Customer surveys are notoriously ineffective. However, by asking the right questions, you can receive highly effective survey results.
By: Glenn Adams
By answering a few simple questions you are much more likely to conduct a survey which provides both relevant and actionable information when completed.
(A quick note of clarification: Survey makers often confuse one-time “State of Facilities” blasts with performance surveying.
For this posting – let’s focus on performance surveying and the feedback requested from a customer after specific work has been accomplished.)
Far too often, surveys are left unfinished, provide incomplete information, or raise expectations for change that can’t be implemented.
Performance surveys should be short, purposeful, and informative to both facilities staff and their customers.
By asking yourself a few simple questions, I’m sure you can provide a more effective survey program to your customers.
- Why do we need to do a survey in the first place?
Be honest – Do YOU like completing surveys?
Neither do your customers, but they will if there is some reward for their effort. Their time is valuable and just like you they need a return on their investment (ROI).
Now we aren’t about to start giving out free chocolate chip cookies like your favorite deli (I’m a total sucker for that), but they should be able to see the fruits of their labor in your performance.
If you don’t have a plan for acting upon the information received during the survey – why are you sending it out?
Data is only valuable when it is actionable.
You should have a specific management decision hanging in the balance waiting for their feedback. Just like a good experiment, surveys should confirm or deny your hypothesis and should result in some action (or non-action) based upon their outcome.
Keep surveys to a minimum, make the questions pertinent to a specific actionable question, and use a short window of request time so they don’t become numb to your survey.
- Can we find the data somewhere else?
Don’t ask your customers for data you can find somewhere else.
If your team has an aspirational target for work order response time, don’t ask your customers if you’re hitting the goal. If your aspirational targets are set, you don’t need a survey to measure performance. By measuring actual response times, you can see how close you are to your mark and adjust accordingly.
So you’ve reached your 90 minute initial response time in 92% of your work orders. Perhaps the real question is: do they think that is fast enough?
Rather than asking your customers for data you can already access, ask them questions that can effect change.
- Can you make the requested or assumed changes?
Don’t ask questions about things you can’t change.
If your team can’t respond to a work order in under 90 minutes, don’t ask customers if they want you there faster!
Sure your customers prefer hardwood to laminate floors, but if you have no budget and no plans to change the flooring in your buildings why set the expectation that things are about to change.
You see that’s the quid pro quo – the something for something they are expecting. They took the time to fill out your survey saying they liked hardwoods instead of laminate so the next question they will have is how long until they get their hardwood floors?
It’s a slippery slope – You need credible data to make informed decisions and leverage investment. But, you don’t want to make dreamers of your customer base filling their heads with unrealistic expectations. When in doubt – Leave it out.
If your laminate floors are due for replacement, and you have the budget to afford hardwoods or laminate flooring, but aren’t sure which one to put in the building, NOW is the time to ask your customers.
Furthermore, you can leverage the data against those whose expectations were not met. Why did you go with hardwoods instead of laminate? The answer is simple: we surveyed the building constituents and a resounding 70% of the people stated they wanted hardwoods this time.
Keep your survey questions relevant to information you need for imminent internal decisions and metrics.
Stay tuned next week as we explore three more questions to ask for creating effective surveys.
About Glenn: I’m a software product manager for AssetWorks, specializing in Capital Planning, Project Management, and Facilities Condition Assessment. I received my Management of Information Systems degree from Auburn University after a six-year enlistment in the Navy. My twenty year career as an enterprise system manager working exclusively with maintenance, design, and construction personnel earned my spot on the AssetWorks team in January of 2013. A persevering golfer and committed Tiger fan, I reside in Auburn, Alabama with my wife, Dr. Jennifer Wood Adams, and our two daughters, Harper Elizabeth, and Spencer Caroline.