In the last 6 months I have received and/or completed surveys for the following:
- Purchasing a new car (2 total; Dealer – Auto Nation and BMW Assist)
- Sun Microsystems CommunityOne event
- Nine Inch Nails (yes, the band — I purchased the new album by naming my price)
- PayPal ‘Phone Handling Opinion’
- Microsoft Feedback Program
The surveys came as links in emails and were provided by 3rd party companies such as Auto USA (not a dealer), comScore, Customer Sat, Benchmark Portal, Zoomerang, and Question Pro.
This reflects poorly on these brands and immediately causes me to associate them with ‘spam’. Fortunately I know better – dynamic DNS isn’t easy, outsourcing surveys to another company is cheap, and I was cognizant of events which triggered a survey. Only when buying a car and participating in Microsoft’s feedback program did I “opt in” to receiving these surveys. Microsoft and the car dealership (BMW of Dallas) both notified me of the surveys before I received them.
None of the surveys were sent from an email address I recognized and none of the email messages had links to a domain I recognized. Sure, the emails had links to the respective company, however, any teenager with a godaddy account could produce the same result.
All of the surveys were ugly or lacked respective branding. How am I suppose to know any of these surveys are genuine?
The irony here is that companies spend a significant portion of their revenue on their brand and customer service only to outsource their only feedback request to survey systems which are ugly and don’t appear genuine. This easily lays to waste all of the value created by building the brand in the first place.
To me, a brand exists for two kinds of persons – your customers and everyone else. Which one is most important? If you only care about revolving business and not keeping recurring revenue from long-term customers then it is obvious you don’t need to care about your customers and can focus only on everyone else. This can work great for three years but sooner or later people are going to figure out you suck — and say so on the Internet for millions to read. If you’re looking for long-term recurring revenue from customers who come back on a consistent basis then you will be more interested in their feedback so you can improve you products, business model, and continue satisfying your customer.
Surveys seem now, to be one of the first chances a customer gets to give feedback. Shouldn’t you make the customer feel safe, secure, empowered, proud, and vocal to be submitting feedback about your brand, company, and products?
The answer is obvious, yet, none of the surveys I mentioned so far gave me such an impression. One company has this year, and I was surprised. The company was Blizzard for their game, World of Warcraft. There was a discrepancy in the game and I opened a ‘ticket’ which was resolved and I was informed I would receive a feedback request. Blizzard did everything I would expect:
- Notified me ahead of time I would receive an opportunity to give feedback
- Sent notification from an email address with a domain I recognized
- Feedback questionnaire resided at a domain I recognized
- Questionnaire site promoted company’s brand and assured me I was at the right place
- Questionnaire gave me the opportunity to leave free-form comments
After looking around I found a few survey sites who easily enable you to integrate your site with their survey system — all you have to do is point DNS at their service. Of course it’s not free, but if you really care about what your customer thinks then it’s worth the price. Surveygizmo seems to offer the service for $159/mo — I can’t vouch for them, but it’s the first one I found who listed DNS as a feature. Coupled with some CSS and any standards-supporting web designer it’s not difficult to help your customer feel comfortable about answering your questions.
With all of that said, my best experience giving feedback as a new customer is when I opt-in and receive a courteous phone call where I’m also able to give commentary. Talking to a human being gives me more confidence and being able to tell them how I really feel gives me the impression somebody is listening.
If you’re genuinely interested in what your customers have to say then be sure and make it appear that way. When it comes down to email-initiated surveys, the delete key is all it takes for anyone to forget you care.