The Customer Confidential Podcast

Love Feedback but Hate Surveys? Join the Club

Satmetrex CEO Richard Owen discusses his company's approach to getting customer feedback.


Love Feedback but Hate Surveys? Join the Club

Who likes surveys? Not me.

I hate them. As a customer, they fill my inbox. They make my phone ring. They generally make me feel guilty for not responding, and when I do take the time to respond I’m almost always frustrated by how long they are, how irrelevant many of the questions feel and how much energy it takes to answer them.

As a marketer and customer experience professional, I hate the low response rates. I hate responder bias and ambiguity of the responses. I hate the inevitable debates about methodology, and I dislike the unavoidable defensiveness from executives who feel judged more than they feel motivated to make improvements.

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Richard Owen, my latest guest on the Net Promoter System Podcast, also hates surveys. He even expects they will eventually become obsolete. However, he runs Satmetrix, a company that other businesses hire to send surveys, collect responses and evaluate the feedback. How does the CEO of a survey company envision a survey-less future? Here are some snippets from our discussion:

On the decline of surveys as a feedback tool:

“Surveys are likely to decline in effectiveness over time. Surveys are becoming prolific, and as they become more prolific, people are getting saturated with requests and you have what the columnists like to call tragedy of the commons. … And when that happens, our response rates to any particular company starts to decline. And if it declines enough, we end up in a position where you actually start to get adverse selection. The only people left responding are the people who maybe you didn’t want to respond in the first place.”

On the rise of social media as a feedback source:

“Unstructured social data, unstructured internal data, is a huge story. I still think it’s being written. I think that there’s some great work being done. I really like the results we see. But I don’t think that’s to say that it’s a mature spaceship by any means. I think there’s going to be continued breakthroughs and evolution there, and new ideas coming out of it.”

On the feedback companies collect on their own websites:

“Companies are typically running their own communities, tech-support communities. They’re getting a lot of customer conversation going in those things. And that’s really high-quality conversation. By definition, it’s about their product or brand. They often even know who it is that’s saying it.”

On the importance of closing the loop:

“Closing the loop and detractor recovery have always been a great way to engage people. And contrary to people’s initial expectations, it’s not a negative experience. Everyone I talk to who does it says they’re always incredibly empowered by that. … And customers always react very positively to it, even if they don’t suddenly go from detractor status to promoter status, their reaction is uniformly, ‘You’re listening to me. I appreciate the effort you’re making.’”

You can listen to my discussion with Richard on iTunes or through the player above. Click here to browse more Net Promoter System podcasts.


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