Should I offer an incentive for people to complete my survey?

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If you understand that customer satisfaction is a vital ingredient of business success then you already know the value of receiving feedback from customers. And we all want more of a good thing, right?

So, should you offer a prize to encourage more customer feedback?

If you want the short answer so you can be on your way, it’s “No”. (Thanks for stopping by.)

There is plenty you can do that will be far more effective…

But offering your valued customers a 99.9% chance of not winning anything is not it.

The other risk with offering a prize is that you’ll increase the amount of feedback but decrease its usefulness. More volume is not necessarily more value if the quality goes down. If you start pulling in more people by offering a prize you’ll find they aren’t telling you things that will help you, they’re telling you something to enter the prize draw.

How much constructive criticism will you hear from someone who wants you to give them a prize?

Offering a prize distorts the results of your surveys and dilutes their value. As Seth Godin explains, customers are not statistics.

Each customer has a beating heart, a brain…and a choice.

And they will exercise their choice (spend money or leave) one by one, individual by individual. So getting more and more responses, averaging them out and putting them in a slide deck will not be effective in getting those living, breathing individuals to share more of their bank balance with you.

But what will work is understanding how each one feels, and responding quickly and appropriately to whatever the customer has told you.

So how can you get the chance to find out how more of your customers feel? What would make a flesh and blood customer desire to give you really useful feedback? What would make you want to give really useful feedback to a company?

Through working with our customers we’ve found that two factors are by far the most influential:

1. Never let someone feel ignored.

Our everyday experience as customers is that most feedback is ignored. So this is the most important thing to fix.

When asking for feedback, give your customer a high level of confidence that something will happen as a result.

If you can’t give that assurance (by your actions, not just your words), then why would they waste their time telling you?

The sad fact is that most feedback received by most companies really is ignored. We customers have become accustomed to that and therefore we normally don’t bother to give feedback.

So if you want any feedback, let alone more, your company needs to behave differently. Not every response requires action, but the extremes usually do. Strong praise could indicate a further sales opportunity, a potential referral or a case study. Strong criticism presents the chance to save a customer who is at risk (and who is signalling to you their desire to be saved).

If the comment is a suggestion for improvement then acknowledge it, and set an expectation of whether or when a change can be expected.

The very best incentive for a customer to give feedback is that you act on the feedback they have taken the trouble to give.

Surely that’s what they’re hoping for when they invest time in responding? Your customers will love you for it, they will remark on its unusualness to their friends, and that all translates into more cash in the bank.

Of course, you may object on the grounds that it’s impossible to respond to every piece of customer feedback.

And I would ask whether you would hold the same view concerning every sales lead?

2. Make it fast and easy to give feedback.

You’re already presuming on customers’ good will by asking, so the least you can do is to make it painless. Be ruthless in keeping it short. And don’t worry…

No customer in the history of the world EVER complained about a satisfaction survey being too short.

There’s plenty you can do to make your feedback forms more effective and more enjoyable for customers to use.

A ‘Thank you’ is always OK.

If, on the other hand, you want to say ‘thank you’ because you know that you’re asking someone to invest their time in you then bravo, that’s fantastic.

Give something that’s genuinely valuable - and give it to everyone who submits feedback, not just the ‘lucky winner’.

Be generous. Discount vouchers and freebies are a good idea, but it doesn’t have to have a financial value – it could be anything that helps, educates or entertains. An ebook, hints and tips for getting more from your products and services, something that’s useful,

My local pizza restaurant gives a voucher for free garlic bread after you’ve submitted online feedback. It’s a nice touch and it means we’re likely to return sooner too. But most importantly - if you do raise an issue, they always follow up. And we go back more because they prove that they really do care about the service than because they just asked for feedback.

But to avoid the problems we’ve considered, it should always be a thank-you, not an incentive.

Where next?

Which metric should I track?

Heard that Net Promoter is dead? Us too. Find out why it is. And also why it isn’t.

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Benchmarking customer satisfaction

Of all the bad ideas in customer experience; benchmarking satisfaction is the worst. Learn why, and what you can do instead in this short, actionable guide!

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Have we answered your questions?

Helping people use feedback better is what gets us out of bed on a morning. No matter if you’re new to this or a feedback guru, you can call us – we’d love to hear from you.