After a number of problems with my home phones, I recently decided to buy a new system – the wireless kind with several extensions. I shopped at the sites where I usually go for this sort of thing, Amazon and Best Buy. The reviews on Amazon helped me choose a particular Panasonic model, but the price on the Best Buy site was $20 less with free shipping. I placed the order on a Monday morning and was very pleased to receive it via UPS the very next day. Up until this point, Best Buy did everything right. They carried the product I wanted, at the best price, made ordering simple on their site and exceeded my expectations in the speed of shipping. The UPS driver even left two dog biscuits on top of the box at my doorstep. Very happy customer. More likely to shop online from Best Buy in the future.
So everyone on the Best Buy team did a great job. That is until the market research folks got involved.A couple of days after receiving the product, I got this email from them:
In an ongoing effort to improve our services, we’d like to hear about your experience of having BestBuy.com products shipped. Please click the button below to fill out a brief survey about your recent purchase on 03/13/2011, including Panasonic-DECT 6.0 Expandable Cordless Phone System-KX-TG6413T. It should only take a few minutes.
Thanks for helping BestBuy.com serve you better!
Well, yes, of course I’ll help. I’m eager to tell you how happy I am with the whole experience. And you promised it would be a brief survey. Love those. So I click the link and immediately had a bucket of ice-cold water thrown over my eagerness to help.
THIS is brief?
Well first there’s the intro.
Customer Satisfaction Survey
Thanks for shopping at BestBuy.com. You’ve been randomly chosen to take part in a brief survey to let us know what we’re doing well – and most important, which areas could use some improvement. All input you provide is strictly confidential.
Required questions are denoted by an *
It could have been a little warmer, and not dominated by the researchy title, but it’s the “required questions” part that’s really a turn off. Translation: if you skip any questions, you will be eliminated. And of course, any normal person with a life, will quit the survey once they encounter a “required” question they can’t answer.
Then comes the “brief” survey. I’ve reduced it down but you can expand it by clicking on each part. It’s long, very long. It is also deadly boring, mostly because of the rating scales. I arrived at this point feeling very happy about my buying experience, and then I’m faced with this… this chore.
I don’t usually criticize companies in public, and I do unconditionally recommend Best Buy if you are looking to buy a phone system online. But come on, guys. Everyone on your team, everyone in the marketing chain is doing a great job and you are letting a survey muck it up.
There is this unspoken agreement among professional researchers not to name names when it comes to bad surveys. There is also a myth that market research should be left to the pros because users of DIY tools will write lousy questionnaires. Really?
This type of survey has to stop for many reasons:
1. It’s bad for business and actually leads to customer dissatisfaction. Speaking of which, we should be measuring dissatisfaction not satisfaction.
2. This is an example of the kind of market research nerdiness we are trying to grow out of. The market research nerd doesn’t know how to talk to a girl. If he did, the encounter with the customer would go something like:
Are we good?
Is there anything bothering you?
Wanna talk about it?
I’ll just listen while you talk. I won’t ask you any more questions until you tell me about it.
What can I do to make it up to you?
3. Most importantly, this is bad for the whole market research community. Not only am I less likely to respond to this survey, next time I am invited to give my feedback in a survey, I am less likely to respond to that one too. In fact, I was shopping a couple of days ago on the website of a home improvement store, and up pops an invitation to take part in a survey, also from Foresee Results. I couldn’t close the window fast enough. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. This hurts us all, even those of us who have already cleaned up our act, shortened surveys and banished grids. And if the only way we can stop bad surveys is by exposing them to the sunlight, then let’s do it.
4. The people who do complete surveys like this probably are not representative of the customer base. Rather, feedback is from those few brave souls who made it to the end of the survey with no payment except the warm glow of knowing that they had helped a major brand. The survey even ends with the advice to call Best Buy if you personally want to be heard. In other words, no one is going to read your heartfelt comments or follow up with you. The implied message is that “our time is more important than yours”.
Although you will likely not receive a response from Best Buy for your survey comments, you can get an individual response to your concerns by visiting the Contact Us page on BestBuy.com, or by calling 1-888-BEST BUY.
5. So this leads me to ask just what is being measured here? Who exactly is being counted when it comes to satisfaction? What does a rating mean when there is no chance to opt out or say “I don’t know”?
By way of contrast, I give you Netflix. I’ve been a loyal customer for years. Very rarely I have a problem with a disk, and it immediately gets resolved by a quick replacement. Netflix assumes that everything is ok if they don’t hear from me. The only surveys I’ve received from them are one question emails to check the quality of instant streaming or the shipping speed of DVDs. Here’s a typical Netflix survey sent within email.
When you click a response, you’re taken to this message on the site:
Thank YouWe’re constantly working to improve the Netflix experience for our customers. Your participation in this survey helps us ensure that all Netflix customers receive the very best customer service possible.
This is not only a good way to get feedback from customers, it also drives traffic to the site. A good example of market research supporting customer satisfaction instead of eroding it.
So there you have it. I hope other researchers decide to call out those surveys that are continuing to damage the market research profession and drive down response rates. Though I recognize that doing so isn’t exactly a great career move. And I hope that Best Buy understands that I do this is out of love. I’m still a very happy customer.