customer surveys impact culture

Customer surveys are very popular among service oriented business like restaurants and retail. As I navigated the busy holiday shopping season last month, I was frequently confronted by sales associates who asked me to take a survey. The request was usually accompanied by the suggestion that I give a certain rating.

We’ve blogged about customer surveys before and how they can get in the way of a memorable customer experience. The intent of customer surveys is positive – helping service oriented businesses focus on what they do well and their areas of opportunity. These are definitely good intentions when the information is leveraged to improve the customer experience and build a brand.

Asking for High Ratings May Impact the Customer Experience

However, when employees focus on achieving a specific survey result instead of delivering a consistent service model, it’s often the customer who suffers with a forgettable experience or with the annoying request to give a high rating based on nothing truly outstanding. Looking beyond the impact on customers, how can surveys influence culture – or do they?

If the message delivered by company leaders emphasizes the expected outcome of the survey and not the beliefs that drive behaviors, then the culture will focus on ratings at the expense of the customer experience. The end result will be a culture that is driven by a survey and not by a brand promise. Would you rather be known as the company who achieves high survey results or the company that has customers who are surprised, delighted and loyal beyond reason because they can’t image taking their business anywhere else?

Earn High Marks – Don’t Simply Ask for Them

When associates are expected to achieve specific survey scores, then the behaviors can become too focused on the “ask” made to customers and the expected rating. “Can you give me a five on my service today? My team is aiming to get all fives this quarter.” What is the belief in this instance? The belief must be that “fives are good” and anything other than a five is bad. Where is the belief that customers should have a certain kind of experience that supports the promise made by the company? What about the belief that associates must earn high marks rather than simply asking for them?

When associates are expected to deliver an experience that supports a brand promise, the focus shifts to the beliefs of the brand and the behaviors that come from the beliefs. If messages from leaders consistently emphasize beliefs that support the customer promise, and if teams are enrolled in the beliefs and given behaviors that are the foundation of a solid service model, then you will have a strong brand culture. This is the kind of brand culture that should naturally achieve good survey results without having to ask customers for ratings. That’s how you earn all fives.

What have been your experiences with customer surveys – both as a customer and as an employee?

For other thoughts on the customer experience, be sure to explore these articles:

Customer Surveys May Harm a Great Brand Experience

How to Create Behaviors that Build a Seamless Customer Experience

About Alice Wright

As Director of Content Strategy, Alice directs projects while also designing program strategy and instructional content. She has more than 22 years of experience managing integrated strategic marketing, communication and training programs for globally recognized brands. Some of her current and past clients include Nike, Sunglass Hut, Safeway, Banfield Pet Hospital, Office Depot, Unilever, LensCrafters, EMC, Intel, Microsoft, Dell, adidas, Joann Stores and others. Alice earned her bachelor’s degree from the School of Journalism and Communication at University of Oregon. She lives with her husband and teenage son in Portland, Oregon where she loves exploring the outdoors and being a soccer/band mom.