5 Ways to Improve Marketing Surveys

To survey or not to survey -- that is the question in this short-attention-span world of the customer.

Some people claim you can say goodbye to online surveys and argue solicited surveys are pointless. Others, though, say surveys are OK, as long as you tackle the mobile issue.

Are you or aren't you delivering surveys?

CMSWire talked with Jonathan Levitt, chief marketing officer of OpinionLab, about ways to improve your  surveys -- and your marketing campaigns.

Opt for Opt-In

customer experience, Five Ways to Deliver Effective Surveys for Marketing Campaigns

How you start means everything. Avoid using annoying pop-ups that lead directly to the survey questionnaire without any forewarning or prompting, Levitt said, explaining:

This approach is intrusive and, in all likelihood, will not yield a better response rate. Show respect for your customers’ time by inviting them to voluntarily contribute. The invitation can be extended from your website or via email or text, so long as it is opt-in. Promote participation by giving the option to complete the survey now or at a later time."

Right-Size the Questionnaire

Levitt said he's seen too many teams develop a reasonably short questionnaire that swells as more people chime in.

"An overlong survey will increase drop-off rates, decrease response quality and irritate customers who perceive it as an abuse of their time," Levitt said.

How long should it be? About three to four minutes to complete, Levitt said. "After that, response rates start to decline," he said, adding that a three-minute survey includes about 10 close-ended questions and one or two open-ended questions.

"Set expectations by providing an estimated completion time at the start of the survey," he suggested.

Keep it Open (Ended)

The most valuable part of any customer feedback is the narrative, Levitt said. "Include open-ended questions in your survey that encourage untethered feedback by not forcing participants into specific responses," he said.

These responses bring new opinions, examples and suggestions, which, he said, help you understand consumer behavior and motivation.

"If you’re seeing consistently low scores or negative input around one area of your operations, use an open-ended question to find out why customers are rating you that way," Levitt said.

But don't overdue it here. Open-ended questions require more work, so limit them to two per survey.

Grateful Acknowledgement

Don't forget to thank your respondents for their feedback. He said:

It is a small, yet important step to confirm that their voices have been heard. Many assume that their insights will go into a black hole, so reassure them by explaining how the data will be used -- to improve customer service, to guide product development, etc. Consider rewarding participants by sharing the survey results or by giving them access to other relevant research that you’ve conducted. This can also be dangled as an incentive to entice survey participation."

Feed the Feedback Machine

When they survey is closed and the feedback received, get to work. Cleanse and analyze the data to discover the one or two main findings that you set out to collect. Scour the open-ended responses because you may, Levitt said, find unexpected trends and advice.

Integrate the findings with your other customer data -- transaction history, CRM, social media data, etc. -- to produce business intelligence that can be disseminated to and used at every level of your organization.

Long-form surveys that try to accomplish too much are causing survey fatigue and generating poor results, if not backfiring altogether by tainting the customer experience. The most successful solicitations for feedback invite the customer to opt in and only ask a small number of relevant questions. Bottom line: if you rely on surveys, first figure out what information you have and what you’re missing, and don’t be selfish in asking your customers for too much. Respect your customers, and they’ll return the favor, and remember the most important piece of all: it's all about delivering a standout customer experience."

Title image by Sergei Bachlakov (Shutterstock).