Is the survey you are completing research or customer relationship management?

A significant proportion of customer satisfaction surveys out there are not really research surveys, they are just customer engagement exercises masquerading as survey research. We have all had these…. on their face they look like surveys but if one looks closely they appear to be something else.

The biggest hint that it is not really research is the phone call you receive after the survey seeking to get more information about your poor rating of some aspect of the experience you had.

Now I get it, how else is management to understand your experience with their company in a world in which only a small percentage of people complain to the manager. People are too often going to exercise their displeasure with their feet and/ or their mouths — telling everyone they can about their bad experience. Companies want to rescue these relationships and the survey is the guise they use to follow up.

From a consumer point of view there is value in providing feedback to companies since this enables them to improve their offering and service but giving up your anonymity should be something that is done consciously though a specific disclaimer and or option at the end of the survey.

In fact, the minimum standard for customer satisfaction research should be that you must give permission to have someone call you to discuss your findings. I have seen this done well in surveys where the survey has identified an issue and the respondent actually wants an opportunity to tell someone in management what was wrong.

The gold standard is independent and anonymity. It can get all of the information an organization needs to improve its relationships without being overly focused on the customer. Lets face it…. if you are going to call me to explain my survey results (with  no compensation for the call or the survey), then I am going to ignore your surveys.

Things to look out for:

  1. A promise of anonymity at the beginning. This is a sure sign that the survey is primarily research and a lack of such promise means that your responses (even your name) might be shared internally and may be used to follow up with you.
  2. The company running the survey. Does the survey look and feel like a survey from the company you did business with rather than an independent company? if yes, this is a sign that the survey is probably not motivated by research interests.

How do you feel about completing customer satisfaction surveys?

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About Richard Jenkins

Market research professional and small business owner

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3 Comments on “Is the survey you are completing research or customer relationship management?”

  1. J Tun Says:

    You state that a customer satisfaction survey is not really a research survey. I beg to differ. A customer satisfaction survey provides a company with the ability to highlight areas of improvement within it’s organization. The collection and analysis of data from a customer satisfaction survey provides the company with the ability to act. It is their prerogative to engage a dissatisfied customer and would be an opportunity wasted if they did not. (As seen with the majority of Fortune 100 companies that use software (and Apps) that allow you to interact with your customers or potential customers in all forms of social media within seconds of a posting.) Customer satisfaction surveys provide an opportunity to not only engage the customer (or former customer), but also to learn the behaviors of a customer. Understanding the behaviors of the customer allows you to better tailor your company, product, or service to better meet the needs of the customer.

    The customer is the most important part of the business. Without the customer your business is only a hobby. So, a customer satisfaction survey is probably some of the most important research your company can perform.

    Survey research a research method involving the use of questionnaires and/or statistical surveys to gather data about people and their thoughts and behaviours. -Wikipedia


    • Richard Jenkins Says:

      Thanks for your comment. I don’t disagree with the idea that customer research is important. In fact understanding your customers is the best use of research. I would argue that is it only “…their prerogative to engage a dissatisfied customer” if the customer wants and consents to that engagement. Many would but others would not.

      I am currently being hounded by a company because I rated an aspect of their service poorly — they can see from my survey response that they need to improve that area. I am now more annoyed with them for calling me (because I did not give them permission to do so) than I was with their original service issue. I thought it was research; they though it was relationship management.

      To me a customer service survey is only a research survey if it’s primary goal is to measure customer attitudes and behaviour — when a main goal is to find customers who are unhappy and try to reach out to them, the research element is being downplayed at the expense of good research.



  1. Re: Is the survey you are completing research or customer relationship management? « Business about Business - October 20, 2011

    […] “A significant proportion of customer satisfaction surveys out there are not really research s… – Richard Jenkins, Jenkins Research Blog […]

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