Using Marketing Surveys to Improve Customer Experience

Companies operating in every customer-facing industry should be using marketing surveys to better understand target audience needs, improve service levels, measure product-market fit and gain real insight into how to refine the customer experience. The value of the data collected is usually dependent on two factors: how seriously customer feedback is taken within the organization, and secondly, how committed the company is to addressing points of failure uncovered by these surveys.

While there are countless tools to administer and analyze marketing survey feedback, broadly speaking most surveys tend to fall into one of three categories; those that measure Customer Loyalty, evaluate Customer Satisfaction or those used to create Customer Engagement throughout the different stages of the sales cycle.

Customer Loyalty
Billed as ‘a system that increases loyalty and expands revenue’ by its founder Fred Reichheld of the Bain & Co management consultancy, the Net Promoter Score (NPS) aims to measure the likelihood of customers to recommend a company, product or service to a friend or colleague. It achieves this by asking survey respondents a simple question: ‘How likely are you to recommend us to your friends, family or business associates?’ Using a scale of 0 to 10, scores are evaluated by taking the percentage of Promoters (those scoring 9 or 10) and comparing those to the percentage of Detractors (those scoring between 0-6) to determine an overall NPS.

Why is NPS deemed important? Because logic dictates the more passionate and loyal a company’s customer base, the more inclined they’ll be to stay longer and spend more in repeat purchases. I’ll probably get chastised for saying this, but I do tend to class NPS as more of a vanity metric championed by Marketing departments and executive management teams. While I do think there’s a place for it when gauging consumer sentiment towards a brand, I think there are much more useful customer feedback tools, which do a better job at inspecting organizational performance at a deeper level.

Customer Satisfaction
One of these surveys is the Customer Satisfaction Index (CSI). When taken seriously, CSI can provide real intelligence and advisory customer feedback as to how well a company or business unit is performing against operational targets.

There are no hard or fast rules to determine the type or length of CSI surveys, while the average ‘corridor of satisfaction’ on the CSI spectrum tends to score between 7-8 on a 10-point measurement scale. However unlike NPS, a CSI survey does offer a more qualitative perspective on customer satisfaction, as it often delves deeper into specifics of the client-vendor relationship.

For example, lets say you were looking to uncover customer sentiment towards your current pricing policy ahead of a price increase. Including survey questions relating to perceived value for money is one way a CSI survey would help achieve this. Another example involving low scores given to a perceived absence of expertise or efficiency in an account management function could be an indication there are training gaps needing to be addressed. And poor feedback on the ease of doing business could be flagging operational shortcomings relating to service delivery or how the account is being handled.

Customer Engagement
Increasingly, smart brands are getting savvier about dividing the customer journey to target more efficiently. The aim is to use these distinctive stages to keep customers engaged and collect real-time feedback to help shape promotions, product features or purchase incentives. Examples of these include targeting:

The Information Gathering stage: profiling target audiences with product surveys, or running online spot polls to understand what customers covet, can not only help build the right product promotions, but can also be a useful way to direct buyers down a specific purchase path.

The Freemium to Premium stage: for subscription-based products that have some sort of free trial period prior to purchase, surveys offer up a multitude of engagement points. You may find prospects aren’t converting post trial, or paying customers are cancelling their subscriptions unexpectedly. Timely surveys designed to gather feedback as to why, can potentially uncover quick fixes aimed to curtail unwanted behaviors.

The Post Purchase stage: these are fairly straightforward and are probably the most widely encountered surveys today. Doing meaningful follow-up to ask how the purchasing interaction was for the customer provides an opportunity to acknowledge their custom. It can also serve you well to collect additional data on their preferences and add this information to a CRM profile, as these insights may indicate a potential future purchase pattern.

Which approach is right for me?
What becomes important is how to organize the feedback into actionable insights so they’re meaningful once distributed between departments. Customer surveys should be built into the overall fabric of your marketing communication strategies, rather than being just a one-off when you’re keen to gather specific information. Deciding which approach to take comes down to the commitment from within the organization, and whether you have access to the right kind of internal resources to act on the data.

The rewards however can be significant. Those brands equipped to ingest, collate, analyze and interpret the data collected, will be best positioned to enhance the customer experience, understand how operational deficiencies can be overcome, increase satisfaction and ultimately, build loyalty.