Customer Surveys

Customer surveys only 'sort-of' fit this site.

BUT, because businesses many times determine how societies create and retain wealth by the products they produce and the behaviors they encourage, I’m including this as a ‘thinking’ piece.


Years ago, I designed a series of customer surveys for a hi-tech company. I tried to keep each survey one page long with less than 20 questions and very specific to information that would provide direct benefits technically and business-wise.

The world has changed.

Today, I constantly get requests for surveys. Companies are always trying to glean information about who people are and how they think and I’m not sure the way they are worded and structured sometimes gives them any clue.

For instance, if someone asked you how you like to communicate best, what would you say if there were three responses and you could ONLY pick one: 1. by e-mail, 2. by online chat, or 3. by personal communication?

I needed to click all three boxes.

I selected ‘online chat’ but have very specific times when I consider that appropriate: I need to solve some technical problem and it would be helpful to have a written record of the progress. The individual I’m communicating with can most likely solve the problem immediately or get some immediate help from someone around them to get the problem resolved. I expect a quick resolution.

If a technical problem is going to be of a longer duration and/or data has to be gathered or people need to be consulted, e-mail makes the most sense to me.

If I’m chatting with anyone who I think could use better communication skills (be they personal or technical and including me!), I like to chat personally. You don’t get better at something unless you do it. Likewise, I always prefer personal communication for quick yes/no questions, scheduling, and just chatting about things which don’t need a ‘record.’

Somehow I don’t think the surveyors learned those things.

Likewise, on this particular survey, they asked me how important I consider family. Weirdly, it was not directly rated relative to anything else.

Is family more important than TV? — to me it is. Is family more important than writing this? I have a ‘I can’t be everything to everyone’ philosophy and don’t try — and since I’ve never been a ‘sweet, syrupy’ person (my goal has always been: internally kind) and I try NOT to be a phone person because I think it’s too easy to slide into gossip and idle chatter, I believe I sometimes seem ‘uncaring’ to certain family members.

But before writing this, identifying whether someone needed anything special prepared like custard or soup or tea because they didn’t feel totally well was more important than doing anything else — and this is a family member where I consider our relationship ‘stressed.’

Of course, in these instances, I myself can accuse myself of being selfish because healthy people are more fun to be around and they normally get a lot more done. I like people to be healthy. (Sometimes you just can’t win: uncaring, selfish — liking people to be healthy). How do you put those things in a survey?

Having taken many surveys over the years, I’ve decided companies should spend less time on statistics and more time recognizing their customers are REALLY smart and EXTRAORDINARILY complex.

I’d like to see customer surveys that asked only one question, with that question so specific, they couldn’t fail to learn something by the response — or a series of questions with the customer told specifically to answer only one. And then I’d want a response box that didn’t limit the number of letters or words you typed because if some really smart customer did have a lot to say, the company should want to hear it all.

But I digress. I wanted to convey that companies help create ‘social behaviors’ but many times do not think about the long-term implications of those behaviors. Customer surveys are a way for companies to get people to think about how their products can be used in ‘society-building’ ways while also encouraging the sharing of knowledge and ideas.

We need more ‘did you know?’ customer surveys — like:

  • Did you know you can find an icon glossary for your product at this site? (I just recently wasted WAY too much time — and based upon search results, a LOT of other people have too — for other similar products AND other companies.)

  • Did you know that if you have trouble walking and walk up to the customer service desk, we’ll go and get the products on your list?

  • Did you know that if you call ahead (and we know you because we’ve done business with you before and you’ve talked to us in advance about this), we will pump your gas because we know it’s hard for you to get out of the car?

I included these elderly / handicapped questions here because I have found that many people do not know these things.

You can see why a business might want a list of several questions where they’d only ask a person to answer one. But a few ‘non-target audience’ questions (older people are ‘lesser’ users of the latest technology) might just be the ‘solution’ for some young person with an aging relative.

Anyway, I would like to know what the teen, 20- and 30-year olds think they still need to learn about helping build their communities and the broader society around them and then I’d like to see that knowledge built into products and user manuals and customer surveys and, and, and ... because then I’d know for sure that they were learning wealth retaining and building things as they were using all this great technology.

I don’t like leaving things to chance.

I bet you don’t either.