Serene Queries

Customer Satisfaction Surveys

Nov 19, 2021


I am a customer experience professional and the company I work for uses customer satisfaction surveys for own customers, after different customer interactions.
I have two questions concerning the subject:
1. How are customer satisfaction surveys considered or categorized by your organisation's standards?
We are treating them at the moment as Market Research but I'm not convinced this is right. We are surveying our own customers when they have gone through a specific interaction, about their satisfaction with the experience.

2. In Customer Experience field there are frequently used the so called "Closing the loop" actions. After reading the customers' answers to surveys there is a message sent (on different channels <phone call, email, sms etc>) to express gratitude for answering the survey and that we received their suggestions (if any) regarding [subject of suggestion]. This confirms to customer that someone is indeed reading their suggestions.
I'd like to include this step in the feedback management process and I am being challenged by Marketing department that by ESOMAR standards this is considered "processing for direct marketing purposes", meant to increase "customers' "goodwill" towards the company". That "it "buys" customers' positive attitude towards the company". And I am being cited paragraph (5) from section "What are the key differences between Marketing Research and Direct Marketing?" from the "ESOMAR Guidelines on Maintaining the Distinctions between Market Research and Direct Marketing".
I really can't see how sending my customer a message that we're read their responses and suggestions to a satisfaction survey can be considered direct marketing. Could you please clarify this for me?

Thank you in advance for your support!

Andrei Calin

Experts Response

Jan 06, 2022

Dear Andrei Calin,

Thank you very much for getting in touch with us. We have discussed this matter internally together with our pool of experts. Please see our recommendation below, but please keep in mind that it will be necessary to assess each project individually to ensure its compliance with any and all applicable laws and guidelines.

It is to be noted that according to several court decisions and local provisions (such as the German Act Against Unfair Competition), customer satisfaction research (including "closing-the-loop" activities) might be considered a form of advertising, especially when it is done to keep the existing client relationship going and increase sales, or to increase customer loyalty and referrals. In order to mitigate this risk, it is advised to communicate in clear language and prior to any direct marketing communication, that customer data might be collected for the purposes of e.g. a company improving its services.
When designing such communication journeys it is highly advised to conduct a prior data protection impact assessment and to maintain a privacy-by-design approach, e.g. by anonymising the personal data collected, and limiting collection relative to the needs of the research activities.

Moreover, as a way of mitigating any residual risk, it is good practice to ensure that the customer has been clearly and unequivocally advised, when the address is recorded and each time it is used, and that they can object to such use at any time, without any additional costs.

ESOMAR, together with GRBN, has released further guidance on this matter through the Duty of Care Guideline. This guideline advises you on protecting the privacy and wellbeing of data subjects, and can also be used by those commissioning insights and analytics projects to understand their ethical responsibilities better.

You can find a copy here:

Should you have any further questions or concerns, please don't hesitate to contact us.

Kind regards,

ESOMAR Professional Standards Team