Have you ever taken the time to actively listen to what your customers are saying about you? Do you ever ask them about their opinions on your products or services? For suggestions on how to improve your business? I know, I know - you don’t want to hear all of the things that everyone else thinks they can do so much better! But, if you’re trying to increase your customer base or increase the sales of your existing customers, perhaps it’s best to ask them what they like and don’t like about your products or services before you invest your money in marketing something that could easily be improved first. Surveying your customers, clients or prospects helps you get a better understanding of a few things...
Customer Satisfaction: Surveys provide an avenue for customers to share their side of the story without being interrupted. They’re often happy for an opportunity to share their opinion and be heard.
Identify Trends: Surveying the masses by asking them for their ideas and spotting patterns in their feedback provides a great opportunity for you. Identifying trends ahead of your competition could offer you a significant advantage in capitalizing on those trends.
Customer Loyalty: Surveying gives you a better understanding of what your customers like about you and what they dislike. Knowing what keeps them coming back over and over again is the secret to your success. Get an idea of what they’re saying when they’re talking about you and referring you to others. Or, find out why they’re choosing the competition over you.
While surveying offers you helpful information, it also gives you an opportunity to communicate a message or information. A survey seems like one-way communication, but through careful design of your survey you can effectively inform your customers about things they may not know about your business. This is great opportunity, because customers will read your survey more carefully than some of the more typical marketing materials you send them.
Now that you know it’s helpful to survey. Here’s some info on where to begin as far as developing your survey and using the results…
Determine your objective: What do you want to find out? Customer expectations? Customer likes and dislikes about your products or services? What they propose can be improved?
Develop Your Survey: Develop your survey with your objective in mind. What questions will get you the answers you’re seeking? Be sure to keep it short and simple; maybe 5 – 10 questions. While no one has time for a lengthy questionnaire, surveys should offer an area for respondents to make suggestions.
Conduct Your Survey: With the help of the Internet, it’s relatively inexpensive to probe your customers' minds. Some of the online/email survey options out there are: SurveyMonkey, Zoomerang, Constant Contact and FreeOnlineSurveys. These survey systems have options that are free with limited (but sufficient) surveying capabilities and paid options with more elaborate methods for designing, collecting or analyzing your surveys. They all give you the ability to create your own questions, send out a link via email or embed on your website and measure responses in detail.
You can also print out copies of your survey and have them available at your place of business. This may provide you with more relevant survey results as well. Some of your target market may not be as computer literate or as inclined to respond to an email or online survey. Try to have a broader sample of respondents by offering your survey via Internet and the old-fashioned way...by paper and pencil.
If you’re having trouble getting survey responses, consider offering an incentive for survey respondents. Maybe surveys can be entered into a monthly drawing for a gift certificate, or you can give all respondents a coupon for a discount at your business.
Analyze and Share Your Results: Analyze your results and take suggestions and input into consideration, remembering to keep things in perspective. You don’t have to implement every suggestion or take offense to negative feedback. You know the limitations of your budget, time, space or other resources that your customers don’t. Be open to feedback, but realistic with your options.
If a customer shares a positive experience or great feedback about your business, share it with the world! This is a great marketing opportunity for you. Keep respondents information anonymous, but quote them as testimonials on your website or Facebook page.
Follow Through: If you don't try to draw conclusions and take action based on your research, then you're wasting time and money. Ignoring customer complaints could alienate clients. If you’ve spotted a trend that you’re willing to capitalize on or an opportunity for you to improve something, make a commitment to implement that and let your customers know how you’re using their feedback.
Once you successfully conduct your first survey, you’re armed with the information you need to make changes or improvements and engage in more effective marketing tactics. Don’t call it quits after a single round of surveying. Keep the conversation going with your customers. Survey frequently, adjusting the questions to find out new and relevant information to help your business succeed.