Survey says! More harm than good?

RICE (US) — Though designed to enhance customer experiences, post-service customer surveys might actually harm a business’s relationships with consumers.

Companies that use immediate follow-up customer surveys or multiple follow-up surveys may open themselves to negative consequences, a new study finds.

Customers who were satisfied with the specific service they received may jump to the conclusion that the service was comprehensive so they don’t need to return in the near future for other services.

“Even when customers express high levels of satisfaction, the inferences they make from answering such questions could have the adverse effect of delaying their next purchase for businesses,” says Utpal Dholakia, associate professor of management at Rice University.

The study is published in the Journal of Service Research.

The findings are important to service-oriented businesses, because the industry typically uses a significant amount of their marketing-research budget on customer-satisfaction surveys, that collect data on customers, such as types of service used, name, e-mail, phone, address, and customer history.

To combat the delay of repeat business that surveys create, Dholakia says, companies should consider offering their customers an attractive coupon redeemable only within a certain period, or free services on the next post-survey visit, to stimulate customers to come back sooner.

“After conducting service-experience surveys, companies should make sure that they have a plan in place to counter any of their negative effects. It is important for the company to better understand what inferences customers make from survey participation,” Dholakia says.

While the study found these pitfalls of post-service customer surveys, in the long run surveys do work for service-oriented businesses.

“In our study, although customers delayed their very next service visit to the company’s stores, over the longer term, they came back more frequently and were more likely to redeem the company’s coupons,” Dholakia says.

“In the long run, surveys have net positive effects on customer behavior.”

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