There is no doubt that providing top-quality customer service is essential to having and growing a successful business. In order to provide the best customer service possible it is important to know what your customers want, and the most efficient way is via a customer survey. The article 10 Essential Tactics for Creating Valuable Customer Feedback, developed from a joint study by Survey Monkey and Gallup Group, is helpful and offers the following:
1. KISS (Keep it Short, Silly). Applying this spin to the traditional KISS principle is important for assembling a successful survey. The main objective is being clear and concise. It is not about just reducing the word count; one must eliminate superfluous phrasing from the questions. At the same time, overall survey length remains important for keeping “abandon” rates low. Think about the last time you sat around and excitedly answered a 30-minute questionnaire. (It has probably never happened.)
2. Ask only questions that fulfill your main goal. Be ruthless when it comes to cutting unnecessary questions from a survey. Every question included should have a well-defined purpose and a strong reason for being there. Depending on the survey’s purpose, it may not matter how a customer first contacted your site. If that is the case, then do not ask. Do you need to know a customer’s name? If not, again, do not ask. Including that question only adds unnecessary bloat that could send survey-takers hunting for the “back” button.
3. Construct smart, open-ended questions. Although it is tempting to stick with multiple-choice, some of the most insightful feedback will come from open-ended questions. Nothing makes a survey more intimidating than a huge text-box connected to the very first question. It is best to take on brief questions first, to create a sense of progress and then give survey-takers who have made it to the closing questions the opportunity to elaborate on their thoughts.
4. Ask one question at a time. We have all been hit with an extensive series of questions: “How did you find our site? Do you understand what our product does? Why or why not?” It can begin to feel like the participant being interrogated by someone who will not let them finish their sentences. To get quality responses, the questions need to give people time to think through each question. Bombarding people with multiple points to consider leads to half-hearted answers by respondents who will just be looking to get through to the end — if they even stay with the survey at all. Make things easy by sticking to one main point at a time.
5. Make rating scales consistent. Common scales used for surveys can be confusing when the context changes. Be consistent; choose a format and stay with that format throughout the entire survey. For example, if using the one-to-five format, where choices include: 1=Strongly Disagree and 5=Strongly Agree or the alternative 1=Most Important and 5=Least Important. It is suggested to choose one of those, and not mix them throughout the survey.
6. Avoid leading and loaded questions. Questions that lead respondents towards a certain answer are not useful in surveys. For example, “We have recently upgraded many features to become a first-class tool. What are your thoughts on the new site?” This language caters to ego or contorts a respondent’s understanding of what is being asked. Instead ask, “What do you think of the recent upgrades to our site?” Be sure to avoid loaded questions and stay away from any presupposed facts or assumptions.
7. Make use of Yes or No questions. When asking a question that has a simple outcome, try to frame the question as a Yes-or-No option. These questions can also be used to qualify the respondents. For example, ask, “Are you considered an expert in [blank]?” vs. “What level of expertise do you have in [blank]?”
8. Get specific and avoid assumptions. When one creates questions that assume a customer is knowledgeable about something, very likely there will be a problem. One big culprit is the language and terminology used in questions. Staying away from industry acronyms, jargon or references is important. Do not assume people will answer with specific examples or explain their reasoning. Just ask them to be specific, and say that we welcome this sort of feedback. For example: “How do you feel about [blank]? Feel free to get specific; we love detailed feedback!”
9. Timing is important. Interestingly, this study found the highest survey open-and-click-through rates occurred on Monday, Friday and Sunday respectively. There was no discernible difference between the response quality gathered on weekdays versus weekends, either. The best bet is to seek out survey-takers at the start of the new week or to wait for the weekend. With regard to sending frequency, companies might conduct customer surveys once a year, or at most, once per quarter. But that rate is not enough to keep a pulse on customer satisfaction — you do not want to wait 90 days to find out if your customer is disgruntled. Between surveys, be sure to keep a keen eye on customer-satisfaction ratings and other metrics. Reporting tools can help turn every conversation with a customer into a feedback session.
10. Give them a bonus. It sometimes makes sense to entice customers to take your survey. A variety of data shows that incentives can increase survey-response rates by 5% to 20%. These incentives could be a discount, a giveaway, or account credit. A valid fear is that a freebie may detract from the quality of responses, but a few studies show that this is not likely to be the case. Be sure to make incentives something you can handle financially.
When dealing with the question of a small business and the importance of customer service, Susan Ward, partner @ Cypress Technologies and business writer @ TheBalance.com, offers that “successful businesses know how to build loyalty by establishing relationships with the customers, identifying their wants and needs and providing the highest level of customer service.” Describing the impact of poor customer service, Ward points out these five facts:
• “According to a 2011 American Express Survey, 78% of consumers have not proceeded with a purchase because of poor customer service.
• It takes 12 positive customer-service experiences to make up for one negative one.
• After a poor customer experience, 89% of dissatisfied customers make their next purchase from a competitor.
• U.S. businesses lose an estimated $83 billion annually due to poor customer service.
• Customers are twice as likely to talk to friends and family about poor customer service experiences than they are to discuss positive ones.”
Ward continues with how a survey can identify ways to improve customer service, “It can pinpoint areas that need improvement (such as staff interaction with customers) or ways that you can more effectively meet the customers’ needs by adding additional products or services. Customer surveys do not have to be expensive. Adding a survey to your website or business Facebook page is a simple, inexpensive process. Surveys can also be by phone, e-mail or collected on slips of paper in your place of business.”
Finally, Ward emphasizes that survey follow-up on negative responses is important. “Negative survey responses should be addressed as soon as possible. Your chances of retaining a disgruntled customer are much higher if you respond immediately to concerns. Keep in mind that some individual customers may be prone to spreading unreasonably negative feedback and will be dissatisfied no matter how you respond, so know when to move on. It is more important to identify common complaints and address the underlying issues accordingly. If possible, contact disgruntled responders directly and discuss the survey responses. Listen carefully, apologize as needed, and accept any criticism without becoming defensive or angry. Tell the respondents that you will work to address the issues and will contact them again at a later date to see if the changes have met their expectations. Responding to customer complaints shows that you care about their concerns and want to keep their business.”
To get you started, here is a quick 12-step guide created by VerticalResponse to help in crafting an effective customer survey for your business:
1. Define your goals
2. Select an online survey tool
3. Select a template
4. Add your own branding
5. Create clear questions
6. Review carefully
7. Create an enticing subject line
8. Write an effective invitation
9. Create a call to action
10. Segment your list
11. Review and send
12. Collect and review responses
In closing, a few online resources you can use to implement your survey include: surveyanyplace.com, surveymonkey.com and verticalresponse.com. If you want to improve the effectiveness of your company’s advertising campaign, store and online sales and customer-service representative’s performance, be sure to develop and distribute a customer survey soon.