Surveys might be undermining every customer experience improvement you’re trying to implement. While that may sound counterintuitive, according to a 2016 study of customer perceptions by CEB (now Gartner), 75% of customers agree that their survey experience influences their overall impression of a company ("Closing the Customer Feedback Loop," Gartner's CEB Leadership Council). In short, customers see their survey experience as a component of their customer experience; it’s another touchpoint that impacts their overall relationship. Yet, the increasing ease with which surveys can be created (sometimes without regard for best practices or sound research methods) has led to an ever-increasing number of feedback requests — threatening the quality of those survey experiences and potentially eroding companies’ brand image or increasing customer friction. As a result, organizations must reflect on their survey practices and ask, “How do we adapt to effectively capture customer feedback while improving the customer experience?”

Salesforce’s own Customer Experience team explored this question in FY18 as we optimized and standardized the Success Cloud survey experience. We identified trends in customer survey preferences that ultimately helped shape our research philosophy, define best practices, and inspire a variety of survey improvements. As part of this work, the Customer Experience team identified three best practices that resulted in impactful, customer-centric changes to our survey process. We discuss our first best practice in Part 1 of this two-part series.


Maximize each engagement with customers, including opportunities for follow-up.

The number of survey requests sent to customers has been accelerating over the past decade, and customers are feeling exhausted. This exhaustion turns to exasperation when customers do not see improvements, despite taking the time to share feedback. Gartner’s study found that 84% of survey respondents want to know how a company will leverage the feedback collected, while 78% of respondents say they rarely hear back on any results or changes made based on customer feedback. Customers who voice a concern or report an issue are particularly interested in hearing from the company, and often expect some form of follow-up.

Teams need to carefully consider the number of customer surveys they conduct and to prioritize their information needs. Doing so enables companies to better leverage opportunities for customer follow-up. More so, these engagements can even become a mechanism for driving customer success by providing value at every feedback interaction. For instance, survey questions can be used by companies to anticipate what assistance a customer might need next in order to be more proactive in delivering guidance, resources, or support.

Salesforce’s customer-driven follow-up solution has innovated the closed-loop process by giving customers the power to decide if they want us to reach out to them individually. This process offers customers an opportunity to “raise their hand” at the end of the Customer Success survey if they need assistance from Salesforce — namely, if they have an unresolved issue or need guidance. A few additional response-driven questions capture specifics about customers’ needs (type of issue or information sought, including the related product or cloud). These responses flow into Org62 and trigger the automatic creation of customer success request (CSR) cases. Cases are routed to a Success Center queue, where a specialist will follow up directly with the customer to offer 1-to-1 assistance.

Customers have provided positive feedback about the ability to have this two-way interaction as part of a survey. “It means a lot when you put something on a survey and someone reaches out and wants to talk about it,” shared one Premier customer. 

The most important part of this follow-up process is it allows the Customer Success Group to take very quick action in response to a customer’s need. It is also different from typical closed-loop follow-up that often involves only following up with dissatisfied customers. In fact, 19% of Salesforce customers who request follow-up through this process do not provide negative survey responses. Additionally, even customers who don’t name an issue or need for guidance have the opportunity to provide additional feedback or voice recommendations as part of the team’s ongoing focus groups.

Using a survey interaction as an opportunity to offer direct assistance to customers in need will drive long-term improvements in our survey experience, survey response rates, and ultimately, customer satisfaction. Gartner’s research indicates that 78% of respondents agreed with this statement when asked in a survey: “I rarely hear back from companies regarding any result or change made based on the feedback I provided.”  This tells us customers are more likely to participate in future surveys when they receive a meaningful response to their feedback.