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How to gain valuable customer experience information

Updated: Oct 3, 2023



Whenever you buy something online or in person, chances are you are given a survey to complete. You decide to go forward and respond to the survey. When you get onto the website, you find out it will be a series of questions that will take you ten minutes or so to complete. Do you proceed?

The length of a survey is a key deterrent in proceeding to go through the survey. There are other reasons why people do not respond to surveys, all of which drive the industry standard for response rate. It’s crazy but a good response rate is anything from 5-30% while excellent is >50%. Therefore, if you send out one hundred surveys and receive ten back making it 10%, this is considered good in today’s standards. Doesn’t this bar seem too low to you?


While there are lots of theories out there why customers respond to surveys, I’m going to draw from my time as a customer experience leader at GE and state that there are three main ingredients that had customers responding to surveys:


1. Personal relationships

2. Action-driven

3. Short 5-question survey


Personal relationships: Think of all the emails you receive daily. They say it can be anywhere from 100 to 130/day. We quickly become desensitized, scanning through what to read and what to delete. We found that sending emails only after we spoke directly with our customers improved the response rate.

A great example is when you go shopping. When you pay, the seller may give you the receipt after circling the survey link along with their name, asking you to complete it. Any type of personal contact will increase the chances of the survey being filled out instead of just sending it by email.


Action-Driven: Why is it that lots of customers, including myself, will never call the vendor to tell them how wonderful the product is? We may complete the survey or give a star rating on the site where we bought it. Yet, if something goes wrong, we call or go to customer service directly!

Personally, I want to talk to someone and raise the issue in person because I believe it can be corrected. If I send an email, give one star, or just place it in a survey, I may never get my issue fixed.

We found that working with the sales group and communicating to the customers that the results of the surveys would be shared, we got more participation. In fact, our quarterly newsletter communicated to our customers the actions we took to improve the survey results and got more loyalty from our returning customers. Being transparent helped us understand our shortcomings and by fixing them, helped us grow our business.


Short 5-question survey: Twenty years ago, Fred Reichheld, created a quantitative metric for measuring customer experience called the Net Promoter Score or NPS® which was based on one question: “How likely are you to recommend our company/product/service to a friend or colleague?” This one question gave useful insight on customer growth, loyalty, and retention but it was answering the “what” from the customer, not the “why.” In other words, you could calculate your score telling you how good you were, but you still lacked reasoning. Another baffling standard is the score where any NPS® score above 0 is considered good, 50 < NPS® score < 20 is great, and > 50 is simply outstanding.


This is why many surveys have gone back to being long with multiple questions. Trying to understand the customer means drilling into more questions. Also, making these questions all quantitative makes it easier to digitize the scores and figure out the reasons. But you will only find the reasons if you ask the right questions.


Instead of asking a bunch of questions, we restricted the additional questions to the three from the AAR (After-Action Review). In total, the customer would be responding to five questions. The NPS®, the AAR, and one last question asking for their name and phone number if they were interested in receiving a follow up call.


Though currently you can use AI to analyze the results, even those that were not numeric, we would suggest you read the responses. This will be time well-spent because you will be able to ascertain the tone in which the customer is writing, empathize will their situation, and hopefully accept their perception so you can act on it to improve your brand.


Try out these three points next time you need to put together a customer survey to find out where you stand with your customers. If you are not able to survey for your company or clients, try this out with your stakeholders when initiating a project or public speaking. This approach can be used whenever you want to understand an audience. Let me know how well it worked out for you…

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1 Comment


Andrew Raymond
Andrew Raymond
Sep 20, 2023

Great information. I know I‘m much more likely to respond to a survey if I have a personal connection with the sender, and if there aren’t too many questions!

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