At one time only large organizations could afford the expense of customer surveys. Third party companies would construct and conduct the questionnaire, send them out to customers and clients, and tally up the results. Unfortunately, by the time the results came back, the product or the service was outdated. Surveys need to provide immediate actionable information that can boost performance and build trust and confidence.
Surveys can be objective, informal, and utilize candid methods to help improve a company. It can supply critical information that affects sales, customer loyalty, and profit margins, but they must be designed to be short, target specific areas, and engage the customer's interest immediately. A survey needs to focus in on one product, one service, one team, or even one agent, and the data collected and responded to immediately.
As an example, Mary Jones has a popular online website devoted to scrap booking crafts. She sells everything from stamps, stickers, albums, tools and inks to ribbons and die cuts and even transfers. A customer can spend anywhere from just a few dollars to hundreds of dollars depending on what they purchase, so how would Mary design a survey?
Survey tools are readily available online, and many are inexpensive and easy to set up. Suppose Mary wants to find out the popularity of her stamps and stickers. An online survey can provide feedback on her product in addition to giving her more detailed written comments since online stores have the disadvantage of not directly communicating with the customer (as in Mary's type of business). One key to online surveys is not to have too many questions, tell the purpose, how long the survey will take, and always leave room for comments. Here is an example:
- How likely are you to buy rubber stamps, stickers, and embellishments in the next six months?
- How much are you likely to spend on these supplies in the next six months?
- Where else do you buy similar supplies?
- What other designs for stamps, stickers, and embellishments would you like to see made available for sale here?
- What would you suggest we do to improve our service to you?
The survey should be left online for no more than a few weeks. Provide an incentive to encourage responses. Offer a discount off the next purchase, or offer all who respond a chance to win a gift certificate. At the end of the survey, make sure you publish the results prominently on your site, and tell your customers how their feedback is the best way to stay informed as to what customers want - both in products and services. If you ask the same questions each year, you can compare answers and compare business numbers; maybe it's time to add new products or discontinue ones that are not selling. After all, as business owners we all strive to please our customers.