What do your customers think of your company and products? What really matters to them? Do you know how your business stacks up against the competition?
Find out with a customer survey.
It is safe to assume that you want to do a better job of serving the customer. But, what is working and what needs to be improved? How do you find out?
Customers are a great source of information about what your firm is doing right and where you are at risk of losing them.
Instead of relying on anecdotal information from a handful of customers or what your salespeople are saying, why not ask all customers with an in-depth customer satisfaction survey?
A sound understanding of your customers’ likes and dislikes gives you a significant advantage over competitors who lack that insight. Find out what needs to be improved and get ideas for new products or services. Fixing what’s important in the eyes of your customers leads to higher customer satisfaction, more sales, better profits, improved retention rate, and increased market share.
Find Out About Your Customers’ Opinions
An online customer satisfaction survey is an effective, convenient, and affordable way of collecting information. This type of survey can be distributed very easily by email to a customer base of any size, even worldwide.
A few thoughts on what you can find out from a survey:
Which of your products are winners and losers in the eyes of your customers? How are your services rated? There might be opportunities to improve products with low satisfaction scores. It could even make sense to discontinue them if they’re not part of your core business.
For more nuanced feedback, the customer satisfaction survey can include questions on specific topics such as product performance, ease-of-use, reliability, etc. Think about the metrics that are relevant to how customers buy and use your products.
Net Promoter Score – the likelihood of customers recommending your firm
The single most important question to ask deals with how likely customers are to recommend your company and products to colleagues and acquaintances in the industry.
The Net Promoter Score (NPS) is one of the most common metrics for customer experience. This score is the difference between the percentage of customers that give your firm high recommendation scores and those with low recommendation scores.
Knowing your NPS, you can:
- Determine customer loyalty by market segment
- Find out which customers you’re at risk losing
- Compare your firm against industry and market sector benchmarks
- Determine cross-correlation with other satisfaction and performance metrics
- Monitor how product and service improvements affect your NPS
Differences between market segments
Not every market segment perceives your firm and its products the same way. If you serve multiple markets, a customer satisfaction survey can provide valuable insight into the differences between market segments.
For instance, knowing where customer satisfaction is high (or low) – and why – helps to define your target markets better. You’ll be able to determine where your competitive position is stronger and what to do to improve in weaker segments.
Demand for new products
Don’t limit the customer satisfaction survey to just “satisfaction” questions. By asking “market research” questions you can dig deeper and go beyond just customer satisfaction. Explore what problems customers are facing and the solutions they’re looking for. This feedback can trigger ideas for new products, services, or applications.
If you have a new product concept on the drawing board, a survey is a great way to get early feedback and gauge market acceptance.
Also, you might find that each of the target markets you serve has distinctly different problems and product needs. This is valuable information for fine-tuning your target marketing and product offerings. Rather than a “one-size-fits-all” product, you’ll be able to offer products carefully designed for each target market.
A comprehensive survey should include questions about the competition and how your company compares. Knowing where you stand can help you fine-tune your differentiation, positioning, and value proposition.
By asking the right questions you get insight into your firm’s position compared to competitors in terms of product satisfaction, customer service, pricing, sales rep support, just to name a few.
Also, you might find out that your customers are buying related products from just two or three other firms. These are your real competition, not all the other firms in your industry that you thought were competitors.
Strengths and weaknesses
More than likely, you’ve done a SWOT analysis at some time or another. But, unfortunately, it’s not that easy to be objective about your firm’s strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities in the market place. As a result, a SWOT is usually too optimistic. Why not ask your customers?
By asking open-ended questions you get customer feedback – in their own words – on what your firm is good at, and what not so much. In our experience, customers are quite perceptive and, usually, quite willing to share their thoughts. The verbatim answers never fail to show what they see as your company’s strengths and weaknesses. Use this information to your advantage.
Customer experience with sales and tech support
Whether you have your own sales force, distributors, or manufacturer’s reps, ask your customers about their experience with the sales process. Find out which sales channels are the most effective and hassle-free from the customers’ perspective.
Also, what do your customers think of tech support or customer service? Consider including questions in the survey about product delivery, installation service, maintenance support, etc., to find out what’s working and where you may have to make some improvements.
What is the best way to communicate with your customers? Some customers like e-newsletters, others prefer print. Some like frequent updates, others don’t want to be bothered. And, do they visit your website?
A customer satisfaction survey can provide valuable insight into how and how often to communicate with your customers. Make sure you provide them the right kind of information when and how they want it.
Implementing the Customer Survey
Finally, a couple of thoughts that may be helpful for when you’re developing the survey.
It’s good practice to phrase the questions in a neutral way to prevent leading the participant towards a more positive (or negative) response. You don’t want your personal bias about a topic to influence their response.
For the implementation of the online survey (developing the questionnaire, coding, sending email invitations, and response analysis), there are many online survey tools that offer a variety of subscription plans and features. You’re like to find one that fits your requirements and budget. For example, SurveyMonkey, Qualtrics, QuestionPro, SurveyGizmo, and Zoho Survey, just to name a few, are worth taking a look at. Many of these online survey providers offer free plans with limited features that may be powerful enough for your needs.
For more comprehensive surveys, take advantage of advanced features such as branching to create a survey flow that presents only those questions to a participant that are relevant to them. With branching, the survey automatically directs a participant to a specific section (“branch”) of the survey based on their answer to an earlier question.
The branching feature is very helpful if the customer satisfaction survey needs to cover multiple products and markets. By creating sections in the survey for each product and target market you can keep the questions relevant to the survey participants.
A few more things to keep in mind:
Keep the questions relevant and simple – Difficult questions take longer to answer and cause participants to abandon the survey.
Limit the time needed to complete the survey – A good rule of thumb is no more than 15 minutes. The survey completion rate starts dropping off fairly quickly after that.
Test the survey – Test the survey with a number of “volunteer” customers who are willing to review the survey. Use their feedback to simplify questions, improve the flow or cut back on the questions if the customer survey is too long.
Offer an incentive to encourage participation – This can range from an incentive for all survey participants, for instance, a gift card or a discount on their next order to raffling off a bigger prize among those participants who completed the survey. Keep in mind, there may be legal implications to be aware of. Certain professions (for example, lawyers and government employees) are not allowed to receive incentives of any kind.
Develop a budget – Create a budget, based on the size of your customer list and expected response rate, to determine the cost of conducting the customer satisfaction survey and the level of incentive you can afford. Compare that cost to the value of the feedback you’re expecting to get.
Your customers are a goldmine of information. Don’t let this go untapped. Capturing their opinion through an online survey is a very effective way to find out where you stand and what you need to work on.
Now, if you don’t have the time or data analysis skills to conduct the survey yourself, consider working with a marketing or market research consultant with experience with these types of surveys.
Having a consultant develop and conduct the customer satisfaction survey on your firm’s behalf provides the additional benefit of increasing the survey’s credibility in the eyes of your customers. This improves the participation rate. Also, it shows that you are genuinely interested in getting customer feedback.