Why Your Surveys Are Lying To You (And How Analysis Helps)

By: Lisa Sigler

May 20, 2015

Customer Engagement
Customer Feedback

You may think you are getting straight answers from your customer surveys, but are you sure? Like petulant, rebellious teenagers, your surveys can lie to you by omitting crucial details. If you don’t know how to dig into your data, you may be getting a very misleading account of what is really going on.  Here are three reasons your surveys may be lying to you:

You never listen when they talk. Traditional surveys, with their scales and multiple-choice answers, reflect what you want to talk about – and nothing else. You don’t know why they gave you the score they gave you, or if the one thing you didn’t ask about is the one that is upsetting them.   Without text boxes for free-form responses, your scores tell you about as much as when you ask a teen how school was and he responds, “fine.”

But you have to do something with the feedback you get in those unstructured text boxes. Natural Language Processing (NLP) lets you analyze the feedback to find out what people are really talking about and why. You’ll be able to listen to your surveys and understand what they mean.

You don’t understand their feelings.  Survey scores only give you part of the picture – and knowing what topics are being discussed in text boxes also only gives you part of the picture. Beyond just understanding topics, you want to understand feelings. Sentiment analysis identifies how positively or negatively people are discussing the topics in their feedback. You can compare sentiment scores to other scores in the feedback as well as use it to identify customer satisfaction with the things you forgot to ask about.

They need more friends.  Even the best surveys are of limited value in a vacuum. For a complete view of the customer experience, you need to go beyond just your survey data, analyzing it together with customer data from other sources.  Customer feedback is everywhere, from your internal CRM system to social media and review sites.  Get your surveys running with a good crowd like this and you’ll see how much more truthful those survey results become.

If surveys are going to live in your house, they need to follow your rules. They need to reveal drivers of customer behavior, identify areas of risk, and help you improve the bottom line. If you analyze your unstructured and structured data together, apply text analytics and sentiment analysis, and look at multiple sources of data, you’ll help them reach their full potential and become functioning members of your customer experience management program.

For a more in-depth look at successfully parenting your survey program, see the Ultimate Guide to Survey Success.


Lisa Sigler is Sr. Manager of Content Marketing at Clarabridge. For over 16 years, Lisa has used her writing and editorial skills to bring the value and benefits of technology to life. In her current role, she works to demonstrate Clarabridge’s position as thought leader and trailblazer in the Customer Experience Management market. Lisa holds a B.A. of English from Kent State University. Read more from Lisa on Twitter @siglerLis.