Customer feedback surveys have long been used as a tool to gain insight into customer preferences, and in most cases, surveys can be a great way to gain customer feedback and provide insight into what customers think of a product or service.
However, surveys are not always the best way to gain feedback, as they may not provide a complete picture, and companies need to ensure they are careful about how much they read into the results and follow them.
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The Upside of Customer Surveys
The purpose of a customer feedback survey is to obtain an understanding of how customers interact with a brand, company, product, or service. By asking customers questions about their preferences and interactions with a company, firms can gain valuable insight into the areas that need improvement.
Surveys also provide marketing and product development teams information on customer expectations and preferences. These datasets can provide a valuable roadmap for future product and service development, customer service, and customer engagement strategies.
The Downside of Customer Surveys
A common issue with customer surveys is that they can be biased. Customers participating in surveys often have specific feelings and expectations when answering questions, which can lead to skewed results.
For example, if a customer is asked, “How likely are you to purchase a product?” they may give a skewed response based on their emotional connection to the product or company and asking someone if they like a particular feature is not the same as them actually using it.
Furthermore, surveys can be influenced by outside factors like current mood, environment, pushy moderators or industry trends.
This means that companies should be cautious when relying solely on customer feedback from surveys to make a new product or feature decision.
Customers may not always be able to accurately describe what they want in a product or service before actually using it, and as a result, companies may end up investing in something that customers do not actually like.
Another important factor to remember when it comes to customer feedback surveys is that customer opinions are often variable and change over time.
For example, a customer may give a positive review for a product or service, only to change their opinion once they have had more time to use the product or experience a new product or service.
Conscious vs Sub-Conscious Feedback
Customer surveys may give helpful insight into the user experience of a product or service, but often our interactions with a product or service can be deeply ingrained in our habits, so we do not realize our true actions.
Customer surveys require conscious thought about the process of interacting with a product or service, and often our actions are second nature or subconscious. What we think we are doing is not always what our true actions are on macro or subconscious level.
For example, people may think they are spending less time on an app than they actually do because it becomes part of their everyday routine, or subconscious inertia may prompt people to use the same features over and over again without exploring new features or components.
Awareness of these types of subconscious behaviors is imperative to truly understanding customer experiences.
This is why the use of usage data as an alternative to customer surveys can offer more insightful results, as the data is often subconscious and, therefore, more real and less forced. For instance, user data can reveal which features are used the most and how customers interact with the product or service.
This type of data indicates the customer journey beyond the scope of a survey and can provide a detailed insight into their behavior. This, in turn, can be used to identify customer needs and preferences and develop strategies geared towards improving customer satisfaction.
This data can also be cross-referenced with survey results to better understand the customer’s experience.
Overall, customer surveys remain a popular tool for identifying customer opinions. Still, user data can provide a more comprehensive understanding of the customer’s journey and deeper insights into where improvements can be made.
Get Customers Talking
Online communities are also a more effective way to get customer feedback on products and services than customer surveys because they leverage the psychology of humans; people are generally more honest and open in their interactions when talking with others versus when talking directly to the company.
Customers are also more likely to communicate criticism in a supportive environment such as an online community, as there are usually other members with similar experiences to draw on, making it less confrontational.
Customers are more likely to share useful feedback on an online community, such as creative ideas and feature requests, due to the reduced risk and anonymity that the online community provides.
So, while customer surveys are a useful way to gain insight into customer satisfaction, online communities are a better way to encourage customers to talk openly and honestly about their experiences with the company’s products and services.
By creating an environment where customers confer and discuss with each other, honest feedback is often more forthright and penetrating than it would be in response to a survey.
Get them talking and just kickback and listen.
Some Real World Examples
Unfortunately, there are countless examples of companies that have followed customer feedback survey results too closely and gotten into trouble.
A famous example of this is the launch of New Coke in 1985. The launch was based largely on customer feedback from surveys, which suggested that customers favored the sweeter taste of New Coke over the original Coca-Cola. However, customers quickly rejected the new flavor and strongly demanded the original flavor back on the market. This caused Coca-Cola to withdraw New Coke and reintroduce the original flavor.
In surveys, Coca-Cola found that more than 75% of respondents loved the New Coke flavor, 15% were indifferent, and 10% strongly disliked the taste to the point that they were angry.
Another example is the snack brand Planters, which conducted a survey in April of 2019 to determine the fate of its mascot Mr. Peanut. The survey asked customers whether Planters should “keep, retire, or replace” Mr. Peanut. A majority of survey participants voted for Mr. Peanut’s replacement, which prompted Planters to introduce a new mascot: Baby Nut.
Unfortunately, the introduction of Baby Nut was met with a negative public reaction. This backlash caused Planters to pull their new mascot, effectively costing the company both money and reputation.
Another example is the launch of Microsoft’s Windows Vista in 2006. Feedback from customer surveys indicated that customers were looking for a more intuitive and customizable operating system, so Microsoft responded with the development of Windows Vista. Unfortunately, the product was overloaded with features and didn’t offer the expected customer experience, and sales proved disappointing.
These examples show that while customer feedback surveys can provide valuable insight, companies must be careful in how they interpret the survey results and should consider all factors when making major decisions.
Customers Often Don’t Know What They Want Until They See It
From a business perspective, it is beneficial to have an understanding of the needs and wants of their customers, and it is true that asking customers what they want in a product is important in order to gain a better sense of their desires, but in many cases, customers often do not know what they want until they see it.
Many customers don’t have a specific idea of what they want from a product until they experience it first-hand. This can be a challenge for businesses when trying to respond to customer demands, as customers can’t articulate their needs and desires until they see them fulfilled.
For this reason, asking customers what they want to see in a product is not always the most effective way of determining the changes that should be made to a product or service. Instead, businesses must actively engage with their customers, understanding their behaviors and needs, so they can anticipate their requirements and develop products and services to meet those needs. This requires businesses to think critically and analyze customer data to create meaningful customer experiences and support customer loyalty.
Through good market research, usage data analytics and thoughtful customer engagement, businesses can gain insight and learn what drives customers to purchase and use their products and services.
Surveys can be a great way to gain customer feedback, however, they should not always be seen as the best method. Surveys can be biased and lead to skewed results, and customers may not always be able to accurately describe what they like or want until they experience it.
Companies should therefore be very cautious when relying solely on customer feedback from surveys and ensure that they make decisions based on solid evidence. The example of New Coke perfectly illustrates why customer surveys should not always be taken as gospel and how companies should take great care when using customer data to make decisions.
It is important to remember that the customer does not always know what they want until they see it. Companies should take a holistic approach to analyzing customer feedback and be careful not to over-rely on customers’ responses to surveys.
Furthermore, growth companies should be wary of making drastic changes based on customer feedback survey results. Doing so can have costly and long-lasting repercussions