Are Satisfaction Surveys Worth It?

Online reviews

No… well, OK maybe just one question… let me explain…

This is going to be controversial. It even took me a while to get here. After all I came up in a world where everyone received a post-stay survey. We had metrics and property rankings attached to them, a high degree of internal pride was derived from how well we were doing, a percentage of our yearly bonuses were tied to the results and your performance as a manager was (in some part) attached to your department or overall score.

That said, times have changed and it’s no secret that review sites are plentiful. In fact, review sites are becoming OTA’s, OTA’s are becoming review sites and there are even SEO implications attached to how well your business scores and responds to customer reviews.

With the changing times, if you’re still sending out stand-alone satisfaction surveys asking for feedback on every aspect of a customers’ stay, what information are you really trying to collect that you’re not getting from:

  1. Online reviews

  2. Talking to your customers while they’re on site

Post-stay reviews are lag indicators. They tell you how you did AFTER the fact, and usually when it’s too late to positively impact a bad experience. If you’re waiting until surveys come in to find out what people are saying, you can’t possibly expect to move the needle in any significant or consistent way. You’ll be playing catch up every time.

Talking to your customers and solving problems before they walk out the door is the best way to impact customer sentiment. You need to have a strong practice of engaging with customers and collecting feedback while they’re on site. While online review sites are also historically lag indicators, it’s now commonplace forcustomers to post in real time on review sites (including Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc.) for“in the moment” style feedback. Your engagement on these platforms is crucial to emotionally engaging with customers and develop a solid community.

Before you outline a whole list rebutting the last few paragraphs… yes, you can get pretty granular with specific questions on any aspect of an experience but I would bet that:

  1. Your survey engagement is declining

  2. There isn’t much actionable feedback coming in

  3. People are unsubscribing (or disengaging) from your business emails due to inbox overload

  4. Your online review rankings are suffering

  5. A combination of two or more of these is happening

Old habits are hard to break and I can hear the arguments supporting stand-alone reviews ringing in my head as I write this, but success is largely dictated by evolving and growing with the changing times and that means challenging how things have “always been done” because there might be a better way if you’re willing to look for it.

Taking Action on Online Reviews

Your engagement with online reviews has to be strong, not only because this is where most customers are interacting but also because your competitors are all over it. The longer you wait, the further behind you’ll be. Constantly changing review site algorithms and clunky, inconsistent review site processes in your own business will have you chasing your “I can’t believe they’re ahead of us” competitors.

Asking customers for online reviews, responding to and engaging with customers on those platforms and ensuring your business listings are up to date and accurate are priority level 1 items today because THIS is where people are shopping. You know where people aren’t shopping? Private, closed reviews that no one sees. This is a transparency play. Authenticity with your customers is what counts.

That One Question

If you’re insistent on sending a post stay survey, there is one question that can provide you with insights that are difficult to extract from typical online reviews.The Net Promoter Score(NPS) can be used to gauge customer loyalty to your business. It’s just one question that asks, on a scale of 1-10,how likely acustomer is to recommend your business to a friend or colleague. We have a detailed post on NPS here if you want to learn more about it.

However, it’s not perfect; in fact, there are some strong arguments against it.

Research by Keiningham, Cooil, Andreassen and Aksoy disputes that the Net Promoter metric is the best predictor of company growth. More on that hereBob Hayes stated that the "likelihood to recommend" question does not measure anything different from other conventional loyalty-related questions”. It’s also been said here by Birgit Leisen Pollack that NPS fails to predict loyalty behaviors. "Recommend intention alone will not suffice as a single predictor of customers' future loyalty behaviors.”

What does all of this mean? Well, as with anything, it’s easy to find fault in methodology and application. Your job, at the end of the day is to find the best tool to get the information you need in order to make the best decisions and take the best actions. No one will recommend your business if they didn’t have a good experience but the reverse is also true. Knowledge of customerexperience and likelihood of loyalty gained through either their intentionality to recommend your business to their friends or colleagues or through the social proof tools of online reviews, or a combination of the two, are very strong indicators of how well you’re doing. You’ve got to fish where the fish are, and that means engaging with customers on the platforms where they are spending their time… and that isn’t in their email inbox.