Apple does it right when it comes to surveys
Taking surveys is usually something I want to avoid. Often it's because the survey someone wants me to take is just too long or comes from some company I have no relationship with. Every once in a while I come across a company that knows how to collect feedback really well; Apple is one such company.
I have always felt strongly that companies should understand their customers as much as they possibly can and that quick, concise electronic surveys are a great way to do just that. I was involved in the business of collecting survey data for the last 10 years, first at the company I founded (WebSurveyor) and subsequently with the company that resulted from the sale of it (Vovici). I know that space pretty well. [Full Disclosure: Though I am no longer employed by them I remain an investor and sideline supporter of Vovici, which helps companies build online communities for collecting feedback.]
With that background it's been interesting to watch how Apple has gone about collecting feedback from me. I have now received a survey request four times, each closely following a specific event. Two calls into Apple Care, one in-store purchase and one in-store repair.
You can tell a lot about the values of a company by the questions they ask in their surveys and Apple appears to be genuinely concerned about how satisfied customers are with the service they provide. The questions themselves are short, simple and unambiguous and focus on rating the quality of the event itself, the people that I encountered and my satisfaction with the experience overall. The survey instruments themselves—the web pages—are classic Apple design; simple, uncluttered and visually attractive.
There are a couple of reasons people don't like to take surveys but by far the biggest one is that they are just too long. Apple scores big points with me by understanding that and asking me to take really brief surveys (about 10 multiple choice questions in each). They also do one of the most important things you can do in a survey and provide a little gauge at the top of each page so you have an idea of how long it will take to complete.
The other thing Apple is doing right is collecting this feedback within days of an event. So many companies make the mistake of asking for feedback on a quarterly basis or worse, annually. I have always felt that feedback on a consumer event has the shelf life of fresh dairy products; wait too long after an event and you get smelly cheese instead of milk.
The main reason I switched to Mac from Windows was technical: ease of use, limited virus threat, great performance, the stability of OS X, etc. In doing so I've clearly become a big fan of the products Apple builds. Though not perfect, Apple is doing a lot of things really, really well. What's been interesting for me is when I look at the way Apple works with their customers and the way they have gone about collecting my feedback I'm even more impressed.