The Secret to Designing Surveys with Active Listening In Mind

Active listening: the practice of dedicating one's full attention to concentrating on, understanding, and remembering what another person has said. It is one thing to listen to, and then acknowledge what someone has told you, yet a wholly different experience to honestly hear what someone has said, understand their point of view, and remember their words with the original intent with which they were shared; this is what separates listeners from active listeners.

Many have dedicated great time and effort to perfecting the craft but how do you transform the skill into an actionable, measurable strategy that genuinely improves customer relationships and experience?

In an article by WayPoint Group, Dennis Dube, VP of Revenue Operations for Advance Local discussed his team's active listening strategy for strengthening customer relationships with Steve Bernstein, CEO and creator of TopBox. For their strategy, Dennis and his team identified key stages of the customer journey during which clients might need additional support from the company. They initiated a series of near-real-time surveys at these key stages to listen to their customers and learn about their experiences, collecting their feedback to efficiently assess the situation and provide the right type of support to prevent customer satisfaction from dwindling.

Though a thoughtful and useful strategy in and of itself, the real ingenuity in their approach is in how they design their process for feedback collection and analysis to wholeheartedly embody the practice of active listening.

Surveys would be great listening tools...if the the modern human was naturally inclined to dedicate precious hours of the day to rating the "ease-of-use of miscellaneous product feature x", and if it was possible to gleam comprehensive insights from a sub-set of survey respondents. In reality, leveraging surveys to improve customer experience and strengthen customer relationships can often be a challenge for two reasons: (1) Inspiring survey participation from customers is difficult in large part because the act of participating in the average survey can feel like sending a series of Likert scale responses out into the void with blind hope the universe will regurgitate something meaningful back, and (2) Yielding accurate results from a survey is not always possible when only a limited amount of survey respondents have participated.

Dennis was keenly aware of these challenges when designing his survey strategy and shared his thoughts on how to overcome them. "My big belief is that there's three primary drivers for why someone will or won't fill out a survey: fatigue, connection, and intention," said Dennis. Fatigue arises when surveys are too long and broad. Connection is determined by the pre-existing relationship the surveyor has with the survey respondent. Intention is all about the company's intention to not only understand the collected data but plan to enact change around the lessons learned. "When a customer knows there is purpose and intention in the survey, they feel that their response is time well spent."

With purpose, intent, personal connection and commitment to action, anyone can transform passive survey data collection into individual moments of active listening and meaningful engagement with their customers. How do you design surveys to actively listen to your customers?