By Chris Cardinal
On November 30th, 2009
Netflix is a company built entirely around efficiency. When you deal with the volume Netflix does, every penny, every action, every little detail counts immensely. Take their mailer: Over the years, it has evolved from a cardboard-backed affair, to a paper-based piece with a foam insert, to today’s design: thin, simple paper. (They determined the breakage rates didn’t decrease enough with the padding to make it cost-effective.)
It’s no surprise then that they’d take the time to get surveys right. Netflix (like most companies trying to make a profit) has a need for constant feedback from their customers. They want to know how their distribution system is working, where there may be bottlenecks, and other things like how their new instant streaming service is performing. Instead of producing staid, time-consuming, multi-page affairs, they send an email with a single question.
In my most recent survey, that question read “How was the picture and audio quality?” Simple enough. The real stroke of genius lies in how the user is asked to respond: Three links are displayed, each with a different quality option: “The quality was very good”, acceptable, or unacceptable. You click the link and your survey response is sent. Done. That’s all there is to it.
The survey requires exactly one click to respond to. Users aren’t asked to login, fill out demographic data, attempt to remember details they aren’t likely to, or even read anything to qualify their answer. They are given three relatively unambiguous options and clicking the link from within the email submits their response.
Since not every company has the luxury of being able to boil their customer feedback loop down into simple multiple choice questions, let’s look at a few key points almost anyone can replicate:
- Keep it simple. Remember that users value their time, and while they may like to let you know what they think of your company and how you’re doing, they may simply not have the time. Focus on a few measurements that can be easily procured and ask just a couple of questions. Consider anything else an imposition for the sake of a casual survey.
- Don’t require a login. If your users have accounts with you, don’t require them to login to complete their survey. Include a hash tag unique to the individual survey in every call to action link and compile your results from that. Every additional step a user has to complete is another hoop that will encourage them to close their browser and forget about responding. Remember that when you consider adding a confirmation screen, for instance.
- Provide a call to action. Even if you can’t find a way to boil a survey down into a completely self-contained piece like Netflix does, provide the user with an initial call to action. Have them answer a single question up front, and present the user with an optional means to supply more information based on their response. In the Netflix example, the user might be prompted to explain the issue if they mark the quality as unacceptable.
- Require as little data entry as possible. This goes back to items one and two: every next step or request for additional information is an opportunity to frustrate your user. In order to ensure the highest quality data, don’t give your users those opportunities to jump ship.
- Allow users to opt-out or set email frequencies. Don’t abuse users with surveys, or you’ll find they’re no longer users. Provide an unsubscribe link that does the work for them so that they can go back to enjoying your service and so that you don’t frustrate them.
- Keep the design simple, too. More than just the format of the survey itself, consider paring the design down dramatically. If you’re emailing the survey, the user shouldn’t have to activate images to make a selection. A logo, a border, and some simple elements that tie your corporate color scheme in are acceptable, but making the entire email HTML-based is yet another barrier for users to hit when they may have otherwise completed your survey.
- Provide context. Users love to know they’re making a difference. While it may seem obvious, just mentioning that you’re issuing the survey as a means of proactively enhancing their experience can go a long way. Feel free to let some personality come through, but don’t forget to keep it simple overall. The less users have to read, the better your response rate will be.
- Say “thank you.” This may seem like a no-brainer, but since the user will be directed to a page upon clicking your call to action/survey response link, make sure you thank them and provide them with options to navigate back to your site if they so desire.
Even with these tenets in mind, you may find it difficult to break out of the mold and build surveys based around such narrow data points. Consider it an exercise in analyzing what really makes your customers happy and what makes your business tick. Think a bit outside the box and consider: If you can only ask your customers one question about their experience with you, (a multiple-choice at that!) what would it be? Remember that you can rotate questions around of course, but start there.
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