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The Shortcomings of Comment-Based Surveys

Comment-based surveys can be effective for immediately gathering feedback from customers. And when it comes to customer experience (CX), timeliness can make or break an organization’s ability to act on that feedback.

However, there are several arenas in which brands use comment-based surveys when another survey type would yield better intelligence. Today, I’d like to dive into several shortcomings that can make using comment-based surveys challenging for brands, as well as a few potential solutions for those challenges. Let’s get started.

Outlet-Level Analysis

As I discussed in my recent article on this subject, comment-based surveys are often less effective than other survey types for conducting outlet-level analysis. In other words, while brands can see how well stores, bank branches, and the like are performing generally, they usually can’t determine where individual outlets need to improve .

The reason for this has as much to do with the feedback customers leave as the survey design itself. From what I’ve seen across decades of research, customers rarely discuss more than 1-2 topics in their comments. Yes, customers may touch upon many topics as a group, but rarely are most or even a lot of those topics covered by singular comments.

What all of this ultimately means for brands using comment-based surveys to gauge outlet effectiveness is that the feedback they receive is almost always spread thin. The intelligence customers submit via this route can potentially cover many performance categories, but there’s usually not that much depth to it, making it difficult for brands to identify the deep-rooted problems or process breakages that they need to address at the unit level if they want to improve experiences.

(Un)helpful Feedback

Another reason that brands can only glean so much from comment-based surveys at the outlet level is that, much of the time, customers only provide superficial comments like:“good job”, “it was terrible”, and the immortally useless “no comment.” In other words, comment-based surveys can be where specificity goes to die.

Obviously, there’s not a whole lot that the team(s) running a brand’s experience improvement program can do with information that vague. Comments like these contain no helpful observations about what went right (or wrong) with the experience that the customer is referring to. The only solution to this problem is for brands to be more direct with their surveys and ask for feedback on one process or another directly.

How to Improve Comment-Based Surveys

These shortcomings are among the biggest reasons brands should be careful about trying to use comment-based surveys to diagnose processes, identify employee coaching opportunities, and seeing how well outlets are adhering to organization-wide policies and procedures. However, none of this means that comment-based surveys should be abandoned. In fact, there’s a solution to these surveys’ relative lack of specificity.

Brands can encourage their customers to provide better intelligence via multimedia feedback. Options like video and image feedback enable customers to express themselves in their own terms while also giving organizations much more to work with than comment-based surveys can typically yield. Multimedia feedback can thus better allow brands to see how their regional outlets are performing, diagnose processes, and provide a meaningfully improved experience for their customers.

Click here to read my Point of View article on comment-based surveys. I take a deeper dive into when they’re effective, when they’re not, and how to use them to achieve transformational success.

About Author

Dave Ensing, Ph.D. VP, Research Consulting

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