Your customers have an opinion about the products or services you provide them. Unfortunately, unless you directly ask them for that opinion, you may never hear it. Even more unfortunate is the fact that you could interpret that silence for happiness. That could lead you to make important business decisions based on incomplete, if not inaccurate, information.
That’s why it’s so important to understand your customers and their evolving needs. And why you need to ask them directly, instead of assuming. Here are some easy ways that small businesses can conduct effective surveys so they know how their customers feel and what to potentially do in response.
One of the quickest (and easiest) ways to know your customers is through online surveys. Some common tools–most of which offer a free version–are SurveyMonkey, QuickTapSurvey, Qualtrics, and Google Forms. These apps can be customized and tailored to a variety of different formats.
You can conduct surveys in-person just as efficiently as online, thanks to mobile devices, applications, and tablets. Many of the tools mentioned above have mobile capabilities, allowing for quick response recording. So, dive into your customer list, and see how many are local. Invite them to lunch or an event in which they’ll be surveyed, and you’ll get tons of valuable feedback. Customers will appreciate the invite, want to talk longer, and offer body language that you simply can’t get with online surveys.
Define your strategy
Knowing your customers helps guide and define your overall business strategy. While you may be safe in assuming your business solves a problem for your customers, making any assumptions beyond this general statement could be dangerous.
How pressing is the problem it solves? What would happen if it didn’t get solved, or didn’t get solved quickly? Does it cause your customer pain, or money or time, or something else? When do they have the problem, what else have they done to fix it in the past? These are just some of the questions you could (and should) ask to truly understand why they are your customers and what you need to do to keep them.
Every time you conduct a survey, you need to define a specific goal and area of the customer you want to know. This could be anything from customer service satisfaction to price sensitivity. Each survey is just one piece of the puzzle, and the more you have in your possession the better equipped you are to make decisions in the future.
What to Ask
Before you conduct your survey, it’s important to know what to ask.
Things that you should ask about:
- Favorite products or services
- Opinions on customer service and support
- Demographic information (i.e. location, gender, age, education)
- What related products or services they need, that you currently don’t provide
Things you shouldn’t assume:
- That every customer is happy
- Exactly how long they’ve been a customer
- That they never use your competitor’s product
- How valuable your company is (or isn’t) to customers
Conducting Effective Surveys
To conduct an effective survey, you need to have a few key bases covered. First, as mentioned, you need to select the right tools. Sign up for tools like SurveyMonkey and test their capabilities by building some example surveys.
You then need to consider the length and difficulty of your survey. Before you decide, think back to the big questions your survey is designed to answer. With long form surveys, for example, you can get more detailed responses and ask open-ended questions. The downside is, fewer people will take the time to fill them out.
Instead, many surveys are designed in short form, asking one or two simple, yet important, questions that will only take most people a minute or two to complete. That’s why it’s also important to make sure your survey is optimized for mobile, so people can simply click and fill out a short form survey on their mobile device when they’re on the go.
Once you choose the platform and survey with which you’re most comfortable, decide how you’re going to promote the survey to your customers. This could be via email, your website, or social media. The survey promotion should feel like a warm invitation, not an inquisition. Make sure to include a pleasant greeting, a reason for the survey, and estimated time commitment. Special incentives or product discounts can increase participation.
After you’ve collected the results, take a look at things like the percentage of people that filled out your survey. Did they skip certain questions? This helps you understand the reliability and accuracy of the survey. You want to look for any glaring irregularities that might speak to the accuracy of your survey. You then want to try and answer the basic question, or questions, that the survey was designed to answer. Do the results tend to prove your original hypothesis, or does the data go against it?
What to Do with the Results
Once you’ve uncovered the data you sought, find an effective and attractive way to present it. This could be in the form of a marketing report to the rest of the company or presentation to employees and investors. You then need to decide what changes you’ll make to your business based on this feedback. While you don’t want to change anything in a knee-jerk fashion due to one or two individual responses, you do want to look for trends. If customers seem to be having consistent issues with your call center, for example, then customer service processes might be something you need to take a closer look at.
Get Started Today
If you don’t do surveys currently, then it’s probably something you need to start thinking about sooner rather than later. Here’s what you can do today to begin ramping up.
- Sign up for trials: Go to SurveyMonkey, QuickTapSurvey, and other websites to sign up for their trial versions. Test them to see which you might want to use in real life.
- Conduct preliminary research: Think about what information you need from the survey, and what you hope to do with it once it’s complete. You can then decide which customer segments or demographics would be best suited for different surveys.
- Review your branding: If you’re going to send out surveys on email or social media, branding will be a huge factor in determining how receptive people are. Make sure your branding is clear, friendly and professional.
Remember that surveying your customers is good for them and your business. They will get the sense that you care about what they need and want and you’ll improve your brand and operations. Everybody wins.