Selecting the precise moment in which to solicit feedback from your customers can have a huge impact on both the quality and quantity of the feedback you receive. Survey too early and your customers may not have a full story to tell. Survey too late, and you lose the raw emotion felt during the experience, as well as those critical details that tend to fade away over time.

The key to running a successful NPS program is your ability to maximize the number of people who provide feedback, as well as the completeness of that feedback. Survey timing affects both of these simultaneously. With a bit of careful planning, you can vastly improve the quality and quantity of feedback you receive.

The old way

Many companies conduct their feedback programs on an annual or quarterly basis. They typically involve long and complex surveys sent to nearly all of their customers, past or current, in one large blast. Administering feedback programs in this manner is time consuming and complex. Companies rarely want to go through that pain more often than is absolutely necessary. And sadly, the results typically don’t scale with the effort put forth.

Customers are asked for feedback at seemingly random times and often cannot recollect the finer details of their experience. Requesting too much information at the wrong time is a recipe for disaster in the world of feedback. Companies who survey in this manner typically see only single digit percentages of customer participation, usually with very little verbatim feedback.

A better way

With modern feedback platforms like Delighted, you have the flexibility to survey customers at the most optimal moment in their journey. That moment varies by business type, but is always centered around the point where a customer has experienced enough of your product or service to be able to confidently recommend it, or not.

We’ve put together a few guidelines on how to identify the right moment to survey your customers:

Retail and E-commerce

When a physical good is involved, survey timing is relatively straightforward. You can typically pinpoint the optimal survey point by starting with the delivery date and adding just enough time for the customer to fully experience the product.

In the case of a consumable like food, that point would be soon after delivery. In the case of products with longer evaluation windows, like mattresses, you may want to wait a few weeks from the delivery date to survey customers, as the evaluation of a mattress typically doesn’t happen overnight.

Men’s clothier Bonobos surveys customers a few days after their new clothes arrive, giving customers time to try them on, while allowing a little extra time for customers who don’t open the package the day it is delivered. Another approach is to stagger surveying, asking some customers for feedback shortly after the product has been delivered, and others a few weeks later. This can give you a wide angle view on the customer experience.

Surveying doesn’t have to be limited to first-time buyers. However, the tempo of surveying should track with the relative uniqueness of each order. The more unique each order is from the last, the more often you should ask for feedback – within reason. If each order is totally unique, surveying folks every couple months is reasonable. If your product does not change, you probably don’t want to survey your customers more than once a quarter to 6 months, just frequent enough to make sure you’re maintaining the experience you’ve been delivering.

B2B and SaaS

The buying process for business customers can take much longer than it does for consumer customers. This can make deciding on the right moment to ask for feedback a bit tricky. It can be helpful to break the customer journey into two phases: the early phase, and the on-going phase.

In the early phase, you’ll ask for feedback once a customer has successfully onboarded and has started to get value from your product. Many SaaS companies will ask for feedback a few weeks to a month after a customer subscribes to a paid plan, while service-oriented companies will typically survey shortly after completing a job or project for a client.

For on-going relationships, you can ask for feedback on a quarterly, semi-annual, or annual basis. The time period you choose should be aligned with the stability of your delivered experience. If your service rarely changes, you’ll want to pick a longer time period – a short time period could result in duplicative feedback. If you are a young software startup with a product and support team that is changing rapidly, quarterly surveying may be more appropriate.

On-Demand

For companies that deliver an experience or product at the push of a button, survey timing is critical – but the same general principles still apply. Rental car company Silvercar surveys customers shortly after they return the vehicle. At this point they’ve experienced the entire service lifecycle including booking, pickup, driving, and returning.

HotelTonight sends their surveys the day after a guest checks out of a hotel. HotelTonight cares about both the booking experience in their app, as well as the complete guest experience at the hotel. Neither of these companies will survey customers again for a few months. This blackout period ensures that they’ll be able to collect feedback from these customers in the future.

Consumer Products

Companies that produce physical products should start with a similar approach to retail and e-commerce – giving customers enough time to experience the product they’ve purchased.

One recent trend is the increasing use of companion web services and mobile apps in conjunction with physical products. Customers will often have to register or activate the product on the manufacturers website or mobile app. This can enable a much better understanding of product usage patterns, as well as provide a direct method of communicating with the customer who may have purchased the product from a 3rd party retailer.

As with retail and e-commerce, the optimal point to solicit feedback will vary with the type of product. While some products allow for snap judgement, others will require the customer to more deeply integrate the product into their lifestyle before they can form an opinion – like a new smart thermostat or home audio system. In those cases, if you were to survey the customer when the product was registered or activated, you’d miss the key insights that can only be gleaned after weeks of use. Even worse, customers who are surveyed before they’ve fully evaluated a product, are likely to give you a low NPS score, even if they go on to eventually become a loyal promoter. People typically won’t feel comfortable recommending something they have not yet fully vetted.

Summary

As we’ve discussed, choosing the right moment to survey can have a profound effect on the quality and quantity of the feedback you receive. While the specifics around when to survey vary with different business models, the core principle remains: think about when a customer will have had a complete experience with you, and survey shortly after that. With a bit of simple planning, you can dramatically improve the value of your customer feedback program.