1) Customer surveys to learn about a customer's profile or
2) Post-sales or post-installation surveys to gauge the buying and product installation experience as a means to measure the customer’s overall initial satisfaction.
The problem with surveys are that they don't necessarily provide accurate data and can be intrusive:
1. They interview the wrong people. In B2B, the buyer (decision maker) and end user is usually not the same person. I once received a very unhappy post-installation survey where the respondent complained that the system was too complex so I called the user immediately to get details and resolve any issues. The user received my message and passed it to his manager (the buyer). His manager was kind enough to reply and told me to take the comment with a grain of salt, sheepishly saying that the user was an older gentlemen who found technology, including his cell phone, challenging. In fact, they were waiting for him to retire so they could get someone else on the system.
2. People are too new or intimidated to answer truthfully. Some people just don’t know or haven’t had time to get familiar with the product.
3. There is a “Honeymoon” period where everything might be wonderful when a new, pretty looking product shows up. Asking 10, 30, 60, or 90 days after the initial installation will likely give you different results.
4. Personnel changes during the life of a product. The initially trained users who understood what they purchased may leave and new, less or untrained users take over blaming the product for any shortfalls – and their views will be considered during the next purchase.
5. You’re more forgiving when things are under warranty and you don’t have to pay to get it fixed.
6. On a scale of 1 to 5, some people never give 5's even if they experienced a "5". A "5" may equate in their minds to be the ultimate orgasmic experience which is hard to benchmark without more experience.
7. You don’t want to upset or offend the sales or service staff since you may have to work with them for the near future.
8. There are plenty of ways to skew the data. I once watched a Sales representative complete the survey form in the shipment with the customer – which made the customer very uncomfortable (the company moved to a third party survey service to avoid this from recurring).
9. People get tired and start making things up to finish surveys, especially long surveys. I was constantly pushed by a bank to complete a survey each time I did business with them. I didn't have the time nor wanted to share personal information. Yet, I felt bad for the bank customer representative because she admitted that no one liked it but that she had no choice because her manager mandated that she do this. So I answered the questions but just to appease them, e.g. Q: What are you saving your money for? A: To build a rocket ship to the moon. Q: How do you invest your money? A: Contraband. So how useful was that survey for anyone involved?
Surveys do have their place but you have to know when and how to use them, as well as be very careful with the results.