The other day I booked a flight on a popular website. As soon as the ticket order transaction was completed, I received a nicely designed request to share my experience with the agency. That request immediately made me feel uneasy because my flight is still a month away. The fact that the booking agency thinks that their job is done, makes me wonder who “owns” the delivery of the actual experience I have paid for? This example of premature polling is not an isolated case or rare occasion. Many of you can probably recall survey requests made before the product, you have ordered, was actually delivered. A poll of my personal contacts reveals that each and every one of them had multiple instances of such requests.
On one hand, a company may initiate the surveys prematurely because they experience low response rate and want to engage their customers as soon as possible, before they forgot who delivered the initial (or intermediate) part of their experience. That is a real concern.
On the other hand, premature customer satisfaction polling is a clear indication that the polling company either does not understand or does not care about the actual experience of their customers. Neither is reassuring to the customers. Neither motivates them to engage and respond. Therefore, an unintended consequence of the premature poll is the very low customer engagement rate that motivated the company to initiate the premature poll in the first place.
So, what is the right time to ask customers about their perception of the experience you deliver? I don’t think there is a “one size fits all” answer to this question, but ultimately there is no single “right” time to ask for it.
Holistic customer experience is a perception customers develop over multiple steps they travel from the time they realize their need to the time this need is satisfied (hopefully). If you have done customer experience mapping, the times of asking your customers about their experience are closely correlate to the milestones of the map. Your CX map may likely include multiple “partners” within and outside of your organization. Therefore, taking and recording customer satisfaction “temperature” may need to be viewed as a lengthy process, rather than an event of sending an email.
If your primary goal for asking customer’s opinion is to cover your proverbial ass, why would the customers be motivated to engage? If the process designed and communicated clearly as probing of ALL steps along the customer journey for the purpose of assuring consistent and frictionless experience, the customers are more likely to participate. Remember – “Help me to help you”?
Lastly, resist the immediate urge to start looking for a survey technology provider. Nobody needs technology to do a right thing. Technology can help us to do things fast and cheap, whether anybody benefits from it or not. Find the right process first, test it with “free” tools and calendar notes on the small subset of customers, then compare results against the engagement rate of the control group. When the engagement rate increase is acceptable, it’s time to bring a technology partner.
I do understand that the engagement rate is not the end goal, but it does closely correlates with extreme customer satisfaction or extreme customer disappointment. In either case the specific information provided by highly engaged customers will help your company to rite “the ship” or widen the gap between you and your competitors.