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Stop asking questions to your customers

By 05/02/2019 June 25th, 2019 No Comments

It is a common practice for companies to ask questions to customers via surveys and questionnaires. But usually, brands want answers to questions that are not interesting from a customer perspective.

In today’s video, we will discuss what is the proper way to get the most meaningful insights from customers.


It is a common practice for companies to send out surveys and questionnaires to their clients. You can think of the ones that you receive via email after a flight, after you rent a car, or after you purchase something online. Usually, in these emails, there is a link that redirects you to a long and predetermined list of questions. Another possibility is that the link in the email redirects us to a page where we need to give a score to the company, and then fill in a survey. In this case, I am referring to the NPS or Net promoter score. We’ll dive into this later…but basically brands use it to determine how likely you are to recommend them to someone else.

So, let’s summarise it. You have an experience with a brand, you receive an email with a link to a long list of questions. In some of these surveys, you are also asked to evaluate whether you would recommend the brand to others and put it on a scale from zero to ten.

I would like to talk about the questions first. One thing that companies should always protect is our freedom. As a customer, I want to say whatever I want, in the form that I like the most and in the time that’s more convenient for me. So, the fact, that a company asks me to tell them what they want to know, and not to hear what I would voluntarily say it’s already building a wall between us.

On average customers talk about 2-3 aspects when they freely comment about an experience with a product or service. So when I see surveys with ten or more questions I immediately ask myself why should I talk about something that I wouldn’t normally mention.

The big problem here is that brands want answers to questions that are not interesting from a customer perspective. Companies want us to judge on certain topics, without knowing if these topics are relevant for us or not. So, if you work at a company that sends out surveys with, let’s say, five or more questions in them, you are adding a lot of bias to the answers. It is much better not to know what customers think about a topic, rather than receiving a misleading answer. Isn’t it?

Some time ago I was judging at the international Consumer experience awards here in Amsterdam, and I asked a manager of a big company why he was sending out these surveys with 10 questions. He told me that each of the stakeholders that put together the budget for the project wanted at least to one or two specific questions in it. Maybe a part of their bonus was connected to the performance related to these answers…who knows?!

This was just an example of how you, as a manager, can easily add bias and compromise the understanding of your customers, making the investment a waste of money and time.

Earlier in this video we spoke about the Net promoter score…well the so-called NPS usually lies on top of all the questions of these surveys and it’s a score between 0 and 10. It is supposed to determine how likely we would recommend the product or the experience to someone else. So, not only brands are asking us to give answers on topics that we don’t care about, but they are also asking us to imagine how we would behave with others. It’s pretty clear that this would add even more bias to the result, isn’t it?

You may say, Ok Riccardo, you are telling me that asking questions is wrong, that asking customers to imagine what they would do in the future is also wrong….but then, what can I do to make it right?

The answer is simple, however, it comes with some technical challenges: you have to ask your customers only one question that is: Can you please tell me whatever you want about your experience with us?

By doing this you give freedom to the respondent. Customers can finally say what they want, when they want, in the form they like the best. You cannot force them to tell you what you want to hear if they don’t want to say it. If you respect customers, they will provide you with the most meaningful insights.

In fact, as a manager, your goal shouldn’t be to put together the best questions but to find the best way to interpret the free opinions that will come your way. How to do this? Not easy, but I promise, I’ll make some videos about it. If you don’t want to miss them, please subscribe to my channel.

Read about why market research alone is not enough anymore here.

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