Editor's note: John Goodman is vice chairman, Customer Care Measurement & Consulting, Alexandria, Va. This article is adapted with permission from a chapter in his book “Strategic Customer Service.” 

Even at their best, most customer experience (CE) surveys are not especially effective in providing actionable results. They take the customer’s pulse and provide a score but surveys often fail to guide the development of a better CE and move the proverbial needle. In short, many companies today appear to be spending much and getting comparatively little in return for their CE survey investments.

That’s a shame. Ineffectual CE surveys are not a fait accompli. Done right, they offer rich, meaningful CE insights as well as serving as a trustworthy barometer of corporate well-being. Used correctly, such survey results offer a powerful and practical management tool for shaping and nurturing CE investments. Taken on with more than good intentions, rather than a desire to confirm the status quo, they facilitate the uncovering and implementation of the “right” actions – those at the intersection of a better CE and a more profitable company.

The following are 10 categorical best practices that generally apply to all CE survey types. Some of these best practices relate to survey methodology and others pertain to how the survey results are analyzed and packaged.

1. Prepare the internal audience for constructive bad news. One way to lose your audience is to unpleasantly surprise them with data that they find counterintuitive to their own experience or that is threatening. The following are critical to properly setting the audience’s expectations in advance:

2. Use a sample that yields precise and representative data. No survey practice is more tied to the proverbial warning “garbage in, garbage out” than sampling technique. Regardless of the survey type, rigorous sampling – picking enough of the...