Online surveys – what not to do

I’ve often found online surveys vaguely annoying…but I just received 3 emails in the last 2 days to please fill out a survey. One I filled out, and the other two I did not. But based on all this, I have some suggestions for those of you who might see fit to survey your customers in the future.

1. Tell me how long it’s going to take. Even better, tell me exactly how many questions there will be. As much as I’d like to, I just don’t have time to spend 15 minutes on your survey.

2. Don’t ask me the same question 3 different ways just to see if I’m consistent. That might be great for a personality profile or something, but remember, I’m not spending 15 minutes on this.

3. If you really, really want me to take the survey, offer me something. I’m a sucker for free stuff. And a drawing probably won’t do it.

If you mess this up, there are some pretty dire consequences. I might have had a great experience with your hotel or whatever – but if your survey is annoying, that damages the memory I have.

At the end of the day, I want to give you feedback. I really do. But you’ve got to make it easy.

Hertz sent me a survey that I didn’t mind doing, took me 60 seconds, and the company got some useful feedback. Here is the opening paragraph in the email (and frankly, I’m not likely to get too far past that first paragraph, so tell me what you want quickly):

As a valued customer, we would appreciate your taking a moment to complete this brief four-question Customer Satisfaction Survey regarding your recent rental at SEATTLE TACOMA AP. Your comments will help us gauge how well we performed on your rental and will enable us to enhance your rental service.

“four-question” is the part that got me to click. Sure, I’ve got time for 4 questions. Like I said, 60 seconds and I was done.

Here’s a bad example, from the Edgewater hotel in Seattle – which was very nice, by the way, until I got to the survey.

First page:

What was the main purpose of your stay with us?
How was your reservation made?
Why did you choose this property?

Ok, easy enough. Second page:

How would you rate your Overall Satisfaction as a guest of this property?
How likely are you to stay with us if you are in the same area again?
How likely are you to recommend us to a friend or colleague planning to visit the area?

Then we go downhill…third page has 10 questions, all looking for ratings. I let out a sigh, but I even completed this page, with the following items:

Overall reservation experience
Overall check-in experience
Overall appearance and condition of property
Overall guest room quality
Overall guest room comfort
Overall staff friendliness and professionalism
Overall meeting/conference experience
Overall food and beverage experience
Overall check-out experience
Overall value for price paid

And then, the straw that broke the camel’s back. The next page asks the following:

Please rate the following regarding your experience with the reservation process (followed by 3 subitems asking for feedback on specific parts of the reservation process)

Please rate the following regarding your check-in experience (with 6 subparts).

I recognize a pattern by this point. Of the 10 items on the 3rd page, of which I already gave responses to, it appears they are now going to go through every one of those and ask for more details. So now I assume I’ve got at LEAST 5 more pages of the survey to go through, and each is probably going to have 10 questions, and who knows how much more stuff after that, and I’ve got to tell you…

I just don’t care enough to fill this all out.

So I quit. And now I’ve wasted the time I took to fill out the first few pages, AND you got no useful data. Nobody won.

I started out with a pleasant experience at the hotel, service was excellent, etc…but I’m just oing to take 15 minutes or so to fill out your unknown-length survey in excrutiating detail.

So I wrote this blog post instead. :-)

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