The post-call survey: The good, the bad, and the alternatives

Madeline Jacobson

March 15, 2024

“Will you stay on the line to complete a short survey about your experience?”

The majority of the people who say “yes” to this question are lying. While the post-call survey is a common part of customer service interactions, response rates are dwindling to the single digits, sample bias is skewing the data, and CX leaders are struggling to extract actionable insights.   

The intent behind the post-call survey is good: businesses want to hear about their customers’ experiences so they can improve their service delivery. But if only a small percentage of people complete the survey, it’s not telling you about the experience most customers had with your business. It’s telling you what the people who were motivated enough to respond thought about their service interaction. There’s still value in that information, but it shouldn’t be your only source of voice-of-the-customer data. 

Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be.

Aaron Mickelson, VP of Digital at TwinStar Credit Union, said it well in a Tethr webinar: “Why do I need to ask my members about their experience? They told me about it in their conversation.”

Transcripts of customer conversations provide a wealth of information about the customer experience, and conversation intelligence technology can analyze this rich source of unsolicited feedback to uncover meaningful insights.

So now that we have the technology to analyze conversation data, what does that mean for the post-call survey? Below, we look at the pros and cons of continuing to use post-call surveys, and how you can enhance your survey data with conversation intelligence and predictive scoring.

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Pros and cons of post-call surveys

Pro: Typically easy to execute

Whether you’re using IVR, email, or SMS, setting up a post-call survey is usually low-effort. Most of the major CCaaS platforms offer survey and feedback management tools that let you plug in your questions and go. 

Pro: Ensures customers have the opportunity to share feedback

Not every customer will share feedback–but they should have the option. After-call surveys give customers an outlet to praise an agent who went above and beyond or air their grievances if they found an interaction frustrating. And while it may not be fun getting negative feedback, it can help you right a wrong for a dissatisfied customer or prevent similar issues in the future.

Pro: Provides a score-based method to track customer satisfaction

Many post-call surveys ask customers to rate their satisfaction on a 1-5 or 1-10 scale. This gives companies a consistent metric for measuring customer satisfaction (CSAT). When you track CSAT, you can identify areas of opportunity (with your products, services, or agent performance) and measure improvement over time.

Con: Response rates are low

Remember how we said not every customer will share feedback? That was putting it mildly. The average response rate for phone and email surveys is under 8%. With such low response rates, survey data may not be statistically significant, and it’s difficult to get a holistic view of the customer experience. 

Con: Surveys suffer from sample bias

The people most motivated to respond to a survey are the ones who either had an exceptional or awful experience with your business. This can create a “squeaky wheel gets the grease effect,” where you’re more likely to make decisions based on what they’re hearing from your company’s most vocal fans and critics. If you rely on surveys alone for your voice-of-the-customer data, you’re missing out on trends, insights, and sentiment from the roughly 92% of customers who don’t complete surveys. 

Con: Survey scores are difficult to translate into actionable insights

Surveys often provide the “what” (a number-based score) but not the “why” (the factors that influenced the score). Without understanding the why, or the contextual nuances, businesses can’t make informed decisions to move the CX needle. They need to hear more from their customers and uncover deeper insights than they can get through surveys alone. 

Predictive CSAT scores: An AI alternative to the post-call survey

With single-digit response rates, sample bias, and a lack of nuance, it’s challenging to use post-call surveys as intended: to understand the customer experience and make improvements. But your company doesn’t have to rely on surveys alone to uncover voice-of-the-customer insights. Your customers are already sharing how they feel whenever they interact with your contact center, and AI-powered technology can capture actionable insights from 100% of those interactions.

One way our company, Tethr, does this is through a proprietary large language model called CSATai. CSATai analyzes the words customers use in contact center interactions and predicts in near real-time whether they would rate themselves as satisfied, dissatisfied, or neutral. You can also drill into individual transcripts and run reports to see what factors are impacting customer satisfaction–giving you both the “what” and the “why” across all your customer conversations.

Here’s a quick look at how CSATai and traditional post-call surveys stack up:

Will AI-powered predictive scoring replace the post-call survey?

Solutions like Tethr’s CSATai expand what your company can learn about your customer experience based on what your customers say. So does that mean the post-call survey is obsolete?

When we’ve asked CX leaders this question, the responses have fallen into two camps. 

Some contact center leaders say they’re ready to eliminate the post-call survey to reduce survey fatigue and operational costs. If an AI solution can predict survey ratings with a high degree of accuracy, they believe the post-call survey is unnecessary.

Others believe that post-call surveys still have a place, as long as they’re used sparingly. Several contact center leaders have noted that it’s important to their business to keep surveying customers for verbatim feedback, even if very few customers fill out those open-text fields.

Those who plan to keep using post-call surveys can still benefit from augmenting their voice-of-the-customer program with conversation data sources like CSATai. As Char Sears, VP of Member Experience and Product Management at Unitus Community Credit Union, put it: “Surveys are solicited feedback on very specific transactions. Then there’s the unsolicited feedback we gain in a much deeper way through conversational insights. We think that’s where the gold is.” 

Beyond the post-call survey: Viewing CX through multiple lenses

The post-call survey is just one lens for viewing your customer experience and satisfaction with service interactions. It shouldn’t be your only one.

Conversation intelligence technology lets you view CX from multiple angles. For example, Tethr uses customer conversation data to predict multiple scores. In addition to CSATai, we offer the Tethr Effort Index, which predicts how difficult the customer would say it was to resolve their issue, and custom QA scores, which measure how well the agent performed against established criteria.

By viewing the customer experience through these multiple lenses, your business can gain a better understanding of the controllable factors impacting your CX. Armed with that knowledge, you can prioritize the initiatives and changes that will make the biggest difference for your customers.

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This blog was originally published in November 2019 under the title "Is the end of the post-call survey here?" It was updated and expanded in March 2024 with new information about CSATai, Tethr's predictive CSAT scoring model.

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