Customer surveys are everywhere these days. Just last week I received a robotic phone call asking me to evaluate a service representative. In the same week, I received a four-page survey via snail mail from a local hospital and I don’t even want to count how many times I was asked to fill out an online survey while checking out at a store. We have become so accustomed to surveys that it is actually easy to tune them out. But, the bigger companies are definitely onto something – customer opinions matter! Rather than living in the dark, they want to stay on top of market changes, trends and opinions so that they know what is working and what needs improvement. More importantly, the companies want to know this before their customers start shopping somewhere else.
While bigger companies definitely have the funds and resources to conduct intensive research, smaller companies should not shy away from surveying their customer base. In fact, when done properly, it is often better to address potential problems head-on than to wait for a damaging online review or to be surprised when your customers leave. Maybe you don’t have the resources to hire an entire customer satisfaction team, but there are several affordable (or even free) online surveying tools that can help you get started.
What are the benefits of customer surveys? It is often cheaper to keep a current customer satisfied than to find a new one. Surveys will keep you informed about your customer’s experiences and expectations and will allow you the opportunity to address potential problems. Staying one step ahead of your customers and adapting your products or services to better fit their needs, helps build loyalty and eliminate surprises.
What kind of survey should be used? Generally speaking, you will receive more candid feedback from anonymous surveys. However, each business is different and should consider the best place to meet their customers. Decide if a quick face-to-face conversation, a postcard, a phone call or an online link would work best for your business model.
How often should you distribute your surveys? As a rule of thumb, customer satisfaction surveys are typically sent once or twice a year and/or immediately following a major event or purchase. You can also place a survey link in a convenient location on your website (or in your email signature block) so that customers can engage the survey as they see fit. Like many things, it is more important to have a system in place for collecting feedback than to not have a system at all.
How should you design the survey?
There are a few things to consider here.
- Open-ended questions can provide you with the most insight.
- You will likely get a higher response rate if the survey is convenient to access and easy to fill out.
- Consider which actions you will take in response to the answers that are generated. In other words, don’t ask just to ask. Have a plan!
Lastly, don’t forget to follow up. Survey results are not meant to be filed away. If you have an unhappy customer, pick up the phone or send them a quick note to thank them for their feedback and let them know you will be addressing the problem. Happy customers should also be thanked for their responses! Turn positive responses into testimonials for your website or even business referrals.
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