Stefan Drew - The Marketing Magician

FE, Education & Business Marketing: Quick, Effective, Low Cost Marketing

Stefan Drew - The Marketing Magician

Surveys That Fail AND Annoy Your Customers

Put yourself in your customer’s place  

They have been on your website and had a bad experience.  Then a survey asking “how was it for you” pops up. Your customer really wants to tell you ….. they are ready to point out your failings.  So they try the survey and it annoys them even more because it is badly designed.

Of course not all customers are grumpy and want to complain.  Some have a good website experience and take the survey.  But if the survey is poor they also end up being annoyed.


In a situation like this we’ve managed to annoy both the unhappy customer and the one that wanted to praise us.  We now have two annoyed customers not one.

But why did this happen? Our intentions were good.


HMRC Survey 

Well look at the survey I came across this morning on the HMRC site.

Few of us like paying tax so I bet most take the survey to complain.  And when you look at this survey you can see why they will be very annoyed with it.


The survey asks “How fully was your query resolved” and provides a scale of 1-5. That seems reasonable.

But it isn’t because there is no indication if the scale is 1=good or 1=bad.   

And every other question fails to provide the scale. 


Some mistakes matter more than others

We all make mistakes .. I often make typos in this blog.  But they are not as important as getting a survey layout wrong.  Sure my typos will annoy people, but when someone can’t make complete a survey and make their complaint they become incensed.


Lessons to be learnt

So where mistakes matter most, for example where safety is involved or customers can be inconvenienced or annoyed, it pays to get everything double checked.

It might be that the checks are made internally or internally.  If internally we must empower our staff to speak their mind.  They mustn’t be afraid to make comment or even ask what seems to be a stupid question.  When I mystery shop clients or go into businesses I ask the most naive questions.  The type of question staff are often frighten to ask.  And when I ask them managers and owners are often stumped by them.



Making customers happy

A perfect example of a process that wasn’t needed, and hence annoyed, would be in a hotel recently where I eventually asked WHY?  In this hotel all guests most show their room card to get into breakfast.  That seems reasonable.

Then they have to sign a sheet before being allowed to enter the restaurant.  I asked the staff why this was necessary.  No one knew.  

So I asked why they continued to do it.  Those that answered said they had been told to do it by supervisors.  So I asked what happened to the signed sheets after breakfast and was told they were thrown away.  No one had ever questioned why it was done. 

On asking the manager why the guests had to sign he didn’t know.  Apparently his predecessor had done it this way.

I can actually see some reasons why they might have this process in place.  But they didn’t know why. 

The thing is lots of time was wasted signing these sheets and it mildly annoyed guests.

My WHY question put a stop to it.  But I shouldn’t had to ask, the managers should have stopped this unnecessary process.


Attention to Detail  

So think through where attention to detail will improve your customers’ experience and where it isn’t necessary.   Amend as necessary.  You will make customers happy. 




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5 Replies to “Surveys That Fail AND Annoy Your Customers”

  • My primary gripe about surveys is those where the composer has forced a situation where you cannot move on to the next page without answering ALL the questions put to you.on that page.
    Types of question where there are often 10 or so sub-questions seem to be particularly prone to this malaise. A well known business organisation appears to be very inordinately fond of these.
    I suspect the dead hand of the IT team in these No Exit questions. ( I was It for many years ) together with a management that do not consider what they are trying to achieve as an end result.
    I know what my reaction is, and I suspect I may not be alone in this, I just hit the x on the browser and go and do something more useful and generally shy away from future survey requests from that organisation.

    Mathematically forcing people to answer questions that are irrelevant or they have no idea about will just skew the answers into regions of nonsense and/or misleading results .

  • Mike, I thoroughly agree. So many questions are added to prove a point of view and not to research a point of view. It is poor marketing.

    And yes IT is sometimes to blame though I find other idiots compete for the top place in annoying customers with inane questions. A good survey is a thing of beauty ….. But a poor survey brings derision.

    I know the organisation you allude to … We’ve discussed it before and it is just one of many things they get wrong. They then wonder why they are going down the pan!

  • Mistakes

    They are important, very important . Spelling mistakes are the prime ones seen. They look bad and say something about the care and attention you will get from that source. Moreover there is no need for it at all now. Spelling checkers are available for just about every browser All that is needed is a few minutes to load it. They all have a new entry facility so that words specific to your line of business can be added

    Others are language usage mistakes. I had an email from a very well known celebrity last week – St Albans rendered as Saint Aubins and several similar ones.
    It’s not a good image to present

  • Mike, I’m guilty as charged here. Predictive text is partly to blame and often I find I have written, say, if, is, in or whatever by mistake.

    My only defence when writing, as I am now, in a hurry with a tablet is that it is better to get something written with odd mistakes than spend ages perfecting it. When writing a book I use spellcheck AND a proofreader. But with a blog page just rely on spellcheck which does let me down every day.

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