Making surveys work

Time for a break from politics and social analysis, and back to some talk on best practices.

I recently attended a short presentation where the speaker enthusiastically described the journey to quality by his employer, an upscale automobile dealership.  I was impressed by many of the items covered but most especially by their commitment to feedback.  Some useful data was obtained via customer surveys but the speaker said the best guidance came from focus groups.

Participants in focus groups are typically compensated for their time, so they have a high motivation to contribute.  Which led me to wonder: what do survey takers get?

Other than the satisfaction of providing important input, the answer is often “nothing”.  So I’m going to propose yet another radical idea for process and product improvement: reward those customers who turn in surveys.

Restaurants, manufacturers and other enterprises typically provide feedback cards to their customers as a courtesy.  Many do offer rewards for completing the surveys, such as entry into a random drawing for some possible prize or a discount off of future purchases, but these experiences tend to be fleeting.  In the case of consumer products, what I’m proposing is more of a collaborative customer solution that goes farther than half-price hamburgers or gift cards won by one person out of a million.

The first sort of payment that came to mind was not in terms of currency, but serviceI suggest that manufacturers and service providers reward survey participants with extensions of warranties and service agreements.

For example: say that the warranty for Product X is 12 months.  Include a registration offer that, if submitted, adds 3 more months to the product’s warranty.  In addition, if at any time during that period the customer responds to further feedback requests (such as after a service call or repair) then an additional month is added per submission.

This sort of payment does not cost the company anything in the long run, and can even serve to reduce expenses.  Participating operations will receive more responses, undoubtedly of greater use since customers have been provided a useful incentive to contribute.  If the feedback is effectively factored back into production and service processes, the natural result will be lower operating costs.  Another gain should be improved customer retention; customers who perceive that the provider truly cares about their product or service will be more likely to stay with them.

My apologies to any companies already doing this or something similar… I just haven’t seen any examples yet.  Does anyone know of any offers that fit my description?  Feedback is welcome… but sorry, no prizes!

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