Survey Says…Time to Move on From Survey Scores

Companies have been using surveys to try and understand their customers for decades. Similar to the game show Family Feud, surveys are a fun, lighthearted way of understanding people that shouldn’t be taken too seriously; despite this, companies continue to put serious weight behind their survey scores. Business decisions are continually made based on a handful of customer surveys. Executives monitor NPS and CSAT scores that rarely move – and even when they do fluctuate, the scores provide no context for what caused the change to occur in the first place. Surveys can have value but relying on them as the core KPI to represent your customers is extremely dangerous. Customers no longer want to be asked questions, they want to be understood through their interactions with your company.

The most popular survey scores used today are NPS and CSAT. Both scores were created to gauge the loyalty and satisfaction of a company’s customers. While these metrics are used in a variety of ways today, they generally aim to append a score to a customer’s experience. In the new relationship economy where customers care as much about the experiences as the products they are buying, having a quantitative measurement associated with customers is crucial. The underlying need for this measurement will always be a top priority, so having these surveys in place makes sense.

The problem with these surveys is that customers are likely giving a score based on a specific element of their experience, say the end of a conversation. What is missed is an analysis of the whole customer experience – from start to finish – which often tells you why they contacted your company in the first place.

Customers contact your company because they experience an issue with your brand. This could be related to a product, service, or digital experience. Regardless, the customer experience didn’t go as expected. Most companies resolve these broken experiences with speed and professionalism, satisfying the customer who in turn gives a high score on a survey. When the high survey scores are reported to business functions and executives, everyone celebrates and congratulates one another. Why wouldn’t they? Customers are seemingly very content with their experience.

In reality, there continues to be customer experience issues upstream that are forcing your customers to contact you and take the survey. Although your company may be receiving high survey scores because you’ve done an excellent job solving customer issues, those survey scores may be masking more problematic customer experiences that can drive customer churn.

Topbox has analyzed customer interactions for some of the largest brands in the world and found that almost half of all perfect survey scores originate from a conversation that had to do with a broken customer experience. In addition to identifying where the customer experience went wrong, Topbox can pinpoint what ultimately drove the customer to become satisfied and submit a high survey score.

Surveys are a legacy way of understanding your customers and should only be used as loose directional data. They rarely provide enough context and aren’t always a good representation of your customer base. Rather than ask questions, you should learn to infer what customers are feeling during every customer interaction. If you have an issue with your friend or spouse do you ask them to take a survey so you can better understand them? No, you communicate and learn about one another through dialogue. Companies should be treating their customers in the same way. With a solution like Topbox, you can not only analyze the sentiment of an entire conversation but infer what topics and phrases are driving that sentiment. Conversations go through a rollercoaster of highs and lows and can’t be tied to a single score.

Companies should be analyzing interactions across every touchpoint that customers engage businesses: chat, call, social, reviews, blogs, etc. Surveys can’t be used at every customer interaction, so inferring how customers feel is extremely difficult without the right CX solution. It is not logical to expect your customers to give you feedback every time they interact with your company. For some customers, simply asking them to take a survey diminishes the experience.

Surveys were created during a time when analyzing customer conversations and actions was not possible. With capabilities like Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), and Natural Language Processing (NLP) that are accessible today, solutions like Topbox enable companies to move beyond their survey data.

While surveys can be great when used at a high level, they should never be used to make major business decisions. When your company communicates with its customers, be sure to understand the entire conversation, not just a portion of it. You’ll be amazed at how much you can learn when you listen.