Get to know your customer. This theme drives not only blog articles but also magazines, business books, textbooks, and executive meetings. As I teach classes to aspiring entrepreneurs, I find myself saying the same thing. But my students have posed a very real, very astute question to me, “How do we do that?”
When I mention the word “survey,” their eyes glaze over. Surveys are a major expense they can’t afford. Or are they? There are many ways to conduct a successful survey without spending a lot of money. Here are a few tips to make the best out of yours whether you have a long client list or are just getting started.
- Use yes/no and open-ended questions. Ask what you really want to know and leave participants the opportunity to share their feedback. This often means striking a balance between yes/no and open-ended questions. There are often basic questions you need to ask. And there will be times when clients need to share or suggest ideas. Give them the chance to do so. Asking them to explain what you do well and where you can improve is a start.
- Ask for demographical information (but include it at the bottom of your survey). This information is helpful for you, but not everyone is comfortable answering questions about their age, race, income, marital status, and zip code. So ask for this information at the end of the survey. Let them focus on the open-ended and yes/no questions. Then if they choose not to provide their demographics, you don’t walk away empty-handed.
- Explain the purpose for the survey. Somewhere on the survey explain why you are conducting it. If client/prospect participation is optional, then tell them that too. In some cases, participation is required. This is usually found when product/service recommendations will be given based on client answers. Think healthcare and financial services. Also note if the survey is confidential. And if it is, make sure you work hard to keep it that way.
- Ask “Would you recommend us to others?” This question, according to a former professor of mine, is the motherload of all survey questions. Better than, “would you do business with us again,” it gets to the heart of how pleased the customer is with your business. If the experience was okay, the customer might come back but not refer others. It’s a missed opportunity and a false sense of security. You don’t want to be just “okay.” You want to be stellar. You want your customers to come back and bring their friends with them.
- Look for ambiguous or over-simplified answers. If answers don’t relate to the questions it’s time to tweak the survey. Your questions may be too broad and need more focus. Take the survey yourself. If you need more than three minutes to complete it, according to this same professor, it’s time to whittle it down (unless you need details for product/service suggestions). And if you are just as confused as your clients when taking it, you probably need to proofread it and get a second pair of eyes to refine it.
Developing surveys doesn’t have to be terribly complicated. But you do have to be willing to put forth the effort to gather what you need. Over time you will likely need to ask different questions as trends and preferences change. It isn’t a static document. Instead it is ever-changing as it brings you closer to your clients and prospects. From there you can create a customer experience that exceeds their expectations (because at least now you’ll know what those expectations are).
By day Morgan Leu Parkhurst helps individuals put the pieces of their marketing puzzles together. By night she teaches marketing communications to aspiring entrepreneurs. Reach her at www.sharpmindmarketing.com or on Twitter at @Morgan_LP.