Why haven’t customer surveys gone mobile?

Discussion
Apr 04, 2017
Tom Ryan

ChargeItSpot, which deploys charging stations within retail stores, is adding a survey feature to its offering.

Shoppers are asked three multiple-choice questions about their shopping experience as they unplug their phones from the charging stations. Despite being optional, a test with eight retailers saw a 70 to 90 percent completion rate, according to Bloomberg. Importantly, the feedback came back in real-time.

The arrival of social media and the many touchpoints added through omnichannel retailing appear to offer a variety of ways for retailers to seek out feedback through similar mobile surveys.

Yet the two most common methods for collecting customer surveys continue to be the back or bottom of a receipt and via post-purchase e-mails. In both cases, retailers encourage shoppers to go online to answer a quick survey and often incentivize the action with the promise of a sweepstakes entry or small discount.

However, survey methods in general have received poor grades. According to a 2014 study from OpinionLab:

  • Sixty-six percent of customers prefer to give feedback by actively reaching out;
  • Seventy-two percent said surveys interfere with the experience of a website;
  • Eighty-percent have abandoned a survey halfway through and 52 percent would not spend more than three minutes filling out a feedback form.

An article from Pew Research Center notes that one challenge with mobile surveys is ensuring the software properly renders the questions regardless of the type of device respondents are using. Grid-formatted questions, typical in some survey methods, don’t translate well to mobile screens. Mobile survey takers are also found to respond better to fewer questions that are shorter in length.

“The problem isn’t that consumers are impatient with mobile surveys,” wrote MFour, a creator of a survey app, recently on its blog. “It’s that they’re downright dismissive of any experience on their phones and with their apps that doesn’t live up to their extremely high expectations of smooth-functioning elegance and convenience — the qualities that make using their phones so appealing in the first place.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What is preventing retailers and brands from making better use of smartphones as a customer feedback tool? What are the best current methods of soliciting customer feedback and where do you see such methods heading in the future?

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Braintrust
"The current overuse of surveys as a part of every transaction is causing shoppers to automatically avoid them."
"I agree with Jon — WIFM is what comes to mind for most surveys. Without a motivating factor, people are exponentially less inclined to answer..."
"People forget facts quickly but remember feelings for a time. If you want facts, you need to ask your questions right after the event..."

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24 Comments on "Why haven’t customer surveys gone mobile?"


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Jon Polin
BrainTrust

This strikes me more as a case of misaligned WIFM (what’s in it for me?) than a technology question. We are all busy. For most of us to take any time to answer a retailer or brand survey, we need to know there is something in it for us — a discount, an “insider/VIP” badge, influence on product development … something. Smartphone technology and UI is not a barrier.

Min-Jee Hwang
Guest

I agree with Jon — WIFM is what comes to mind for most surveys. Without a motivating factor, people are exponentially less inclined to answer surveys unless they’re given an adequate incentive. Fast food places put survey links in their receipts with the reward of a small discount or free snack with their next order. Google Rewards pays its users in Google Play credits. Two essential parts of creating a survey people want to answer are simplicity and incentive. Without one or the other, the only reason I can see that would motivate completion is dissatisfaction and extreme satisfaction.

Al McClain
Staff

Another thing, Jon, is that I’ll bet most consumers think companies often don’t even look at survey results, let alone individual comments. I know when I have taken surveys and filled in a comment box, I have NEVER received a response other than a computerized thank you. I’ll bet companies could attract customer loyalty for life if they bothered to respond to consumers who make comments. And, I don’t mean a bot response, but a real note from a customer service rep that might take a minute or two to write. But, we’re all to busy to do that 😉

Mark Ryski
BrainTrust

I think the folks at ‘Happy or Not’ have it right — a quick satisfaction survey that a six-year-old kid could answer. This type of quick surveying could very easily be done via smartphone. Of course the trick is getting shoppers to download an app or agree to being surveyed, but I think it’s doable. Soliciting customer feedback has never been more important but, as we’ve discussed on past posts, the methods and intent in the way it’s largely being conducted today are problematic — producing more marketing fodder than true customer insights.

Ross Ely
Guest

Shopper surveys are out of control right now as retailers hound their customers with endless surveys about “their experience.” Shoppers do not owe retailers feedback as part of their transaction.

Retailers must first establish a relationship with their shoppers, and only then include surveys respectfully as a part of their communications. The current overuse of surveys as a part of every transaction is causing shoppers to automatically avoid them.

Sterling Hawkins
BrainTrust

There is this mentality of a survey “add-on” that’s common in retail. Many retailers view having a survey as an obligatory measure, while it’s actually the intent to improve the shopping experience and hear from customers that should be the driving force. There are at least several startups that are transforming surveys with gamification, AI and other emerging tech tools that make them more engaging to take and yield more meaningful results.

gordon arnold
Guest

Time and relevance are the only issues. A simple survey of three yes-or-no questions is all that is needed. Something like: Were you satisfied with your recent experience? Would you like to discuss this with a rep? Which is your communication preference, voice or email?

There is only one prerequisite for this simple test method; a genuine willingness to listen and learn what matters to the market. But if the goal is to placate consumer frustration then what does it matter in terms of questionnaire content and reporting?

Sky Rota
BrainTrust
2 years 7 months ago
They are not making use of them because they are probably older-minded and behind the times. I only know that when I buy something in a store and the cashier circles something in highlighter at the bottom of my receipt and says now go home and take this online survey I’m like, are you kidding me? That’s never happening! I don’t see any good current methods out there. The credit card swiper could be an option and have three max questions on it while you are paying, so you have no choice but to give the feedback right then. You could send us an instant trigger text for feedback — if you retailers do that then you must send it the second we pay (before we leave the store) and it must come with a built-in coupon to make us want to answer the three question survey. That would be a two-fold win for you because now we will come back to the store and use our coupon. But Do NOT abuse our private phone… Read more »
Adrian Weidmann
BrainTrust

Too invasive, too long, too complicated, too many and — as pointed out — shopping is a personal and private journey. Frankly, it’s not the retailer’s business. If you want and value shoppers’ opinions then they become consultants that you need pay for their opinions. All too often these surveys are invasive and masked as retailers seeking to improve their service when it is nothing more than adding more data to an even bigger data pile. All of which leads to nothing of value at all! Certainly not for the shopper. The survey process simply opens the door to Google and Doubleclick’s creepy ad serving and unwelcome SPAM.

Dr. Stephen Needel
BrainTrust

Keep it short, keep it simple, keep it clean-looking and people will answer on their smartphones. Make them work at it and they’re gone.

Ben Ball
BrainTrust
Ironically, I drove to work this morning listening to my co-worker/wife answering a pretty intricate survey on her smartphone. She completed it using voice recognition. And the survey was about Alexa and her proficiency at voice recognition and giving actionable answers. Since this is a subject of interest to her, my wife was willing to commit around 10 minutes to the survey. The actionable takeaway from my parable is that consumers devote time and effort to giving feedback to brands in equal measure to the involvement they have with the product and the utility they derive from it. The same person who will spend 10 minutes engaged with a mobile phone to “help Alexa learn” wouldn’t spend 10 seconds on any device to answer a survey about land line phone service. Even if the target respondent is engaged with the brand at some level, the length and frequency of the request for feedback has to fit the depth of that relationship. A one-answer survey that pops up on my phone every time I leave Starbucks… Read more »
Ian Percy
BrainTrust

The secret is “the depth of that relationship.” I wish I’d made the point as well as you did Ben because it’s relevant to my submission on this topic. I proposed that there is more engagement if you ask people to identify new possibilities for the future than if you ask them about their past experience or about problems. If people don’t really care if your store lives or dies, you’ll be lucky to get any response at all. BUT … if you tap into their imagination, it becomes a totally different game.

Harley Feldman
BrainTrust
Retailers and brands need to move toward more surveys done by mobile devices as they are the center of the universe for many people, especially Millennials, to retrieve and send information via the Internet. Smartphones are so ubiquitous that there are more and more demands for them to enable a consumer’s interactions with their bank accounts, credit cards and IoT environments. So the smartphone is the logical place to collect consumer surveys. In order to attract the consumer to do surveys on these devices the surveys need to be immediate after buying an item, be very simple to use and involve no more than three or four questions. There also needs to be a way for the consumer to access the survey application at a later time when the consumer wishes to send a message to the retailer or brand. This survey needs to have the ability to quickly bring up the purchase record of the consumer so she does not have to find the item purchased by searching for it. Finally, the results of… Read more »
Ricardo Belmar
BrainTrust

The issue for shoppers is one of time and convenience. No one wants to consume a large amount of time responding to survey whether on their mobile device or in another medium! Isn’t the reason we all love our mobile devices partly because they save us time? Why would we then take away time from our day on a mobile device answering a survey? I think the future of surveys lies with AI and machine learning techniques to analyze unstructured data from sources like social media where the retailer is talked about by consumers. Those analyses will tell the retailer more about how they are perceived by shoppers than any directly initiated survey.

Di Di Chan
Guest

The retailers that are actively communicating with their shoppers via mobile are currently collecting feedback via mobile. Full disclosure: we make line-free mobile checkout applications for retailers. One of the most popular features for both shopper and retailer is the ability to leave instant feedback directly at the end of their trip. We see this as a trend that will continue to grow. The more retailers are comfortable with their mobile platforms and the more shoppers are using their smartphones to engage with the retailers, the more we will see shoppers using mobile to provide direct feedback.

Nir Manor
BrainTrust

Mobile surveys can be a great tool to get customers’ feedback if done right. In many cases surveys are too long, the UI is unfriendly, they are done too early in the relationship with the shopper, they are boring and there is no reward for participating. More effective ways to do surveys are by gamification, with a twist of humor or with nice creative that can engage shoppers. Playbuzz is a good example (to be clear, I have no business connection to this company and it is a pure objective recommendation).

Ian Percy
BrainTrust
There is survey fatigue, no doubt about it. And many surveys are just plain dumb and aimed at an early elementary school level. Insulting, in short. Here’s my thing. All surveys are about yesterday’s experience. They focus on the past, about which you can do nothing. Often to exasperation, I try to get my clients to see the difference between “solving a problem” and “seeing a possibility.” Problems are always about the past, possibilities always about the future. We were all taught to solve problems, rarely to see possibilities that most others don’t see. And yet the latter is what changes the world. It would be far more energizing and engaging to enlist customer help in seeing possibilities. Some example survey items using the power of unfinished gestalt instead of dead-end multiple choice: I’ve never understood why clothing stores don’t … If I had a boatload of money to invest in this store I’d … One idea I don’t think any store has ever tried is … I don’t think this store’s management has the… Read more »
Doug Garnett
BrainTrust
Doug Garnett
President, Protonik
2 years 7 months ago

In research practice we learn that the validity of consumer answers depends on whether they believe the line of questioning and the research itself is productive. (Consumers have a BS meter that detects frivolous lines of questioning.)

Given the incredible overuse and abuse of customer surveys, it’s smart NOT to move them mobile. Consumers do not believe these surveys are valuable and the data gathered in them is generally worthless (when it comes to truth). Unfortunately, managers are hooked on these surveys to justify their decisions.

My advice: we must stop believing that cheap research like these surveys is worthwhile. Instead, take the time and money to do serious, in person research work. What retailers will discover is that research will find incredible strengths that they can leverage for profit.

Steve Montgomery
BrainTrust

Customers are surveyed to death. What was once a way to let retailers and others know you thoughts have become ubiquitous. I have actually been asked to complete a survey about their survey! Enough is enough. It’s like a retailer who plasters their windows with signs. There are so many people don’t read them.

Ed Rosenbaum
BrainTrust

I have no problem responding to surveys as long as they are meaningful. Yes, ask me about my experience in the store and I will respond almost every time; but only if I had a good or bad experience. I want them to know if my experience was on either end of the spectrum so they are aware of it. If my experience was more nondescript, I tend not to respond.

Dan Raftery
Guest
See above for lots of thoughtful comments and solid suggestions for succeeding in the digital survey approach. For sure, this method has not become the hoped-for go-to. Having done shopper surveys since before PCs came on the scene (Yes, they were highly manual and slow), I offer the following additional observations about surveys that may have been forgotten or discarded as too “old-minded.” All survey cohorts are biased. Data relevancy is dependent on managing all aspects of the survey — contact, length, questions, etc. — to control for the desired level and type of bias. Face-to-face answers are different. Regardless of the method of non-personal data collection, people simply respond differently when talking with a real survey taker. People forget facts quickly but remember feelings for a time. If you want facts, you need to ask your questions right after the event you are studying. Store intercepts were my favorite. If you want residual feelings, you can wait a day or two. Everybody is too busy to take your survey. Unless they have a gripe,… Read more »
Ralph Jacobson
BrainTrust

The OpinionLab study is now more than two years old, which is ancient history in this biz. I am seeing even more dramatic shopper sentiment today. I have talked with retailers about in-process feedback mechanisms, like asking a question about what the shopper would like to see differently on a particular page of the online shopping journey, or kiosks in a store strategically placed to ask about a particular aspect of the store’s shopping flow. These in-process surveys limited to one or two questions during the shopping trip can provide far more insights with better response rates than post-journey surveys.

Tom Dougherty
BrainTrust

Research is only good if it is not self-selecting. The stuff gleaned from those that finish a survey from the bottom of a receipt is as good as dirt. You get what you pay for and that’s what it’s worth.

If 90% of shoppers respond to this new methodology, it is an amazing opportunity. But, as soon as the incidence drops below 70%, the results will not be projectable.

Shep Hyken
BrainTrust

Sometimes a survey on a phone can be considered an intrusion. The phone is “high priced real estate.” If you can find your way onto a consumer’s phone you are just beginning to play the game. Honoring the relationship by offering a good app, easy to use, no friction, no hassle, etc. is the next step. It should be seen as a privilege to have a place on their phone, so don’t abuse it. If you’re going to ask something of the consumer through their mobile device, it better be important … to both of you. If there is no value to the consumer, you will lose them.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"The current overuse of surveys as a part of every transaction is causing shoppers to automatically avoid them."
"I agree with Jon — WIFM is what comes to mind for most surveys. Without a motivating factor, people are exponentially less inclined to answer..."
"People forget facts quickly but remember feelings for a time. If you want facts, you need to ask your questions right after the event..."

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