In an age of the web and social media, businesses emphasize “the customer” more than ever before. They try to align everything to the customer’s needs and desires, from website design to physical store layout.

In order to gauge what the customer is actually feeling about his or her experience with the business, asking for feedback can provide great direct observations for improvement. Executives go wild implementing allegedly tried-and-true techniques for getting their customers to talk back. However, while soliciting feedback, companies too often end up annoying their customers unnecessarily.

For example, spend a minute clicking through a couple pages on Eddie Bauer’s site, and you’ll see this:


Really? Before I can proceed, you’re going to gray out the entire screen and force me to click Yes or No on a popup asking about my experience on the site? Anyone else see the irony in this? Sadly, similar popup surveys exist across the web on a number of major brand sites.

You’re doing something wrong if you’re annoying your customers in the process of trying to get their feedback. Are the responses from whatever percent of people actually do respond worth the nuisance this popup is causing to the majority of visitors?

Why should companies avoid using popup surveys on their websites?

  • You’re interrupting people, possibly even when they are ready to find an item and purchase it right away. Needing to click a button on a popup adds one more step to the purchase funnel process.
  • First impressions are crucial for establishing the value of a brand. For example, I have only eaten at a certain popular chain restaurant once but plan to never return thanks to a very poor experience with the staff on that initial visit. I’m well aware that one experience at one location does not necessarily reflect on the whole company, but I still have no desire to patronize them again when I have other options. The same goes for initial contact with a brand via the web. When landing on a website for the first time and getting hit in the face with a survey immediately, visitors will not exactly think about a positive initial impression of a brand.
  • In general, people hate popups, and may even associate them with viruses, even if they are legitimate. Check out the questions that appear on a search for “popup surveys” to provide a quick snapshot of popular opinion in this area.


Moving outside the web, how many times have you received an automated call after purchasing or having service done through a company? Nothing like talking to a robot voice for a personal touch. After asking for input around Overit, items that most annoyed people from businesses soliciting feedback included:

  • Automated emails
  • Automated phone calls
  • Too frequent contact
  • Waiting too long afterward to ask about service
  • Not offering something in return for solicitation

You know those automated emails that send out every time you’ve had a customer service inquiry for people to rate service? Forget what the “drip marketing” gurus say; you’re probably annoying many more people than are actually choosing to give feedback. Especially if the contact came a week or more after a person’s experience with a company, or kept sending multiple reminders, people expressed annoyance with this kind of solicitation.

However, not everyone’s doing it wrong. Several examples of positive requests for customer feedback included these themes:

  • Personal touch: attached to a specific salesperson who has gotten to know customer
  • Incentive: offering something free or a discount in return for feedback
  • Resolution: Replacing a faulty product or correcting a problem brought up by the customer
  • Low pressure: the option to leave feedback is visible but not pushed aggressively

Here are some examples of each of these factors, as shared by various coworkers:

Personal Touch

  • I one time took back my car from the Volkswagen dealership I go to after bringing it in to have it checked due to an odd sound. I got it back and was assured it was fixed. I ran the car and within 2 days the sound was back. I brought it back. The guy at the dealership who I usually ask for took a Saturday off to drive my car for an hour or two until he heard the sound. Pinpointed it. Recreated it as much as possible until he had a decent idea as to what it was. He brought it back to the shop, had them fix it and I haven’t heard the noise since. I was astounded that a dealership would have personnel that would go to that length just to please a customer with a 2001 Passat. Now, every time I bring that car in, Jeff (the guy) calls me within 24 hours to make sure everything is sound.
  • After having tweeted appreciation to Southwest Airlines, I’ve begun receiving a considerably larger amount of attention from their social team and with mail coupons and deals. I love Southwest so I love the fact they respond and take notice. On several accounts they’ve tweeted to me in response to observations or concerns regarding my flights.


  • I recently had a subscription to Birchbox, and they always just mention (they don’t make a big deal out of it; it’s almost in passing) that if you give your opinion or rating of the items that you just received in their box, you get points toward free stuff. I never fill out reviews, but since there was incentive, I actually did it a few times.
  • It takes about 10 reviews to get a free thing, which, considering there are about 5 items in each box, means you can get a free item every 2 months. Not to mention the reviews on the site are super useful, and have helped me purchase a quality item in the past.
  • Dunkin Donut’s has a free donut incentive on the receipt if you go and do a survey online using a code from your receipt. I have done that before because you get a free donut.


  • I once shattered my Otterbox phone case. It’s a case that is known for rarely breaking, and it did an awesome job up to that point. I tweeted something to the effect, “Thought this was invincible! Nevertheless, best case I’ve ever had. Time for another” with a photo attached, @otterbox. They responded via twitter asking for my home address. Within the week I had a case of Otterbox phone cases on my doorstep with a thank you note.
  • I once found a strawberry in my blueberry Chobani yogurt and I tweeted them (jokingly making bad puns along the way), and they made a response probably five minutes later saying they’d look into the problem. They were quick to respond, which is always good.

Low Pressure

  • I have been to restaurants that will have 4-5 questions right on the receipt they give me and numbers for you to circle based on your experience. I usually do that because 1. I worked in a restaurant and know what it’s like and 2. it’s super easy and literally right in front of me.

Going back to web, as a contrast to the aggressive popup feedback example from earlier, here is an example of a visible but not in-your-face way of encouraging website feedback. The option to respond to “Was this page helpful?” appears in the footer when you scroll to the bottom of the page on Microsoft’s site. Also see Google Consumer Surveys for a free, easy way to set up a non-intrusive feedback box in the bottom corner of your site.


Getting both positive and negative feedback from customers should be a regular part of any business’s strategy. But don’t create a bad experience in the process. Add a personal touch, offer an incentive, go out of your way to resolve problems, and make low pressure requests instead of shoving surveys in your customers’ faces.