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5 Tips for an Effective Customer Survey

If your business revolves around customers, then the success of your business is a direct result of their satisfaction. When a customer is satisfied with the experience, service, or product you provide, that customer is more likely to return and also more likely to recommend you to others. Likewise, an unhappy customer is unlikely to return and apt to speak of a poor experience with friends, associates, and other potential customers who will be discouraged from sharing that experience.

Given that customer satisfaction is so essential to most businesses, it follows that business operators should be eager to learn more about what their customers appreciate and value as well as what may turn them away. Customer satisfaction surveys, when written, conducted, and interpreted properly, are an excellent way to gauge how customers truly feel about your business. In this article, we share 5 tips for an effective customer survey.

1. Respect your customers’ time.

Many survey requests or introductions ask participants for “a few minutes of your time”, when these surveys may actually take 15-20 minutes to complete. It’s tempting to overload customer surveys with too many questions. However, when you do this, you run the risk of losing a customer part way through the survey, or of a participant rushing to complete the survey and not giving responses that are insightful or particularly helpful to you. Before you issue a survey, do the research to identify the key issues or areas of your business you wish to improve. Then ask minimal questions, but make sure your questions are written in a way that elicits a genuine and actionable response.

2. Give your customers a voice.

While it is important for you to respect your customers’ time by keeping surveys brief it is also important to write survey questions that encourage customers to give valuable feedback.

Surveys that only use questions with number ratings (quantitative questions) are tempting because they require your customers to spend less time on their feedback, but responses to open-ended survey questions (qualitative questions) are also important. Responses to open-ended survey questions are the key to understanding what additional quantitative survey questions should be included on your next survey.

A customer survey is an opportunity for your customer to be heard and a properly written survey gives insight not achievable by other methods. Micah Solomon, a contributing writer to Forbes, states, “A survey should include free-form text fields to identify novel responses that you may not have even considered and to offer your customers an opportunity to express themselves.”

3. Show your customers you listened to them.

When a customer believes that their survey participation may bring about an actual response from you, they will be more likely to participate and to make meaningful entries. If a customer makes a specific complaint in a survey and you have a way of contacting them, reach out. Let the customer know that you understand their frustration, rectify the issue, and find a way to incentivize that customer to give you another try.

According to Jon Picoult, an expert in customer experience improvement, quoted in the Small Business section of the Huffington Post, “Many companies never reach out to customers for feedback. When one does, customers generally view that favorably. But what really knocks their socks off is when they hear back from a company representative after completing a survey. Particularly if that survey indicated that the customer was dissatisfied in some way, getting a personalized call or note back can be stunning, in a good way. It sends a clear signal to customers that they don’t often see — namely, that this company genuinely cares about their opinion and is acting on their feedback.”

4. Act on the feedback you receive.

In addition to responding to individual complaints, you can also show your customers that you appreciate their feedback by learning from it. Whether it’s through a personal response or through making changes to your general customer experience, act quickly and effectively to remedy issues brought to your attention in survey responses.

Conducting a good customer survey is only the first step in creating a better customer experience and a more successful business or product. Once you have the survey results and have interpreted them, take action. Take steps to improve upon areas your customers have told you could use some help.

5. Recognize your expertise as well as your limitations.

Of course, as a business executive or manager you are curious and interested in what your survey participants have to say. You are an expert in the behind-the-scenes aspects of your business never seen by your customers, so you will likely have practical solutions for problems identified in your survey. Because of this, though, it may be difficult for you to be objective when writing survey questions or when reviewing customers’ responses.

Some survey companies may have “one size fits all” survey questions and interpretations of common customer responses to those questions. But your business is unique, as are your customers and their needs.

Our team of customer experience experts have spent years perfecting multiple types of customer surveys, each designed to help you accomplish a specific set of goals. Once your customers have completed a survey, experienced organizational psychologists help you understand what your customers are telling you about their wants, needs, and frustrations in relation to your specific business.

A well-conducted and interpreted customer survey program enables you to retain and increase a loyal customer base and your satisfied customers will also be more likely to recommend your business to others. You are the expert when it comes to your business. At NBRI, we are the experts when it comes to customer surveys. By working in tandem, we can successfully identify your clear path to profit improvement.

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