Too often, when beginning a customer experience program, too little thought is given to how you are going to collect customer feedback. The default approach is to use email. If you are thinking about starting or changing your customer experience (CX) program, I urge you to consider how you conduct the survey. It does matter depending on what you want to achieve and the nature of your customer base. It is especially important for industrial, b-to-b companies. There is no one best mode. It depends on your outcomes and what works best for your customers.

Considerations for In Choosing How You Survey Your Customers?

In deciding which survey mode or modes to use, there are two broad considerations to keep in mind. First is the complexity of the transaction. For example, placing an order for a simple part is a straightforward and usually simple transaction. On the other hand, an expensive service or repair, characteristic of many b-to-b companies, is a more complex transaction. It may involve many interactions between customer and service provider to complete the job.  Similarly, the purchase decision for a large piece of equipment is also an example of a complex transaction. In these latter two examples, many things must come together well to make the experience a good one.

The second consideration is what you wish to learn. In a parts transaction, the information complexity is much lower than for the service example. You most want to know if the ordered part was the correct one and if it arrived on time. While there could be other needed pieces of information, the feedback is typically more cut and dried. When the customer evaluates the experience, there are few shades of grey; the responses are more binary.

If it is a large service or repair experience, you want to know more. There will be questions about the tangible service (e.g., a job is done correctly, service timeliness). But you also want to learn about many of the intangibles associated with the service experience. One of the big ones is communication effectiveness as we have learned that satisfaction with communication is critical to how satisfied customers are with an experience and how loyal they become in the future.

A Framework for Making Your Decisions

There is no one “best” survey mode. Transaction complexity, desired information needs as well as budget considerations, help determine the method or methods that work best. We cannot overlook customer preferences though we are finding that while customers may prefer a digital approach to feedback, you may not get the desired response, nor the qualitative feedback need to achieve your outcomes. To help you in your considerations, I have prepared the following framework to help you determine which survey mode may work best for your CX effort.

The following table shows the two dimensions discussed earlier. The vertical axis shows transaction complexity, and the horizontal axis plots the amount of detail needed. As you think about the approach you want to take in your CX program, consider the following:

  • Quadrants 1 and 3: In these quadrants, you could choose either mode or a combination. An example of a quadrant one experience might be the rental of a large piece of industrial equipment. While the transaction may be quite complex, the desired information needs may be more limited, depending on the situation.An example of a quadrant three situation is a customer relationship made up of several less complicated transactions. You may not be able to survey on a particular transaction because there are so many with this customer.Nevertheless, you want to know more about the quality of the relationship with the customer. Again, either mode could work though the phone would likely have some advantages.
  • Quadrant 2: In this quadrant, the amount of desired detail is more limited, and transactions are simple.An email, text and/or weblink survey can work. In the customers’ minds, if the transaction is straightforward, this type of survey mode matches quite well.
  • Quadrant 4: If the transaction is a significant service or product purchase and you want to gain a deeper understanding of the many facets that contributed to the experience, a phone survey is probably your best choice.We find that you do not get the kind of detailed qualitative feedback from an email and, indeed, a text survey that you need to understand where there are opportunities for improvement.

What Are the Takeaways?

Before jumping to a decision on how you are going to survey your customers, be clear about the outcomes you have for your program and, especially, what details you need from customers to understand where the customer experience is working well and where it could be improved.

Remember, for b-to-b companies; one survey mode does not fit all CX programs.

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