Customer Surveys : 10 Top Tips

Customer satisfaction surveys (and employee surveys) are a great way to understand the customer experience. It’s not the whole ‘experience’ picture, but love them or hate them, they are a good place to start!

Some of the common benefits survey results can be used for:

  • Testimonials: free text & statistics gathered eg: "90% of customers say xxxx". 
  • Social media content
  • Marketing content – incl identifying your USP, why do customers prefer you over competitors?
  • Identifying areas of improvement within your business
  • Cost saving – are you providing a service that customers don’t care for? Remove it!

So you want to know what your customers think about your product or service? Excellent! A great idea, we know that word of mouth recommendations are the most successful lead to deal generators there are, so it pays to know what they are thinking, whether good or bad, and thus saying to others about your company!

 

Capturing this valuable information relies on deploying a survey to your customer at the optimum time, through the optimum channel (studies currently show more favourable response rates via mobile devices/text), and asking the right questions – so customers aren’t ‘put off’ responding due to a lengthy and dull survey, that takes them more effort than they are prepared to give, to complete!

 

So here are a few tips when writing a survey:

  1. Be specific:  don’t try and tackle the world and every question in one survey, focus specifically on one or two areas, this will keep the survey shorter and easier for the respondent to complete. Segment and send different surveys to different customer groups if necessary.
  2. Use ‘closed’ questions:  respondents are more likely to answer if they have a series of tick boxes or drop down menus rather than having to write reams of text – if text answers are what you need you’ll have to provide an incentive eg: a monthly competition or discount to entice a good volume of responses.
  3. Give ‘free text’ options: It’s frustrating if a closed question doesn’t have the option you want to select, so where appropriate also give a free text / other option too. It’s also beneficial to have an optional ‘any other comments’ style box at the end of your survey.
  4. Plan what you will do with the answers: there’s no point in asking questions if you’re not going to utilise the answers – either to create statistics, or to identify what customers value most eg: for marketing material / social media content
  5. Don’t use loaded questions: eg: “What electronic device do you use daily?” This assumes they use a device daily. Instead “Do you use electronic devices?” combined with "what do you use?" and “how frequently do you use it?” (daily, weekly, monthly, less often etc)
  6. Separate double-barrelled questions: “Did you find our service professional and efficient?”, instead “how professional did you find our service?” “How efficient did you find our service?”
  7. Think of the 'flow': Start with general easy answers and move into those that require a little more thought, and group questions together eg: feeling about previous experience followed by questions about future options or improvments.   
  8. Ensure multiple choice answers don't overlap: eg "What is your age?" 18-40, 40-60, 60+ - if you're 40 or 60 which box do you tick?
  9. Speak in the language of your customer: avoid using your industry specific jargon that can cause confusion and thus skew results or respondents to exit out. If in doubt write as though your question is aimed at a 10 year old ie: not patronising, but clear and unambiguous.
  10. Keep it short: up to 10 questions – less ideally, if you find you’re struggling to do this, see point 1!

The use of effective surveys relies on a good strategy and clear objectives, not just ‘throwing’ something out there and seeing what happens. Structure, flow and thinking about who will be completing it are key. 

 

Remember to share your results with your customers, either via your website, newsletter, email or social media along with any actions you are taking based on their feedback. The more frequently you do this the higher the results will be in your future surveys – customers appreciate when can see their voice is heard and acted upon.

 

Why I Don't Want Satisfied Customers

 

“Customer Satisfaction” – a well-known term in the business world – I don’t like it!  An odd thing to say from a Customer Experience Specialist?  Well, what is a satisfied customer?  The dictionary definition of satisfied is: Contented / Pleased.   A satisfied customer is one where a business has:

  1. Delivered what the customer expected
  2. In the expected time frame
  3. Charged them correctly / straightforward payment process

This might actually be the goal of many businesses, but for all of us as consumers it is the basic expectation of what a company should do.  As a purchaser, from the minute I decide to part with my money on a product or service, this is what should be happening – any less then I fall into the ‘unhappy’ category.

 

So what’s so wrong with wanting satisfied customers?  As a business we should always be looking at how to retain existing customers – advertising and attracting new business is an expensive and timely exercise!  ‘Raving Fans’, ‘Loyal Advocates’, ‘Delighted Customers’ are the ones we should all be striving for, and that’s what I want – not ‘satisfied’ – it just sounds so ‘meh’!

Research from a multitude of sources tells us that customers who have received a great experience will tell others about it – if we use the research from Esteban Kolsky that identifies 72% with a positive experience will go on to tell on average 6 others then:

                1 x Loyal Advocate         =      6 new leads  (72% = 4.3)

                10 x Loyal Advocates     =   60 new leads  (72% = 43)

                100 x Loyal Advocates  = 600 new leads  (72% = 430)

Salesforce created this telling infographic that shows the impact of customer and employee referrals in the context of B2B lead to deal conversation rates:

Despite the array of research available (thanks Google!) when I speak with many business owners at networking events I’m often met with “oh, my customers are happy” – subtext: I don’t need your services (maybe they don’t and that’s fine, I’m not a ‘sell, sell, sell’ type of networker), but what concerns me is that they don’t know if their happy customers are ‘Satisfied’ or ‘Raving Fans’, just ‘Unhappy’ or ‘Not’.

A little delving also identifies that they also rarely have a target, or even measure, their word of mouth referrals and yet at the same time seem resigned to the fact it’s acceptable to spend money on websites / advertising and quality social media posting but categorise customer experience as ‘nice to have’ (see my earlier post on this).   I’ll admit, it also kind of baffles me how they think they are creating impactful and beneficial marketing content if they aren’t getting feedback from their regular customers about why they keep returning????!!!!!!  Your customers are the best people out there to identify your USP, and that’s great information you should use to attract new customers too!

 

If you want to spend the rest of your days chasing leads with a low conversion rate – crack on!  Personally, I’ll be working with the business owners who recognise the value and return of investing in their customer experience, and ‘a satisfied customer’ is not something they, or I, aim for!

 

Here are some interesting stats and links to the research referenced in this article:

  • 91% of B2B buyers are influenced by word of mouth when making their buying decision (USM)
  • 56% of B2B purchasers look to offline word of mouth as a source of information and advice, and this number jumps to 88% when online word of mouth sources are included (BaseOne)
  • 84% of consumers reported always or sometimes taking action based on personal recommendations, 70% said they did the same of online consumer opinions (Nielsen).
  • 84% of consumers say they either completely or somewhat trust recommendations from family, colleagues, and friends about products and services – making these recommendations the highest ranked source for trustworthiness. (Nielen)

A more detailed blog about Esteban Kolsky and research findings 

Word of Mouth Marketing Statistics

Salesforce report 

 

 

Small Business Customer Surveys - that don't end up in the recycle bin!!!

We're all too familiar with the standard 'satisfaction' surveys that clog up our inbox asking to "a) rate a product, b) rate an agents performance, c) tell us how we did" etc etc......and whilst when these first appeared we may have completed a few - and perhaps still do the odd one now - the majority of us are guilty of not even bothering to open them any more - they just head directly into that little bin icon!

 

So how can small businesses compete if the big brands are struggling to get responses from their millions of customers? Well, there sits the key. Millions of customer can never be treated as an individual, as a special customer - this is the unique advantage that small businesses hold over the giants - and why customers feel a connection to a small business in a much greater way than they ever will to a large corporate. On the flip side, they will also feel a greater sense of disappointment if let down.

 

Now - don't mess that up! A customer's feeling towards a business accounts for 70% of their buying decisions - which is why your customer journey and touch points must be clearly mapped and paid attention to (that's a topic for another day!) Creating a 'special' relationship with your customers is what will drive customer loyalty (and thus vocal advocates and increased sales), but it will also enable you to get valuable feedback. As I'd mentioned in a previous post, for small business this will probably need to be done anonymously via a 3rd party, as customers will not want to cause you offence at any 'improvement' suggestions for your business - as a business owner we know that this feedback is invaluable and needs to be captured.

 

So how to get survey results?

  • You must carefully structure your questions - don't ask what you already know, think about capturing valuable information that you can use.
  • Keep it short - 60-90 seconds is the maximum time it should take a customer to complete a feedback survey (unless you are offering a prize / reward, then people can be engaged for a little longer!)
  • Plan your deployment - how will you distribute / to who / when. Timing is crucial, getting results whilst a customer is mentally engaged with you is considerably easier.
  • Method - email / SMS / QR Code / feedback form / in app / face to face - a wide choice of options, make sure you choose the right method for your business and the type of feedback you are after.

 

What to do with results?

  • Effective measuring - don't just send a survey, then read the responses and think you know the answers - you won't. Regular measuring will give you ongoing insights - whether you are measuring the number of vocal advocates, what influences their buying decisions, or maybe why they even choose you over a competitor, regularity will show you trends. There will always be 'blips' in data, but if you don't measure regularly you wont be able to identify a 'blip' from a real problem or shift in customer opinion - which could ultimately result in loss of customers.

  • Share your findings and improvements. If a customer has given you constructive feedback or recommendations for improvement that you have recognised and adopted - SHARE IT - customers will feel their voice is heard and that creates loyalty - because they feel like a 'special' and 'valuable' customer all over again.

Does it cost much?

In short - no! If measuring, understanding and thus being able to manage your (otherwise unknown) customer feelings results in retaining just 10 customers over a year, who would have otherwise left, what is that value to your business? Not to mention the increased leads from turning satisfied customers into vocal advocates (plus the extra customers they send your way), and the damage limitation of the 'detractors' who actively turn new customers away from you.

 

If you manage this in house, you will know the cost of your time / your employee's time and a decent survey tool is around £20-£25 month to subscribe. Alternatively, outsourcing these services will cost in the region of c£40/month or quarter (depending on your deployment method). A beneficial ROI to your business? Yes!

 

 

 

Customer Experience isn't 'being nice' .....and it's not just for big business!

There's a simple reason that all the big brands invest and conduct research and development into customer experience.....increased sales! The feel-good factor of receiving great feedback after a great business interaction is the cherry on top of the cake, the warm and fuzzy feeling that you're doing a good job - but it's the sales that keep us in business - and that's essential - it's not just to 'be nice'.

 

A continuous pulse check of what consumers are liking, not liking and most importantly what encourages them to be loyal and continuous customers is as essential to any business as being able to receive a payment - effectively managing your customer experience will ensure your business will increase those sales and, of course, more payments coming in.

 

In the world of small business (we're not all in the realms of Microsoft and Google.....yet!) we may not have the funds / department / time or even knowledge to be able to conduct this type of research across our whole industry sector - but luckily for us the research findings of others are readily shared.....and we'd be blinkered if we didn't pay attention.

Ultimately managing the delivery and effectively measuring and learning from the experience YOUR company offers to YOUR customers is what will ensure continued custom, increased sales, vocal advocates and will define the differentiating factor your business has over the competition, not to mention guiding you on what promotions have a positive financial effect - and those that don't!

 

There are a variety of approaches that can be used at very low cost yet are extremely informative about what your customers REALLY think. For sole traders and small business owners, you may need to offer anonymity or outsource through a neutral channel to get the honest feedback - as customers will like you but are reluctant to share the things they didn't like at risk of causing offence!

 

I'm proud to know a number of small businesses in my local area who have delivered such a good experience to their customers that they don't have a website (really!) Don't advertise and almost never post or promote through social media (who'd of thought!) Yet, through their exceptional customer experience management, they have successful businesses and are receiving new customer enquiries purely through the vocal power of their existing customer base, each one continually bringing in new customers.

 

The fact in the feeling........

  • 72% of customers will share a positive experience with 6 or more people(Esteban Kolsky)

  • By 2017 89% of businesses will compete mainly on customer experience(Gartner)

  • 86% of customers will pay more for a better customer experience (Super Office - Nov 2016)

  • Reducing customer defection rate by 5% can increase your profitability by 25-125% (SmallBusiness.co.uk)

  • On average loyal customers are worth up to 10x as much as their first purchase (White House Office of Consumer Affairs)

  • Probability of selling to a new prospect is 5-20%, probability of selling to an existing customer is 60-70% (Marketing Metrics)

  • 70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer FEELS they are being treated (McKinsey)

  • 80% of companies say they deliver 'superior' customer service. 8% of people think these same companies deliver 'superior' customer service (Lee Resources)

 

Calculating the Cost:

 

In any business, knowing the average cost of a customer can help you determine the value in strategies and marketing. Many small businesses miss the opportunity to calculate the cost of the experience to an individual customer - and importantly the ongoing value that customer can bring to you through word of mouth recommendations and increased business.

 

Small businesses that depend upon testimonials and recommendations have a greater need to really understand their customers thoughts and feelings and effectively manage their experience to ensure every customer is a vocal advocate of their product or service.......it's not just about 'being nice'.

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