6 Ways to Generate More Customer Survey Responses by Reducing Friction

by SmileBack
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11 min read

Capturing customer feedback enables you to vastly improve the customer experience. Specifically, tracking Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) and Net Promoter Score (NPS) data allows you to: 

  • Measure customer satisfaction on day-to-day interactions and experiences
  • Identify the root cause of customer issues or successes on a relational scale
  • Gain valuable social proof
  • Significantly increase customer loyalty and retention rates
  • Improve your QBRs
  • Bring in higher quality referrals

But in order to drive real value, you need to consistently elicit survey responses—and that’s easier said than done. 

You can’t simply set it and forget it and expect your customers to meaningfully engage. Rather, the best practice is to follow a comprehensive strategy to empower your clients to respond. 

They need to know why feedback is important in the first place and how it will improve your business partnership (e.g. client participation helps us provide better service to you). We cannot emphasize enough how centering the customer experience every step of the way will pay dividends in this process. 

Additionally, your surveys should be simple, easy to action, and consistent. Read on for the six ways to generate more survey responses from your customers. 

Table of contents

  1. Leverage a feedback platform built for MSPs
  2. Map the customer journey
  3. Introduce your feedback tool internally 
  4. Build a communication strategy
  5. Make it easy for customers to see and use your survey 
  6. Put customer success front and center

1. Leverage a feedback platform built for MSPs

Feedback specialists that understand the MSP customer journey, and are focused exclusively on customer satisfaction, are best positioned to help you capture the feedback you crave.

That’s because specialized platforms, such as SmileBack, live and breathe the MSP customer experience. We’ve run MSPs, so we understand the customer journey, which gives us unique insights into how and when to deploy surveys to maximize engagement.

Importantly, data backs this up. The numbers vary based on survey type and distribution channel (i.e. email or in-app), but broadly the average survey response rate is between 5% and 30%. For NPS surveys, it’s closer to 20% or higher. 

At SmileBack, our customers experience an average response rate of 42%. Further, many of our customers report seeing significantly higher response rates compared to their previous platform, especially if they moved from the inbuilt survey offered by their PSA software.

For example, Somerbys IT, a small MSP that serves clients across the UK, has seen customer review response rates increase from around 10% to an average of 45%

Further, Eyetech LTD, an MSP providing IT services to clients across Malta, Italy, and North Africa also reported a low 2% with their previous feedback system. With SmileBack, the response rate shot up to 25% in one week

Feedback platforms built for MSPs know what it takes to get the job done. One of those key facets is transparency, so if you’re curious about our trade secrets, keep reading.

2. Map the customer journey

A business go-to-market strategy helps you understand how you will successfully move from ideation to sales and revenue. Without one, you’re shooting in the dark and hoping to hit a moving target.

The same is true when it comes to deploying a customer feedback tool. Subscribing to a tool and turning it on without careful planning, strategizing, and execution will likely disappoint. 

Instead, treat your customer feedback system as a new product launch. To start, map every relevant customer touchpoint to gain a deep understanding of the customer journey. This includes:

  • Pre-Contract. At this stage, common touchpoints are email marketing, lead generation & landing pages, search & SEO, social proof, referrals, etc.
  • Onboarding. Here, we see contracts, training, customer portals, SLAs, invoices, and so on.
  • Post-Contract. With the deal signed, sealed, and delivered, you move into customer service, reporting & dashboards, billing, add-ons, optimizations, QBRs, renewal, and growth.

It’s key to map out exactly how your customers move through this funnel. This allows you to gauge opportunities for introducing surveys via the right channel, at the right time, in order to increase your chances of generating a response.

For example, in the onboarding phase, you’re just starting to develop a relationship with your client. At this point, depending on your unique customer journey, it may make sense to turn on CSAT surveys and begin to capture individual ticket metrics. But, it would not make any sense to turn on NPS surveys at this point, as those questions focus on the business relationship on a larger scale.

If you aren’t aware of how to use CSAT and NPS data to improve the customer experience, you may get trigger happy and turn everything on at the start. This could turn your customer off, especially if they weren’t warned it was coming (we’ll dive into that in more detail shortly).

The takeaway? Understand the customer journey and apply your surveys at the optimal moments. 

3. Introduce your feedback tool internally 

Next, your team needs to understand the value of your surveys so that they’re motivated to get your clients on board. After all, your employees are your army of representatives, and their thoughts and feelings on your service will shine through in customer communications (intentional or otherwise).

If they’re not jazzed about a task you’re giving them, it’s likely because they don’t understand its value. To combat this, you need to get them excited about administering and responding to customer feedback.

Build and manage protocols and training 

To start, render training on how the surveys work to ensure there are no misunderstandings. 

For example, just as your customers will eventually need to learn the difference between CSAT and NPS data, your team needs to hear the pitch, too. We like to say that CSAT is like a date that represents specific actions or moments, whereas NPS represents the relationship at large. Have fun with your explanations to ensure you’re humanizing this otherwise methodical practice.

Once they understand the basics, dive into the specifics of how the surveys work, such as what your team’s role will be in administration and response management, general SLAs for response times, and so on.

Drive home the value of both positive and negative feedback

At this point, it’s also critical to explain that negative feedback is equally, if not more, valuable than positive feedback. That’s because negative feedback gives you a chance to learn, optimize, and grow, whereas positive feedback acts as more of a reinforcement of what’s working well.

While positive comments are great for morale boosting and auditing purposes, it’s impractical to assume your systems aren’t flawed in one way or another. A system breakdown can stem from human, technological, or process-related inconsistencies. Capturing the moments when something breaks, in real-time, will help you to:

  • Fix the problem at speed
  • Identify the root cause of the issue and build a patch
  • Optimize processes to ensure it doesn’t happen again
  • Rethink a strategy or system and update it need be
  • Remain transparent with your client to ensure a positive customer experience (and prove that you care)

But in order for any of the above to work, your team must feel empowered to collect and take action on negative feedback, rather than shy away from it. Ignoring negative feedback is the fastest way to break trust and degrade relationships. 

Build excitement through gamification

To boost interest, you can also experiment with gamification, such as introducing team-wide competitions to reward the rep who gets the most or best results in any given timeframe. You can also display the reporting dashboard in a public place so that everybody can see the scores in real-time.

Healthy competition is a great incentivizer, but if you do go down this route, make sure that gamification isn’t the only driver. That’s because the excitement around a new game will eventually fizzle out, and when it does, your team will need to rely on their understanding of the value behind surveys in the first place.

4. Build a communication strategy

Now that your team is briefed, trained, and excited, it’s time to get your customers on board. Similar to how you trained your team, your need to build and implement a strategy that informs your clients about the surveys and encourages them to respond.

Here’s a breakdown of what you should ensure your client understands:

  • Why you are running surveys in the first place
  • The difference between the survey types 
  • When and where they can expect to receive each survey type
  • What’s in it for them 

In other words, how these surveys will help you to improve your service, job performance, and offerings as well as their customer experience (which all work to ensure you are continuously doing a great job and following through on your original service agreement).

Again, make sure to explain to your customers the importance of collecting both positive and negative feedback. This will prevent them from unintentionally shying away from being honest about your service, processes, or team behavior. Drive home the need for transparency and truth-telling, good or bad, or else the quality of the feedback you collect may not represent reality.

From there, dive into the various survey types and their key differentiators so that they understand why you are asking for diversified responses. In that outreach, make sure to explain how the surveys will look, where they’ll pop up, and what they’ll need to do to complete them.

For example, here’s a templated email for notifying your customer about upcoming CSAT surveys:

Subject: Introducing quick and easy service surveys

Body:

Dear [contact first name],

We want to let you know that we’ve just implemented a one-question survey to all closed support tickets. Now, at the close of each issue, you’ll receive an email letting you know that we’ve completed your ticket.

In that email, you will see a set of three smiley faces ranging from happy to sad. We would really appreciate it if  you’d let us know how we did by selecting the one that most represents your experience. It’ll only take a second! You’ll then be able to leave a comment if you’d like to detail the reasons behind your rating.

This will help us to ensure that you’re satisfied at the end of every service ticket and that we’re offering you the best possible service.

All the best,

[your company]

Once you’ve ironed out the foundational basics, make sure to develop a communication strategy that not only engages your clients upon implementation of the surveys but also revisits the topic on some level of cadence. 

Similar to how you’ll need to reinvigorate your team if and when their motivation lags, you need to re-engage and reinvigorate your clients around the value of providing regular feedback. After all, collecting responses at a 35% rate in the first month is fantastic but worth little in the long run if the succeeding months steadily decline.

Like most things in life, consistency is key. Build an ongoing communication plan (e.g. newsletters, campaign emails, social media posts, etc.) and use that to periodically remind customers about the survey. This will help to gently nudge them towards a habit of leaving survey responses and assures feedback is always top of mind. 

5. Make it easy for customers to see and use your survey 

To start, get ahead of any technical barrier to survey delivery. 

For example, to improve email deliverability, it’s best to give your feedback platform permission to send emails from your company’s domain. Setting up a custom domain will help to ensure your emails don’t end up in the SPAM folder. It also means your customers will recognize the email domain, making them more likely to open and take the survey.

Top Tip: To learn more about how to set up SmileBack surveys to improve email deliverability, read our help center article on getting more reviews. If you’d like more personalized tips and information, book a free consultation call with our Customer Success team.

Besides technical best practices, here are a few other tips to reduce friction and boost response rates:

  • Use responsive email templates. 81% of people prefer to open emails on their mobile device, so it’s imperative that your email loads properly on both desktop and mobile.
  • Reduce visual content. Along the same vein, because so many emails are opened on mobile, too much visual clutter will make it difficult to scroll. This could result in your clients losing interest, fast. Even on a desktop, you want your survey to stand out above all else, so keep all other visual elements to a minimum.
  • Place the survey at the top of your email so it stands out. Getting your customers to open your email is a big win, so don’t ruin it by waffling. Instead, get straight to the point and lead with your survey. This way, they can complete it in a few clicks and then read on if they desire. 
  • Make sure it’s not text-heavy. If you overwhelm your email with text, your clients may overlook the survey or miss it altogether. Notice the theme? Lead with the survey, reduce visuals, limit the text. The point of a survey email is for your customers to take action—it doesn’t need to be any more complicated than that.
  • Highlight why they should leave feedback. As we touched on above, you have to constantly remind your customers why you are asking them to take time out of their day to do this for you. If they forget the value-drivers, they’ll lose motivation. Add a short sentence that explains that their feedback will help you learn, grow, and consistently improve your service. 
  • Remind them of the survey before closing tickets. Of course, emails aren’t the only channel to deploy surveys. CSAT surveys live predominantly in tickets, so it’s smart to get your support and help desk agents to remind clients each and every time a ticket closes to leave feedback. This way, they’ll come to expect the reminder and build the habit of clicking a smiley face before leaving.  

6. Put customer success front and center

As we stated at the outset, centering the customer experience is the most important factor in reducing friction and eliciting more survey responses. Here are a few ways to demonstrate that customer feedback always matters.

Share client reports

One of the easiest ways to share the survey results with your clients is through client reports. You can share these reports as often as you like, but monthly or quarterly often does the trick.

This not only keeps feedback at the top of your client’s mind, it actually proves its value through cold, hard data.

For example, leveraging customer feedback data helps you ace QBRs and engender meaningful conversations. With data in hand, you can give your clients a deep dive into exactly how you’ve helped them thus far and identify ways to further support them moving forward. 

By showing, rather than simply telling, you’re effectively nurturing your client relationships by building trust. They don’t need to take your word for it—they can see the results with their own eyes. This takes the guesswork out of the conversation and works to personalize these key meetings. 

Promote survey responses through social proof

With your client’s permission, you can share your feedback responses to Google reviews or your website to promote how strong your relationships are. 

This allows your customers to become inadvertent advocates for your brand, which will likely increase their loyalty. 

Why? Because publicly sharing feedback works to build partnerships. As opposed to a one-sided relationship in which the results aren’t widely shared, public feedback is a mutual effort that involves group participation. This give-and-take builds trust, which puts you in the fast lane towards loyalty.

Plus, sharing your customer’s responses gives them a promotional boost that can help them stand out from the crowd. 

Engage in positive reinforcement

Finally, the best way to demonstrate your commitment is to respond to clients with immediate and meaningful action, especially around negative feedback. You need to consistently demonstrate back to your clients the value for them in responding to your surveys.

As we mentioned above, negative feedback, though daunting, can actually prove more valuable than positive feedback. That’s because when something goes off the rails, there’s likely a bug in your system. This could range from an actual technical bug to a broken workflow or a misunderstood SLA. 

No matter the reason, immediately following up on negative feedback shows that you care. If you only respond to positive feedback, your clients will learn quickly that you aren’t actually interested in what they are saying. This could degrade your relationship and jeopardize your contract.

Instead, make it a point to respond to all feedback swiftly, no matter the type. This helps to build an all feedback is created equal mantra both internally and with your client’s. Most importantly, it shows that you actually care.

Wrapping up

In order to generate more survey responses, you need to think strategically. The worst thing you can do is subscribe to a system and never put further thought into it. 

Instead, follow the best practices laid out in this guide, starting with centering the customer experience above all. From there, it’s all about building out processes and workflows that get your team and clients alike excited about your feedback tool and ready to engage. 

In short order, you’ll be well on your way to collecting consistent survey responses and leveling up your MSP. 

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