By James A. Baker
Founder and Chairman
Customer service professionals know the value of customer satisfaction surveys. More often than not, you will never know what a customer thinks unless you ask! Very few customers actually complain when something goes wrong; instead, they simply take their business elsewhere. Even fewer customers are likely to let you know when they are happy with your service. Customer surveys can be an important tool for your company to improve its products and services, and ultimately its bottom line.
However, properly conducting a customer satisfaction survey is not as easy as it sounds. In order for your data to be valid and useful, your questions must be formulated well and your methods of surveying must obtain usable information and reflect a reasonably accurate sample of the relevant customer base.
What Do You Ask?
First, determine what your goals are in conducting the survey. What are your objectives? What information do you most need in order to reach them? Ensure that all of your survey questions are oriented towards meeting your stated goals. Asking irrelevant questions will only waste your time and your customers’.
Among the items you may want to include in your survey are questions about:
You will probably benefit from asking survey questions about your customers’ level of loyalty. Relevant items might include questions about:
In some surveys, and depending on your goals, you may want to include questions that elicit demographic data. This can help you determine the makeup of your loyal customer base, and can be very useful in marketing. You may want to ask about:
Let customers know that their answers will be kept anonymous and confidential, and that the data will only be used for internal purposes.
How Do You Ask?
Formulate the survey using short, concise questions and ensure that the entire survey will not take longer than about five minutes to complete. Notify your customers up front about how long the survey will take and how many questions there are. Your customers’ time is valuable, and they will not be inclined to participate or provide thoughtful answers if the survey process is too time-consuming. To conduct a longer, more in-depth survey, you might consider offering customers an incentive to participate, like a discount certificate or entry in a prize drawing.
The survey questions must be clear, specific, and easy to answer. Consider your customers’ perspective and formulate queries that they can understand and respond to. Avoid the use of jargon, acronyms, slang, and technical terms. The more direct and specific the questions are, the better; your results will be more definite and actionable if you don’t have to sort through vague and varied responses.
Who Do You Ask?
Selecting your survey respondents is key to obtaining valid results. Keep your objectives in mind; if you want to conduct a very broad survey, you might ask all your customers to participate. Online surveys can be good tools for reaching a broad range of customers and asking general questions.
However, your objectives may require a more targeted approach. If you are gauging customer satisfaction with a particular product or service, for example, you should only include individuals in the survey who have purchased or used that offering. Some surveys may target only people who contact the customer service department or who return a product. Only include people in your study who can provide information relevant to your stated goals.
Why Do You Ask?
Conducting a customer satisfaction survey can help you to discover ways to improve many aspects of your business. Asking the right people the right questions in the right way can elicit valuable feedback about product performance, employee behavior, customer loyalty, and your position in the industry, among other topics. Finding out how satisfied your customers are, and then acting on the information you collect, can be extremely valuable in meeting your goals, and have a major impact on your company’s bottom line.
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