Increasing survey response rate as you reduce the cost

Whilst most of us who are passionate about customers, responding to them based on our understanding of the customer needs and our business constraints, giving customers the option to rate you and directly comment on your products and services is a long accepted critical element of understanding how well you are doing.  Over the last couple of decades, the length, complexity and media by which surveys are delivered has become ever more complicated, and with it the overall response rates have plummeted as cost of delivery has surged.  Survey fatigue is evident across B2C & B2B sectors as more questions and opinions are asked of customers more and more frequently.  In more recent times, a couple of revolutionary simplifications have appeared – Net Promoter Score and Customer Effort Score, in an attempt to reduce complexity and drive up response rates by making survey simple and better targeted.  What organisations actually do with the response (qualitative and quantitate responses) is a topic I’ll pick up in another blog very soon, but today, I want to focus on how your business can increase response rates as you reduce cost.

As a mid sized business, with a focus on cost efficiency, we had outsourced to an external provider to run the surveys, in theory allowing us to focus on results analysis and responding to necessary change.  The challenge that we have faced is that whilst we eagerly anticipate the results each month from the provider, focus fell too much on the score and not enough on the words the customer chose to share with us.  We became one step removed from how our customers feel, watching the number rise and fall as each month passes.  This is an issue – when you ask someone’s opinion and they share it, they usually expect a response or a reaction.  Realising a change was necessary, I’ve brought the surveying back in house, using a simple online tool to give me back that control.  Our experience and design team run the surveying, our BI team analyse the results and the executive team digest the customer comments.  In the first couple of months of owning the customer feedback directly, we have implemented more changes than in the previous twelve months.  Importantly, this includes changes to our customer experience (on boarding, renewals & sign up most notably) as well as product enhancements.  The data is no longer the preserve of the Chief Customer Officer, but is now a source of insight for multiple teams in the business.  Furthermore, by allowing the design and experience team to craft the wording and look and feel of the survey, we’ve increase response rates from 1-2% up to 6-7%.

Outsourced surveying is very expensive, and unless you are a very large corporation, unnecessary. The cost saving made by managing this task is house is the equivalent of 1/2 FTE, allowing extra resource to be used on customer impacting change within the business. So whilst in-house surveying may not be for every business, perhaps it’s time for you to take a look at what you might gain from taking back control of your customer feedback!

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