and pointed. Ask only what is highly relevant and commit to doing something with what you learn.
Probably more importantly, if you really want feedback from people you need to be paying attention to where they are already talking about you.
I love that CAA responded to me on Twitter and followed up to understand my perspective. They turned the failed survey into a direct interaction that made me feel valued as a customer, and they got feedback that was more sincere, and I hope more useful about something they may not have known was affecting customers.
The quiet majority of people won’t give you feedback even if you ask for it. The most insightful feedback is always unprompted. So if you’re paying someone to produce a survey hoping people will take several minutes to respond to it but not paying attention to their free feedback happening live on social media I think you’re probably missing out.
How do you get useful feedback from your community? How could a business or charity get your most real relevant feedback?