Customer surveys do not work

Let’s consider the advancement in behavioural science which broadly tells us that most of our decisions in life occur unconsciously. Even those big conscious decisions (who to marry, which house to buy, fast car vs one that fits the children etc) are influenced by our unconscious, inbuilt bias, past experience and our environment.


This would kind of indicate that asking people about their experience and why they do things doesn’t really get to the truth. How can our rational reflection of events really be useful if most of that event happened unconsciously?

Customer survey example

I recently carried out a customer survey for an airline. It was a business trip to Amsterdam staying only one night. The post event survey was a tedious and seemingly endless questioning of each element of the customer experience. Being honest I ended up just making answers up to get to the end. I don’t know how the booking experience made me feel or how the staff engaged with me before getting on the flight. It’s a one-hour flight, I just wanted to get there and back on time. My biggest concern was whether the passenger sitting next to me was going to be of normal size and didn’t smell too bad (they didn’t by the way).

Customer survey - CX Lab customer experience consultancy

This customer survey was designed to provide quantitative statistical information for management. So the business can say “our score for improving how customers feel about the booking experience has gone up this month”, big pat on the back. It was not designed to find the truth or any meaningful insight. I suspect the research team behind this customer survey know this already. This reminds me of a quote I was told many years ago,

“most people use statistical data like a drunk uses a lamppost… for support rather than illumination”

Stop with this waste of time customer survey to support meaningless customer experience metrics.

If you really want to understand your customers, you need to use behavioural science. Simple stuff like ethnographic research observing what customers do is far more powerful than a customer survey. Combine this with biometric monitoring of customers physiological state and you can see how you are making your customers feel, where are you causing them stress (Tripping Points as we call them). This is the insight that allows you to fix things that are causing stress and focus on things that elevate your brand. Technology now allows you to take behavioural studies beyond qualitative studies to get the kind of quantitative data you crave.

Stop wasting your time on meaningless customer surveys!

At CX Lab we help organisations to collect and analyse behavioural insights. We then design, implement and critically test (scientifically) solutions that improve the customer experience. This delivers measurable ROI. Read our case studies