This article was originally published on Forbes.
As company decisions increasingly become data- and customer-driven, it’s tempting to go into feedback overdrive and attempt to collect as much data as you can get your hands on. But asking for too much feedback can actually have harmful effects, such as a decline in response rates or lower-quality feedback. Ironically, you could end up having less data with diluted value.
How Much Is Too Much?
Everyone likes to feel like his or her feedback is taken into account, but at a certain point, it can annoy people and sour them on your brand. For instance, I’m relatively brand loyal to Delta Air Lines and Starwood Hotels and Resorts, but both are now asking me for feedback on every flight and every stay. It’s too much.
When companies over-survey their most frequent and loyal users, it almost feels like punishment. Don’t negatively reinforce good behavior. Instead, follow these three tips to stop feedback fatigue and collect better data.
1. Survey Strategically
Many companies are so obsessed with acquiring data that they aren’t thinking strategically about what information to collect and how to use it. Companies need to be smarter about what they collect.
Rather than ask customers for feedback at every touchpoint, set parameters on how often it makes sense for you to survey. For instance, we survey our clients once per quarter. The goal is to get a response every six months. So if a client responds, she is skipped the next quarter. If she doesn’t reply, we’ll go ahead and ping her next quarter.
Also, you don’t need to ask every client every single question. By mixing it up, you can get the data you need without each person having to go into great detail about everything.
2. Be Truthful About Time
I recently had a great stay at The Westin Riverwalk, San Antonio, so I was happy to fill out the feedback form. But when I realized I was only halfway through after 10 minutes, I abandoned the survey and left feeling frustrated.
The same thing will happen to your customers if you’re not upfront about how long your survey will take. The sweet spot is fewer than five minutes, and any longer than 11 minutes leads to ”significant abandonment rates,” according to Survey Monkey.
David Niu, founder of TINYhr, told us that short customer surveys not only show respect for customers’ time, but also make clients more likely to respond. “Short, simple customer surveys can lead to response rates of 50 percent or more, which is considerably higher than the 0.5 to 2 percent response rates many organizations get from client surveys,” Niu said.
3. Measure Success
Never ask a question to get data that you don’t plan to measure or act on. This is just a waste of everyone’s time. If you outsource, review what the vendor is sending as well as response rates. It’s important to understand whether surveying your customers is actually bothering them more than incentivizing them to give you the feedback you’re seeking.
We use a system called CLIENTpulse that emails two-question surveys to our clients every few months. The survey asks how likely the client would be to recommend us to a friend on a scale of 1 to 10. Then, it asks a variable question with a feedback request, such as “What would you like to see more of in 2016?” or “Do you think you will still be a client in a year?”
We’ve found that surveying clients every few months is frequent enough for us to catch any potential problems. For example, we’ve noticed that clients below a certain level on the first question tend to leave within three to six months. These surveys have alerted us to the fact that some clients were unhappier than we thought and allowed us to address the situation before they felt ready to leave.
Conducting too many surveys can be expensive and time-consuming. Save money and your clients’ time by being more strategic about how you ask for feedback, ensuring you get the data you need to drive strategic business decisions without wearing out your company or your customers.