Why Event and Customer Satisfaction Surveys Fail

26/08/2011 - Reproducido con permiso de Ready2Spark, 2011. © Ready2Spark, julio de 2011. Autora: Lara McCulloch-Carter. Traducción: Event Planner Spain

Recently, after attending a conference, I received a 10 page survey asking me what I thought about the event. In it, I was asked about speakers, food, accommodations, every one of the social events, the location of the event, the price of the event, and a vast array of other questions. It took me over 15 minutes to fill out this survey. Although I had rated many items under expectations and although I had provided ideas on improvement, it was the last time I heard from the event until they sent me an email promoting the following year’s conference.

This is the equivalent of asking someone how happy they are with your business, they say they’re not, you say nothing & walk away. Then, you walk up to them and say, "Hey! Come and do business with us again. It’s going to be great."

The emphasis of surveys is on data collection, not happiness. This is the core issue. But there are a few others…

Survey Fatigue
In business, we place great value in surveys. The result is too many surveys with too many questions.

It seems logical to ask as many questions as possible while you have someone focused on filling out your customer satisfaction survey. But do more questions equal better insights? The answer is no. There are many studies that show that too many questions lead to inaccurate data.

Based on a tremendous amount of research and analysis of hundreds of companies, the single question that is directly attributed to the future success of a business is: How likely is it that you would recommend our company / event to a friend or colleague? (on a scale from 0-10).

Lack of timeliness
Trying to answer what you thought of something days or weeks after you experienced it is very difficult to do.

Just the other day, I was sent a survey asking me what I thought of the 8 education events I went to see over a 2 day period. My feedback was mediocre at best. Sessions bled into each other, my brain had now forgotten most of the session content and all I could provide were insights into a very vague recollection. How valuable was this information for the conference and the speakers?

Timing is very important when surveying customers. Identify when the optimal time is to poll customers. Is it while they’re experiencing your product, service or event? Directly after? Or, only once they have had an opportunity to live with it for a while?

No follow up
If your goal is to create loyal customers, you can’t do this until you consistently eliminate areas of dissatisfaction. In the first example I provided, I submitted survey insights sharing my dissatisfaction and never heard from anyone again. In other words, I remained a dissatisfied customer. If the event organizer’s goal was to use my insights to fix problems in the next event, unfortunately I’ll never experience them because it’s likely I won’t attend again.

Studies show that it takes 6-7 customers to replace an existing one. It can be expensive and time consuming to acquire a new customer, so it should be every business’s goal to retain existing ones. When there is a follow up system, surveys can be the launching pad to converting unhappy customers into delighted ones.

Just imagine if they had contacted me after I filled out their survey to thank me for my insights, told me they heard my feedback, probed for more information and indicated they are working on improvements. Imagine if they had asked: Would I like to be followed up with once improvements were determined and, would I like to get involved in helping to create improvements? In this scenario, would I then have attended their next event? It’s a heck of a lot more probable I would than if they had never contacted me at all.

A focus on satisfaction, not results
According to The Loyalty Effect, 60-80% of defectors stated they were satisfied or very satisfied on a survey before they defect.

The goal in business should not be to have a satisfied customer. Satisfaction means that you delivered what they expected. And just because you’ve met my expectations does not mean I’m going to do business with you again. The goal should be to identify evangelists and detractors. Evangelists sing your business’s or event’s praises to others. They become your volunteer sales force. They’re directly linked to growth. Detractors are unhappy with you. They too will tell others about you, but instead of singing your praises, it’s likely they’ll warn others not to do business with you.

If you’re focused on growth, and directly linking survey insights with financial results, narrow your focus to growing evangelists and reducing detractors.

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