Last week, I discussed the importance of starting any survey development process by clearly defining your objectives and desired outcomes. Having detailed and specific reasons for gathering customer feedback is how meaningful insights are produced, and it’s the foundation we build upon moving forward. If you missed that article or just want a refresher, you can find it here.
Having set and clearly defined our objectives, we can start building the survey itself. At its core, the value of customer feedback is how it’s applied to our decision-making and brand development processes. It’s not enough to just ask questions and collect data that give us interesting observations. We need to do something with the insights we gain for our survey efforts to be worth it.
This brings us to the second key for developing effective and engaging surveys: Have an action plan.
Our action plan is deciding when, where, and how the customer feedback will be applied after the project is completed. If we can narrow down these points of application, we’re better positioned to gather feedback that meets a specific need at each point. But we need to do this before the survey is developed to ensure we gather insights that are actionable.
I see many brands take the opposite approach. They wait for their survey results before deciding how the insights will be used. This is usually because there’s a mix-up between and action plan and decision-making. We absolutely should wait for the survey results before making decisions. After all, that’s the point of gathering customer feedback. But it’s our action plan that highlights which decisions will need to be made, not the survey itself.
A good way to build an action plan is by starting at the end and working our way backwards. We have our objectives and desired outcomes, so if we can determine the steps needed to get from here to there, we can identify which types of information will be needed at each step. We’re basically identifying insights gaps along our path to the desired outcomes. We then develop our surveys to fill those insights gaps. This process creates a blueprint for choosing survey topics and scripting questions.
To explain this a bit further, I’ll walk through an example.
Setting our survey objective:
In my previous article we focused on setting our survey objectives (link). I used the high-level goal of “understanding the customer journey,” and we discussed how that goal is too general and vague to be a survey objective. It’s a great reason to conduct a survey, but what exactly do we mean by understand? Which parts of the customer journey are most important? These areas need clarification before we can build an effective survey.
So, we took the high-level goal of understanding our customer journey and refined it down to a survey objective of establishing satisfaction levels across the various touchpoints. That’s specific enough to build a survey around.
Having an action plan:
Our next step is to establish what we’ll be doing with the customer satisfaction feedback once it’s gathered. We’re making that commitment now, before the survey is developed. While we can’t know what the exact decisions will be until the survey results are in, we can have a good idea of which types of decisions will be made. A great action plan would be using satisfaction levels across the customer journey to identify which touchpoints are performing well and which are not. With that, we can make decisions about resource allocation to focus on areas in need of improvement.
Developing an effective survey:
With our action plan set, we look at our customer journey map as it is today and review the insights we already have. This will identify our insights gaps and missing pieces. Perhaps we currently have a strong understanding of digital touchpoints, but it’s not clear how we’re performing with in-person experiences. That insights gap will be the focus of our survey, guiding the topics we cover and the questions we ask.
Now, think back to our original goal of “understanding the customer journey.” If we jumped right into survey development, would we have gathered the actionable insights focused on in-person experiences that we need most? Or might we have missed that topic altogether and instead gathered information we already had? There’s no way to know for sure. But there’s also no reason to leave it to chance when we have a clear-cut process for narrowing our focus at the start. By clarifying our survey objectives and having an action plan, we can develop a survey that we know will produce meaningful insights and lead to our desired outcome.
Up to this point, I’ve been addressing topics related to internal business goals and how feedback will benefit our decision-making. In my next article, we’ll shift gears a bit and start focusing on the customer. After all, they’re playing an active role in this process as they interact with our surveys and provide their feedback. So, the third key to developing effective and engaging surveys has the respondent front-of-mind: Keep it relevant.
Each of the five keys in the series are based on my years of experience, training, and genuine passion for empowering brands with meaningful customer insights. Time and time again, they’ve proven successful and they’re important parts of the approach we take here at MacKenzie. If you’re planning a feedback project or just want to learn more about survey development, give me a call! I love this stuff and am happy to chat any time.