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By Kristy Sturgill • July 3, 2018

Why Isn’t My Online Survey Working

Online Reviews

Customer delight plays a critical role in growing your company and creating a profitable platform. Online surveys are a powerful tool to monitor your customer’s preferences about your products and services, as well as gauge the percentage of people who agree or disagree with business changes and branding decisions. Unfortunately, these surveys are often seen as a nuisance and are regularly ignored by customers.

(Struggling with negative reviews? This free ebook will help you implement new practices in response to your customer survey.)

Online surveys are often made up of a long list of sometimes confusing questions. If a customer visits the survey site with the intention of letting the company know about their experience, but there are several questions they don’t want to answer, then they might skip the additional questions or answer them incorrectly. Ultimately, it leaves your business with inaccurate data.

If you’re survey isn’t receiving any responses or wildly inaccurate answers, then you might be left scratching your head trying to figure out why it isn’t working.

Online Reviews

Reason #1: You’re providing incentives.

A flood of good reviews is a positive thing, right? Wrong. Bad data is worse than none at all, so you have to take every step possible to ensure the outcome of the survey is unbiased and reliable. If the good reviews are organic, then great! But, if they are only responding because you’ve given them a massive incentive, then the reviews could mean nothing to your company.

Or worse, you could be violating review policies by companies like Amazon, or in some states, the law.

Furthermore, prospective clients who read reviews can usually tell when a review seems to be “fake” or “unearned.” Dr. Robert Cialdini explains the power of reciprocity in his book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. He explains even something as small as a free cup of coffee can make people feel like they need to repay the favor.

Cialdini tells a story about incentives. In a study, they asked participants to rate how much they liked a particular person, and then that person asked the participants to buy raffle tickets.

Unsurprisingly, there was a correlation between how much a participant liked the person selling tickets and the number of tickets bought. Essentially, if they liked the person they bought more tickets, and if they didn’t like the person they bought less tickets.

The interesting finding was in the next phase of the study where the person selling the raffle tickets gave away a free coke. They repeated the process of having the participants rate how much they liked the person. What they found was participants purchased more raffle tickets regardless of how they felt about the person selling them. Clearly, the free coke played a role in their need to reciprocate.

Limiting incentives reduces the effect of bias in the review because its a waste of money when the surveys provide inaccurate information. If your survey doesn’t provide your company with usable data, then it isn’t working.

 Online Reviews

Reason #2: The survey is only completed by complainers.

Sometimes, you might find your survey is only completed by customers who have complaints about their most recent experience. And, you might feel restricted by not being able to incentivize the good customers to take the time to also leave a review.

Bad reviews provide valuable information, and they are indeed helpful. However, only hearing the bad is almost as useless as just hearing the good.

It’s true, people who have a less than ideal encounter with your brand are more likely to leave a review than people who were happy with their products or service. The trick is to create balance by bringing in new reviewers without creating any incentives that would skew the data.

Here are some ideas to find more reviewers (and not just the complainers).

  • Ask them for a review when they are leaving your store with their new products or after you’ve provided them with a service.
  • Send customers a follow up email requesting a review a second or even third time.
  • If you’re shipping products, put an insert in the package kindly asking for feedback.
  • Let your customers know how much the review means to you and your brand.
  • Respond to the reviewers with a thank you for their time.
  • Respond to negative reviewers with solutions or options to provide them a solution offline.

 Online reviews

Reason # 3: The survey doesn’t inspire improvement.

Reviews are pointless if they don’t inspire change in your company. Your survey won’t work if customers don’t believe they are truly being heard by you. Why should they invest time giving you feedback if it seems you don’t care what they say?

Let your customers know when their reviews inspired a company decision. Send them an email thanking them and showing them how you’ve changed because of their feedback.

When future customers see this kind of response from a company, they’ll feel empowered also to leave reviews. Essentially, you’ll be giving them a powerful voice in your company, and they’ll see surveys as an opportunity to influence change.

 Online Reviews

Reason #4: The survey is too complicated.

Let’s be real, everyone is busy, and they definitely did not schedule your survey into their day. If you really want customers to give you feedback, keep the question focused, quick and straightforward.

It is essential to keep in mind the goals the company hopes to achieve with the surveys and not to overload the survey taker with unnecessary questions.

Quantitative data is numerical based so you might be asking customers to rate their experience, product or service from 1 to 5, or it might be a yes or no question. In contrast, qualitative data is obtained by asking open-ended questions from your customers like “why did you choose our company” or “what did you like most about our product” or “what did you like least about our product. 

An excellent survey will create a balance between qualitative and quantitative data as well as direct questions versus open ended questions. A good survey will ask questions clearly, and will only be a couple sentences long. You don’t want to leave your customers feeling like they are answering a word problem for a math class.

A word of caution: Don’t structure a question in a way that coaches customers how to respond. For example, “Describe how our products helped you” is a bad question. A better question would be “Describe your experience with our products and whether or not they were helpful.” You always want to leave the door open for the customer to provide an honest response even if it isn’t specifically a “good” one.

If you do have a biased question, such as “What did you like about our company,” then balance it with “What didn’t you like about our company.”

 online reviews

Reason #5: The survey is too long.

The goal is to learn about how your customers’ experiences were by asking them three to five questions. What you don’t want to do is give them 50 questions, or anything that’ll take them any longer than ten minutes. A simple yes or no question is sufficient for comparisons. Rating questions are helpful for gaining more insight into whether or not a customer loves a new product or just likes it. 

Too many of the same type of questions will cause the customer to become fatigued with the content quickly, so mix it up. You can even use open-ended questions to gain even more insight to your customers’ mindsets while giving them a chance to engage with the survey in a new way.

Here are a few quick tips on how to create a more engaging survey:

  • Randomize multiple choice answer options.
  • Create an interactive survey where the next questions is based on previous answers.
  • Create questions in logical order, and limit the amount of time the customer needs to do the survey.
  • Utilize survey tools such as a timers to monitor how long a customer takes to answer questions.

The goal of an engaging survey is to be simple and accurate. Take advantage of tools such as page timers to categorize which survey takers took time to read each question and answer honestly. A customer might be honest during the beginning of the survey, but lose interest and want to finish as soon as possible.

Also, consider asking only one question. Yes, just one. It’s a surprisingly effective strategy when it comes to response rates. It requires you to carefully consider what you want to ask your customer and how you want to answer it. Then, at a later date, you might ask a follow up question.

Reason #6: The survey doesn’t have a focus.

If you’re only asking a few questions, you want to be zoned in on a few questions that’ll provide you the most insight in the least amount of time. Customers will find themselves fatigued if they don’t feel there is a purpose behind the question. Furthermore, if you wander around from topic to topic, then you’ll find all the data doesn’t really offer you any actionable data. 

online reviews

Reason #7: Customers confuse the survey with spam.

Nobody likes spam. If customers are sent an email with a survey link without notice, they are more likely not to participate. Similarly, pop-up surveys within websites have the potential to make customers decide to switch to a different company and change websites immediately.

Instead, give them a heads up when they’re leaving the store by saying things like, “We’ll send you a link to a survey so you can tell us how we’re doing. We’d love your feedback.” Or, send them an email before the survey telling them you’ll be sending them a link to a survey soon.

Online reviews can feel a bit like the Wild West, which is why we’ve created a free comprehensive guide to help your company gain control of this powerful way to find and retain customers.

The Ultimate Guide to Online Reviews