Customer surveys have traditionally been one of the most widely used tools for conducting market research, measuring user satisfaction and, in general, for managing customer experience.

However, for several years its usefulness has been increasingly questioned. Let’s see why this happens and what alternatives we can find for better customer experience management.

Why are customer surveys not working?

Or rather: why don’t customer surveys work like they used to?

Without a doubt, we could find multiple reasons for this, but the most important are the following:

  1. They are excessively long and tedious. Most customer surveys require considerable dedication on the part of the user, often exceeding 20 minutes in duration. Undoubtedly,  customers are unwilling to spend that much time conducting a satisfaction survey or market research. What’s more, those customers who are willing to do so will surely not be representative of the “normal” users of your products.
  2. The market is increasingly complex. Customer survey systems were born in a radically different environment than today. Today, the way to buy is different, the options are virtually endless, and the market is much more dynamic and unpredictable than ever. If we try to include all these variables in a comprehensive study, we run the risk that the survey will be even longer and more complex than usual.
  3. They are not designed for the mobile environment. At present, Internet access is mostly done from mobile devices. However, most surveys are not intended or optimized for such an environment, both by duration and by design.

As a consequence of all this, surveys are less and less used by companies and have much lower response rates than those that were common just a few years ago. And the fact is that the incentives offered to users do not usually work as expected, since many times the client tries to complete the survey as quickly and easily as possible, even at the cost of its accuracy or fidelity.

Alternatives to traditional customer surveys

Therefore, when it comes to improving our customer experience management, it is highly recommended to use alternative systems to the traditional satisfaction survey.

In this sense, we can identify some alternative ways of approaching the evaluation of the customer experience:

  • Conversational approach and recurring questionnaires. It is about replacing the usual long surveys with short questions that are addressed to the customer on different occasions. In addition, the company can try to react to the customer’s response by establishing a dialogue that can lead to a conversation that is useful for the company and interesting for the user.
  • “Instant” surveys.Here we mean asking customers questions at the time that an activity related to the product or service is being carried out. For example, right after completing the purchase of a product, while using an application, etc. This approach has the advantage of being time-consuming and, moreover, it is usually very reliable because the experience is still “fresh”.
  • Direct observation. With the rise of artificial intelligence and Big Data, we can obtain invaluable information without having to ask our clients questions. By simply observing your behavior, collecting information from thousands of transactions and analyzing it afterwards, we will be able to draw a very complete and reliable picture of your experience in a non-invasive way.


How to use surveys to improve the customer experience

Despite what we’ve said, customer surveys can still be a valid tool today, as long as we put them through a thorough review. It will simply be necessary to take into account certain recommendations and avoid a series of errors that usually accompany this type of initiative.

In this way, we can point out the following aspects that must be taken into consideration for a good use of surveys in customer experience management:

  • The purpose of the survey should be clearly defined. Depending on these objectives, one system or another will be used, different metrics and KPIs will be used, the most appropriate questions will be designed, etc.
  • The results should not be prejudged or made from erroneous assumptions. Otherwise we could be missing crucial questions that we think we know the answer to, or leaving out a certain demographic on the basis of incorrect premises.
  • Optimize the length of the survey. As we have said, long surveys are very ineffective for evaluating customer experience. However, you should not fall into the opposite extreme and carry out incomplete surveys or those that imply biased results.
  • Avoid confusing questions. They should be written as clearly and unequivocally as possible, preventing misinterpretation or doubts about what is really being asked.
  • An inappropriate tone should not be adopted. The survey should be written in a manner consistent with the tone used by the company in all its interactions with its customers. Nor should we forget to adopt an empathic attitude with the user that favors fluent communication.
  • Combine different types of questions. As long as it is consistent with the initially defined objectives, it is highly recommended to employ different strategies in collecting information. For example, use multiple choice questions, assessment questions on a scale and open questions. In this sense, open questions are a great opportunity to access information that is difficult to collect through predefined options.


In short, customer surveys, in their traditional conception, are no longer a valid tool for managing the customer experience. Today we have many other options to evaluate the satisfaction of the users of our products or services in a more agile and reliable way.

However, we should not completely discard this tool either, as it can continue to be useful as long as it is used in the correct way, as we have already seen.


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