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FAQ: Customer Survey

How can NBRI help me deploy a customer survey that will increase my bottom line profits?

The most important aspect of a customer survey is its design. You want to be certain that the questions, the scale, and other factors don’t bias the respondent toward positive or negative responses. For example, the typical response scale used by people who don’t understand survey design is “Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair, Poor.” The problem with this scale is that more than half the answers are positive, and a fourth is neutral, so customers who respond are likely to answer more positively than they would with a more balanced scale.

If poor survey design skews the information you receive from the survey, you will not gain accurate insight into the actions that delight your customers. By working with NBRI, you can ensure that your customer survey returns accurate insight into actions and processes that make a difference to customers. Happy customers place larger orders more frequently, so keeping customers happy pays off. In fact, increasing customer retention by even a few percentage points can pay off in big revenue gains.

How soon after a customer engages with my company should I conduct a customer survey?

You can deploy a customer survey as soon as the customer finishes their first transaction with you. A quick follow-up asking about their experience with your order process is fine, as long as it doesn’t exceed a few survey questions.

You can follow up with a more extensive customer survey once the customer has received your product and had an opportunity to use it. At this point, you can ask more questions in the survey, especially regarding the customer’s experience with your company and product and touching on the overall impression they have of your brand. Depending on your product, this could be anywhere from a few days to a month or more after their first transaction.

Later, you can solicit feedback in a customer survey that focuses on overall product and brand satisfaction.

Is an online or paper customer survey more effective?

Online and paper customer surveys can be effective in the right circumstances. Paper surveys are effective in reaching customers when you don’t have telephone or email contact information, but they are expensive and time consuming. You must consider the cost of printing, folding, and mailing when you undertake a paper survey. In addition, you will probably only receive a 10 percent response rate at best, so you will need to consider the size of your population carefully to ensure that you receive enough responses to draw valid conclusions.

An online customer survey is quick, easy and inexpensive to deploy. You may see a high response rate – in some rare cases, as high as 45 percent. Online surveys also enable companies to respond rapidly to negative feedback, which can result in high customer satisfaction. However, you only reach the portion of your customers that have Web access and have provided you with their email address. This may or may not be an issue depending upon the population you are surveying.

Should I provide an incentive for participation in a customer survey?

Incentives for participation in a customer survey are a well-known way to increase response rates. Some companies struggle with the type of incentive to provide, but the real question they should be asking themselves is whether providing incentives will skew the survey results.

Research has shown that respondents who have received incentives tend to provide longer answers to open ended questions than respondents who did not receive an incentive. In addition, with incentives, respondents rated the surveys as more interesting, and they spent more time than others did in answering the survey. The type of incentive has no negative effects on the demographics of the survey respondents or the quality of the data.

If the overall population is so small that it will be difficult to get a representative sample without offering an incentive, it may be a necessary practice for achieving the goal of your customer survey. See our free white paper for more information on survey incentives.

Should I send a customer survey to all of my customers or a select group?

If your customer base is large enough that you can send a customer survey to a subset and still be certain of getting a statistically valid sample, then you may be able to achieve valid insights without surveying the entire group.

If you are only interested in gaining insight into a particular customer segment, and the segment contains enough members to result in valid data, then it is perfectly acceptable to send a customer survey to only the members of that segment. Segments of interest might be customers over or under a certain revenue threshold, only those who have purchased a particular product, or customers in a specific region.

What insights does NBRI provide from the results of my customer survey?

A customer survey helps identify those aspects of your products and services that customers value the most. It may also identify problems with your website or business processes that make it difficult or impossible for customers to do business with you. It may pinpoint areas of your product collateral or documentation that customers find confusing or unhelpful, and it may tell you if your support team is as helpful as customers expect.

Because the insight from an NBRI customer survey uses a carefully designed survey instrument interpreted using deep analytics, you know the results are accurate and actionable. In addition, you will receive benchmarks of your performance against similar companies, so you know if you are ahead or behind your competitors in customer satisfaction.

What is the best rating scale for a customer survey?

The best rating scale for a customer survey provides the respondent with six possible responses. The scale should include three positive points and three negative points as possible responses. This solution enables the customer to select from high, medium, or low on each end of the scale and does not allow a neutral response. This scale is balanced, neutral, and forces an opinion.

This is a much better scale than the typical scale in customer surveys that ranges from Excellent to Poor (Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair, Poor). Since most of the possible responses in this rating system are on the positive end of the scale, the results will skew toward the positive. In addition, if customers are offered a neutral response, the information you receive from those responses will most likely not be actionable. In fact, when offered, respondents will choose the neutral option about 20 percent of the time, which means that you wasted 20 percent of your responses and your survey investment.

Psychologists have used the balanced 6-point scale in millions of surveys over more than a hundred years, and it has proven to be extremely effective in gathering actionable, useful information from a customer survey.

What is the proper follow up process after completion of the customer surveys?

If your customer survey was not anonymous, you should thank participants and provide any promised incentives or reports as soon as possible after the survey concludes. In addition, you should examine and prioritize the findings to put together an action plan to maximize the benefits you achieve from your customer survey investment.

When you work with NBRI on your customer survey, you will receive actionable insights and benchmarks comparing your results to similar companies. Look for “low hanging fruit” actions that are quick and easy to put in place. Decide which of the remaining actions you can tackle in the short term and which require more planning or budget.

While not strictly necessary, you may find that letting customers know that you are taking specific actions because of their participation in your customer survey results in a boost to customer satisfaction and loyalty.

What participation percentage can I expect from a customer survey?

Participation in a customer survey will vary based on a variety of factors. One key factor is the survey deployment method. In person interviews, while time consuming and expensive, have a high response rate, while paper-based surveys have a low response rate of usually less than 10 percent.

Telephone surveys have a high response rate of 30 percent or more, but they are time consuming and expensive. While some companies have attempted to use interactive voice response (IVR) systems to conduct telephone surveys, most customers do not respond as well as they do when a trained individual conducts the survey.

Online surveys typically enjoy a response rate of about 25 percent and a low deployment cost, which makes online surveys an ideal method for a customer survey under most circumstances.

What types of insights will I gain from customer surveys?

With a properly designed and interpreted customer survey, you will gain insight into key drivers of the customer’s buying behavior. This insight helps you to understand the problem the customer is trying to resolve and why they selected your product or brand over a competitors’ brand.

A customer survey can also help you to pinpoint problems with your business processes or with employee training. If the customer survey shows that customers consistently get stuck at a particular step or have trouble navigating your website, you can take immediate action to improve the process. If customers complain that employees don’t know product details, you can take steps to improve the quality or frequency of your employee training.

You may also learn what features or enhancements customers want most from a customer survey. This information is extremely valuable for your R&D team and can help you be first to market with desirable features. A customer survey may also tell you how customers are actually using your product, which may open up an entirely new market for you. A well-designed and properly executed customer survey provides a wealth of insight about nearly every aspect of your business.

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