You know the story. At the end of a call, the company asks you to hang on the line to answer a brief survey.

Makes sense right?

It’s almost free, it’s from a real customer, it’s immediate, and you can get a lot of data.

But nothing is free. Either you pay in dollars, or pay in bad data.

Often, these short (NPS style) surveys are embedded after the wrong interactions such as a request for an insurance certificate, a change of address, or a query about an invoice.

In those situations, is it really appropriate to ask whether you would recommend us to your friends or family?

Recommend only when appropriate

I’m not going to recommend an insurance company based on a minor query. Recommending something to family or friend is a big deal, it affects your reputation.

Who recommends insurance companies anyway? Who recommends airlines or coffee shops? Even if you do, what are you recommending?

Now we have to get this right. Everyone knows (or should know) you can’t judge based on a minor interaction. Let’s get real, survey questions are often asked to judge the service provided by the staff member. But when a customer is answering the survey, they are judging all the other stuff that happened in the encounter, stuff that the employee has no control over (including call wait time).

Insurance company example

You won’t recommend an insurance company based on how someone served you for a minor request. So why should the staff member be judged on the backend systems?  What if the customer got bounced around for 20 minutes on a call loop before getting to a wonderful efficient employee who gets scored zero because of the phone tag?

Airline example

You won’t recommend an airline based on the staff service. You might give your preference based on your own price or routes. You may even share horror stories or conversely, the warm glow after an upgrade. But stories and justification are different to recommendations. Imagine having a great crew on a short flight, but the check-in was a disaster due to a power outage, the flight delayed due to storms and your luggage lost? None of it is in the airline’s control, but the wonderful flight crew will probably still score closer to zero than ten.

Coffee shop example

Ah coffee shops.  You might think a coffee shop is the perfect place for recommendations, and it is, but the recommendation is not for the service. You might suggest someone visit a coffee shop because of the awesome coffee or quiet areas, or location, but almost never due to the service. A coffee shop with great coffee and ordinary service will outscore awesome service and bad coffee. Better still, great service and great coffee.

What’s right for your Brand?

So use surveys to measure the appropriate thing for the brand.

If the insurance company is all about being the ‘experts’ then ask about that. If you are a cut price provider trying to get people off the phones, ask about that. For example:

For the ‘expert brand’, “After the interaction, would you consider the staff experts in insurance?”, or

for the cut-price brand, “If you have this query in the future, would you try to resolve it online or call again?”

Make the questions appropriate and consistent with the situation and your strategy.

A cut-price airline might ask “Did the on-board staff have time to offer you a snack for purchase?”

A full service airline might ask “Did the on-board staff make you feel like a special customer?”. You may ask business class passengers whether they felt like they were being treated as a VIP.

A coffee shop may ask “How would you rate the quality of your coffee today?” and, “Apart from the coffee and food, how would you rate the service provided by staff today?”

You have to narrow in to WHAT you are trying to measure, and WHY you are measuring it. Sounds cliche, but one survey question cannot simplistically answer all questions for all organisations in all situations.

One size does not fit all. Never does, stop taking shortcuts.