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Tips for Analyzing Customer Survey Data

Many companies now use customer surveys to accumulate data and learn more about what people want. If you're using this tool in your own business, do you feel that you're really getting the most out of your surveys? After all, getting data is only the first step in making improvements. You then need to analyze and interpret it. Let's look at some tips for analyzing customer survey data so you can use it for your benefit.

Comments vs Quantifiable Responses 

The first key to getting helpful feedback from surveys is to ask the right questions. It's fine to ask general questions, such as "How satisfied were you with your purchase?" However, it's more important to drill down to specifics. You want to know exactly what customers liked and didn't like. 

Both written feedback and quantifiable responses are valuable. Comments provide insights into customers' very personal reactions. You might also have yes or no questions or let people rate different aspects of your business on a scale from 1 to 5. This approach is useful when you want to analyze large quantities of data. You can easily arrive at an average and set goals towards improving scores. At the same time, don't overlook the value of reading about people's experiences in their own words. It's easy enough to do both, such as with a survey followed by a space for comments.

It's also possible to convert comments into quantifiable data. This takes some work but is a worthwhile endeavor to clarify responses. You or a team member can read comments and categorize them, perhaps into categories such as positive, negative, and neutral/mixed. Whether you're asking open-ended questions or ones that get yes/no or numbered responses, think carefully about what you want to find out. For example, here are some possible questions to ask:

  • Customer service. Was your issue resolved? How helpful and knowledgeable was the customer service rep you spoke to? Did you have to call/log-in more than once to get your issue resolved?
  • Product satisfaction. How likely are you to recommend this product to others? What do you like most/least about it? What's one feature you'd most like to improve? 

Use Surveys to Question Your Assumptions

When it comes to interpreting customer data, you want to look for patterns. No one agrees about everything but what really counts are issues that large numbers of customers care about. If you look at Amazon reviews, you'll often find one-star reviews for the most popular products and five-star reviews for the least popular. Outliers, however, are really not your main concern. 

In some cases, surveys will shatter your own assumptions and preconceptions. For example, you and your team may believe that your latest software program is easy to use. However, if more than half of your respondents say it's confusing, you need to rethink your approach. Customers don't always have the same perspective as business owners, managers, IT people, and employees. 

Learn to Separate Customer Service Issues From Product/Policy Issues

One common problem with surveys is that they put too much responsibility on customer service reps. Customers may rate customer service poorly for following your company's policies. In this case, it's not fair (or helpful) to blame your employees. For example, suppose a customer calls to get a refund for a product or service. If he or she is calling past the date when refunds are given, the customer service rep will refuse the request. This might motivate the customer to give a poor rating for customer service. However, the real complaint is with your policy. Whether or not you decide to change the policy is up to you. What matters is that you interpret the information correctly. 

Use Data to Create More Useful Surveys in the Future

You can use your observations from one survey to create even more helpful ones. Responses to one survey can help you formulate more specific questions. For example, a survey about customer service might tell you that many customers had to call multiple times to get their issue resolved. You might then add a question such as, "If you had to call us more than once, what information was missing or incorrect the first time?" It may turn out that certain customer service reps are responsible or you may need to train your reps to handle certain queries more effectively.

You may even find that responses motivate you to look at issues that you hadn't considered. Be sure that you're open to thinking about new and unexpected issues even if it's inconvenient to do so. Once again, it's ultimately the customer's perspective that matters. 

Surveys Help You Improve Your Business

When used thoughtfully, surveys help you serve your customers better and improve your products and services. The key is to look at the data objectively and with an eye towards making your business more customer-friendly.

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