Why Not Do a Customer Survey?

Businessman doing a customer feedback survey

Knowing what your customers think and feel is one of the most important aspects of providing customer service excellence.

A customer survey is a systematic and objective process of gathering, recording, and analyzing data to help make better marketing decisions.

However, the responses you receive will not make the decisions for you. Survey data represents an opportunity for review and analysis to help point you in the direction of new responses and solutions to meet customer needs. Surveys can help you:

  • Define your market more effectively and make your marketing dollars go further
  • Learn more about your existing and potential customers
  • Learn how your customers perceive your products, your offers and your customer service
  • Position or re-position your product in the marketplace
  • Identify the specific product benefits you should be promoting.

While surveys can determine the answers to who, what, when, where and how questions, they will not tell you why an event occurred.

While conducting surveys can be quite complex, a good survey does not have to be overly complicated. All you need is common sense, a clear idea of the information you want to gather and a basic understanding of how to communication effectively with your target audience.

Preparing the survey is the hardest part. Still, it’s something that nearly any businessperson can do – and do effectively – if he or she is aware of a few simple points:

Make the copy simple and easy to understand. Remember, in most situations, you will not have a representative present to explain ambiguous points. Your copy must be easy to read and easy to understand.

Use closed-ended questions. Avoid open-ended questions. Such questions as: “What do you think about XYZ…” are open-ended and can produce a wide variety of responses that can be difficult to categorize and quantify. Instead, pose your question like this: “How would you rate XYZ…?” Then give a series of brief, descriptive phrases or a numerical scale so that customers can simply check their choice.

Don’t ask leading questions. “You’d like to purchase XYZ for less than $, wouldn’t you?” is a leading question and inappropriate for a survey. Leading questions imply the answers you’d like to receive.

Don’t make the questionnaire look too complicated or time-consuming. Your customers are busy people. If they have to tackle a 100-question survey they’re not likely to respond. A short, simple survey that is easy to read is more likely to receive a positive response.

Make your questionnaire look important. If customers feel that they will be performing a worthwhile service by taking the time to answer your
questions, they will be more likely to respond.

Use premiums. Premiums have been found to greatly increase survey response. The two most commonly used are money and ballpoint pens. When

using money as a premium, however, it’s important to point out to those who receive your survey that you don’t intend the money to represent the worth of their time.

Offer survey participants a copy of the results. Such offers have also been proven to increase response. People are inherently curious; when they’ve invested their time in a survey, they naturally are interested in seeing how their answers compare to others.

Follow up. If your responses come in slowly and are lower than you expected, consider mailing reminder postcards to those people who didn’t respond.

Here are some additional tips for developing a survey that gets a good response:

  • Make it easy for the respondents to answer
  • Use special-interest questions
  • Avoid confidential areas
  • Avoid technical jargon
  • Include a brief cover letter
  • Protect the confidentiality of your sources

About the Author

Linda Pophal, MA, SPHR, owner/CEO of Strategic Communications, LLC, is a marketing and communication consultant with 20+ years experience in strategic marketing. She has managed all aspects of corporate and marketing communication including employee communication, public relations, advertising, market research and brand management.

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