Quick question: Are customer satisfaction surveys:
c) useless or
d) all of the above?
The correct answer is a resounding: “It depends.” Not all business surveys are created equal, as anyone who has filled one out has learned. Asking customers for honest feedback may seem intrusive, bothersome or even uncomfortable, but it can be a worthwhile use of resources. The insights you glean will only make your organization better—a principle that holds up for b-to-c and b-to-b organizations.
Acquiring new customers is 5-25% more expensive than keeping those you have, so keeping them happy should be a high priority. And a well-executed survey can do much more than gauge their happiness. It can garner feedback that benefits your business in a variety of ways:
- Confirms value to customers.
- Identifies gaps in service.
- Gleans insight into high-performing teams.
- Gathers customer testimonials.
- Uncovers opportunities to deepen customer relationships.
- Retains customers.
A thoughtful, step-by-step approach is needed to achieve each of these goals before releasing your survey into the universe—and the same principles apply to offline surveys conducted over the phone, by mail or through in-person focus groups. Before you start asking questions and soliciting feedback, have a plan. Understand why you are seeking feedback, and what you hope to learn as a result. If your organization has core values, consider measuring whether your customer or client interactions align with those values. Maybe you already know an area where your organization can improve. Consider asking customers pointed questions about that area.
Map your process
Just as important as how you implement your customer survey is where the data goes. Each time a client fills out a survey, the results should automatically populate in your organization’s back-end software.
If your survey is well-executed, it will not be a one-time exercise. The results of every survey your organization conducts should be easy to access and utilize. The more automated you make the process, the less manual work your team will have to do. Automation also ensures data is captured immediately and accurately.
It’s important to consider when the survey should take place (after an interaction with your website or app? During business hours?), the customers involved (those you already do business with and whose opinions you value), how the survey will be sent (email, text or both?) and who it will be sent to (all customers or a specific segment you’re hoping to target?).
Develop and launch the questionnaire
One of the easiest ways to gather customer feedback is by emailing them a link to take a survey. Programs like HubSpot and SurveyMonkey make it easy to build and customize surveys. The best surveys are short, sweet and targeted. If your customers are overwhelmed with the length of the survey, they’re less likely to complete it. Ask only the most essential questions.
Beyond the typical multiple choice and yes-or-no questions, give your customers the option to type in open-ended responses. That might be the most valuable element of our survey, providing deeper insights and personal thoughts.
Finally, it’s launch time! Send the email, make the phone calls or schedule the focus groups. If you’re not automating the process with a digital survey, be sure to ask each customer the same questions and record their answers in a consistent way.
Some common pitfalls can potentially derail your best-laid survey plans. Address them ahead of time and you’ll avoid headaches later.
Survey deliverability: Depending on your customers’ email security and privacy settings, delivering a survey by email could be challenging. Your email could end up in the junk folder or get blocked. Give your customer a heads up that it’s coming―then follow up and make sure they received it.
Survey timing: The time of year is an important consideration when conducting a customer satisfaction survey. Pick a time of year when your customers are likely to be working and not on vacation. If there’s a busy time of year for your customers’ industry, avoid sending during that time.
List quality: Before sending out your survey, make sure your customer list is up to date and accurate. Make sure everyone listed is actually a current customer. Check email addresses for errors or typos.
This process could take time, so do this alongside the development of your survey strategy.
Share the results
As the results pour in, take note of which customers have yet to respond. Follow up with these customers to remind them to take the survey—but don’t pester them.
Make sure your results are collected in one place that all necessary stakeholders can access. Then, once all the data has been collected, share it. Don’t keep it hidden, even if it’s discouraging. Remember, you’re doing this because you want to be informed and want to improve.
Here are some ways you can share survey results:
- Detail results on the company intranet.
- Create and present a PowerPoint.
- Create and share a PDF report.
- Walk through results in small groups.
- Communicate results at an all-company meeting.
Thank every customer who participated in your survey. They took the time, responded honestly and respected your efforts. Let them know you appreciate it. If a customer indicated they wanted a follow-up conversation, schedule that as soon as possible. Don’t wait.
If survey results indicated areas for improvement, make plans to address them. As you’re putting those plans in place, let impacted customers know. It shows them you listened and responded.
With the results of your survey in hand, you can now answer the question, “Are my customers happy?” Even if some customers are unhappy, you’re now armed with the data necessary to make impactful changes. You also have a baseline to measure against when you conduct your survey next. Track changes year-over-year to reveal where your organization is improving.