Reading between the lines with your survey data should not be necessary, but it is a reality that every business must face. Even with the most well developed surveys there is always the unfortunate reality that customers are not filling them out accurately to provide you the information you need to improve your business and generate increased success.
You may have to read between the lines because customers may be filling out the survey with a misconception about the product or service offered. Perhaps they have determined that they need a product, but are frustrated by the price they have to pay or that there is a backorder on the product. They may feel that they are backed into a corner and at your mercy. When they are filling out the survey, they are doing so while frustrated and you will definitely hear about how your prices are too high or that you aren’t focused on customer service.
How did they rate the product or service in other areas? Were they happy with the quality of the actual product or service once it was received, did you keep them notified and ship the product as soon as it was available, did you follow up to address their concerns in the initial survey? With this additional information you can look beyond the frustration and determine the actual level of overall customer satisfaction.
There is also the consideration that the survey may be poorly designed. Surveys that are too long will not get completed and you will lose out on the information you were really hoping for. However, if it is a lengthier survey and the customer took the time to fill in specific areas, you can determine that those areas are items you should focus on. Surveys that have poorly worded questions will require reading between the lines with your survey data. Questions that are poorly worded and require the customer to interpret what you are looking for will cause frustration, inaccuracy, and incomplete surveys.
Also, questions which are open-ended and allow the customer to be overly subjective will cause you to have to read between the lines. Open-ended responses are helpful for diagnosing areas that need to be worked on, but they are also opportunities for customers to provide rants that have limited impact on positive change. Well-designed survey questions should be created to be objective and obtain quantitative data. Qualitative responses should have limited use, as they require interpretation and interpretations will vary.
Reading between the lines with your survey data can provide more information than you were expecting!