Feedback Surveys: Your Early Warning System

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Posted Jul 19, 2011
Kathryn Korostoff

Usually when we think of an early warning system, we visualize the military detecting an incoming missile or the weather service warning of possible tornadoes. Why not apply the same concept to your business? Wouldn’t it be great to know, early on, how that latest website update or new store layout is working for your customers? Wouldn’t it be useful to find out about changes in satisfaction with your customer service reps or product quality as soon as they occur? An early warning system can be a powerful business tool, and one of the easiest ways to implement one is through customer feedback surveys.

A feedback survey differs from a traditional customer satisfaction survey in two significant ways:

  • Lengthusually just three to seven questions. Customer satisfaction surveys generally measure satisfaction with a wide range of issues and as a result tend to be fairly lengthy. A feedback survey is intended to be fast. It's generally provided immediately after a purchase, support call, or visit (whether a brick-and-mortar location, or web site).
  • Immediacyoften immediately after an event or transaction. A feedback survey is an excellent early warning system because it allows you to get quick customer feedback before memory of the experience fades. In contrast, customer satisfaction data is usually collected on a monthly, quarterly, or even on an annual basis. If you're using the AYTM platform to conduct a feedback survey, this would be called our ListSurvey. That is, you would craft a standard feedback survey and would share it via URL as appropriate with your customers.

Customer Feedback Survey Examples

Let's talk about a couple quick examples. With a purchase feedback survey you might ask a few questions about their most recent purchase experience. They just bought your product and you want to know if they were satisfied with its quality, reliability, and maybe even its aesthetic appeal. For a technology-related product, you might ask about ease of installation, setup, or configuration. If the transaction was made at a store, you might ask about their satisfaction with the support and assistance they got from your in store staff, and if you sold the product online you might ask a question about their experience using your shopping cart application. Very short, very quick.

Apple Feedback Surveys

How about a web site feedback example? Here you can ask people who have recently visited your web site about ease of navigation, or their ability to find the product they sought. If you’re interested in their impression of your site’s visual appeal, ask how they would describe your web site (not at all visually appealing to very visually appealing; not easy to use to very easy to use). Giving them ranges is a good, unbiased way of getting feedback. You might also ask, “How likely are you to visit our web site again in the next 30 days?”, or whatever timeframe is relevant for your business.

A “best practice” tip here; always include one open-ended question in a feedback survey. “Is there anything we could have done to improve your purchase experience?” or “Is there anything we could do to improve your satisfaction with our company?” Asking an open-ended question is a golden opportunity to hear feedback you might never get otherwise.

Feedback on Feedback Surveys

Feedback surveys can be a great early warning system for your business. By being brief, you maximize responses and minimize the dreaded “drop outs”, to ensure that you're getting enough information to identify problems early on. In addition, by collecting ongoing feedback rather than doing it on a monthly, quarterly or annual basis, you'll get timely information. Even if you're only getting five or ten survey responses a week, it can be very powerful to know that this week you got more negative feedback than the previous one. Something happened. Now you can focus on correcting it before more customers have a negative experience.


The feedback survey is meant to be a fast hit, early warning system. It’s a great way of identifying quickly that there may be a problem before it spreads. Just like the Department of Defense or the National Weather Service, only when we know there’s a problem can we look for ways to address it.

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