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  • Morris Kaplan
    Smarter Writer

    Morris Kaplan is a former finance and venture capitalist who writes for entrepreneurs and professional services firms

    Morris Kaplan
    Smarter Writer

    Morris Kaplan is a former finance and venture capitalist who writes for entrepreneurs and professional services firms

    How to extract the feedback you need to grow your business.

    We all get them and many loathe them, yet surveys have a role and are probably under-valued by many business owners. The fact is surveys can benefit your business as well as your current customers and, indeed, your potential customers. If you or your business belongs to an association or industry group, chances are you get the benefits of surveys in terms of benchmarking and other useful outcomes. And that’s good for the industry as a whole through usable information that might otherwise be lost.

    feedback cartoon

    Survey satisfaction

    The obvious and indeed crucial role of a survey for a business is the ability to track and measure customer satisfaction (or, in many cases dissatisfaction). Sites such as Yelp, TripAdviser or Eatability deliver continuous reviews of establishment to their owners but a more analytical approach is needed.

    The attraction of the survey methodology is that customer surveys offer business the opportunity to choose which information it seeks beyond the narrow, albeit important, review site route. Thinking of a new product? For sure you can test the market by releasing the product, but a survey can find out customers' needs succinctly and could play a part in the future direction for your business.

    Customers might not take the time to send an email or go to a review site, but they may however welcome an opportunity to air their grievances via a survey. They might for example be fed up with your slow-loading website or pre-recorded customer service feature. If you are thinking of creating a survey here are a few things you should know.

    4 tips for building an effective customer survey strategy

    1. Create a reason

    You need to motivate a positive response – best done by telling a story about the new product or service. For example, talk about how your latest product, service, or policy was developed in response to a previously unhappy customer who expressed disappointment.

    2. Present it as a customer service study

    Be authentic: you want to do better, so make it clear the survey is intended to improve service to all customers.

    3. Questionnaire design is critical

    Asking open-ended questions is detrimental for surveys. The questionnaire design needs easy to track answers. Decide what you want to know from customers and develop a set of questions to suit.

    4. Best Time to Survey

    Sooner rather later after a purchase. Surveys are best when they follow up soon after a service or product purchase. After all, you want customers to be able to recall the interactions they had with your business with sufficient clarity that they'll be able to give you information you can use.

    Verdict

    Customer surveys can be an excellent way to change products, services, or policies by presenting decision-makers with data, not presumptive guesses, to use in projections. Above all, surveys open the floodgates to communication that fosters goodwill and builds a foundation for loyalty. But in an era of multi-tasking, overflowing email inboxes and lengthening social media ‘to-do’ lists, there is an over-riding consideration: keep it short. As I write this I see one landing in my inbox saying “This one will take just 4.5 minutes to complete – we promise!” They could also have said, “In appreciation of your time we will give you a $20 gift voucher to use at Amazon.”

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