Tuesday, March 9, 2010

How NOT to ask your customers for their opinion

I received this request to fill out a customer survey the other day, and shockingly, I was NOT inspired to complete it.

I'm sure I don't need to explain why. Here is the invitation (I decided to disguise the company name as ABC):

To All Participants in ABC Program,

The ABC Board has been leading a strategic plan development process with the assistance of an external consultant who is very experienced in this area. At the 2009 AGM, the members identified some key areas of activity. Before moving forward, we would like to gather feedback from all levels within the ABC membership, from members, participants, supporters, and from administrators to volunteers. Linked are the key strategic issues identified by the membership and below is a link to the online survey.



Please respond to the survey by March 12, 2010

Thank you,

ABC Board of Directors

Oh gee, let me stop what I'm doing and take time out of my day to help you, with no indication of how it will help me. I know some companies expect that customers will simply be pleased to provide input for the sake of participating in the process, but there aren't many of those around!

Surveys are hard because you are asking people to spend a specific amount of time, and you want enough people to respond so that you have results that mean something.

In this particular case:
  • They didn't tell me how long it would take
  • They didn't tell me how I might benefit (do I get the results? improved service? anything?)
  • They didn't express any gratitude for my participation or recognition of the value of my time
  • They talked only about what they needed for them - completely one sided

Basically, they didn't do anything to inspire me to participate. Good luck!

And they mention that they are getting assistance from a consultant who is "very experienced in this area". If this survey request is any indication, that consultant either a) had no input on the survey request process, or b) has insufficient experience.


When you ask customers for their opinion:
  1. Thank them in advance.
  2. Recognize that their time is valuable.
  3. Tell them how much of their time you need.
  4. Recognize that their opinion matters.
  5. Offer them something in exchange for their opinion (at least a summary of the results, maybe even something valuable, like an entry in a draw or a gift certificate).
  6. Keep asking until you get a relatively statistically significant number of responses.
  7. Follow up with them afterwards so they know their opinion was received, included and valued.

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