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With ever tightening budgets, many housing providers are beginning to turn towards SMS (or text) surveys as a means of monitoring service quality, but how effective is this in reality?

Kwest has recently undertaken an assessment of the use of text surveys in the housing sector and here are some key points to remember when considering this technique.

Text surveys have a number of benefits which make them attractive:
  • Firstly, they are simple to run, and easy to automate.
  • They enable all customers in a sample to be contacted quickly.
  • Most responses arrive within 24 hours.
  • SMS surveys offer the lowest cost methodology for collecting customer feedback
So, if you want a fast, easy approach to gathering a small amount of information, then they can be very effective. This all sounds great, so what's the catch?

  • SMS surveys tend to have a low response rate. One reason for this is that reminder texts are not sent because they can lead to participant requests for permanent exclusion from future surveys.
  • As a type of self-completion questionnaire, text surveys generate over response from some groups. This skews results with misleadingly high proportions of "top box" or "bottom box" responses such as "very satisfied" or "very dissatisfied". In contrast, some groups under respond, particularly those who are simply busy, or who have received an "ok" service.
  • When you are trying to find out why customers are unhappy, additional feedback is useful. In our text tests, 30% of participants who rated their recent service experience as poor did not provide any feedback at all. In fact, 80% of all text responses to our open-ended question provided feedback comprising fewer than 20 words.
  • Questions are delivered one by one and dropout rates increase as each is sent - if you want to collect a lot of information, then a text survey is not the best way forward.
  • Perhaps of most concern, our experience suggests that 6%-8% of customers receiving a text survey will permanently exclude themselves from future text surveys. So, if you are completing several cycles of SMS surveys, large proportions of the population will permanently opt out, impairing this methodology as an ongoing tool for monitoring service.

Where Text Surveys are a Good Fit
  • Where the service transaction itself takes very little time, completing a 20-30 second text survey is ideal. So, for example, text surveys seem well suited to monitoring large scale, 'small' events, such as the service of staff in contact centres.
  • Where only small amounts of information are needed, text surveys can be ideal.
  • However, for service events where the customer has been inconvenienced, or has invested significant time in resolving an issue, 'closure' could be needed, which may be better suited to a human approach involving personal interview by telephone.

Combining Text and Phone in mixed-mode surveys to achieve better outcomes
  • Our text survey tests suggest that SMS surveys alone are not an effective quality assurance tool.
  • However, mixed mode surveys combining text and phone techniques can overcome the weaknesses at a cost substantially below that of interviewing solely by phone.
  • The Kwest mixed-mode approach is to aim for around 50% of interviews by text and 50% by phone.
  • Our mixed-mode programmes may start on day 1 with a cycle of text interviews containing a maximum of 4 key questions. This initial cycle has the benefit of producing feedback quickly, with 90% of responses arriving within 24 hours.
  • Every time a customer registers low satisfaction, Kwest's systems generate an Instant Feedback email to nominated client staff, enabling the organisation to arrange remedial action.
  • On day 2, Kwest's telephone staff begin interviewing customers and once again, Instant Feedback emails are automatically generated whenever poor service is identified.

For more information about our mixed mode surveys, please call us on 0161 448 1388.