5 steps to conducting a customer survey

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Creating a customer survey
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The new year is a great time to assess the previous one and find out what worked and what you can do better in 2016. A customer survey is one of the most effective ways to do this. It’s also a great way to connect with your clients and show them you appreciate their business and care about their experiences with your company.

Here are five simple steps to conduct an employee survey:

  1. Develop a plan

A detailed plan will force you to think through exactly what you want to accomplish and how. It will also help you stay focused and on schedule.

You can start by asking yourself a couple key questions: What are you hoping to find out? And whom do you want to ask? You can then turn your answers into a clear goal for your survey. Maybe you want to ask your best clients what new products or services you can offer. Or maybe you want to survey a random sampling of your customer base to find out their perceptions of your company and help guide your brand strategy for 2016. Or maybe you want to ask new clients how you can improve your customer service.

Whatever your goal might be, make it clear and concrete. Then you’ll want to determine how you will create, distribute and respond to your survey. You can do it all yourself, hire a local marketing research agency or use an online service like Survey Monkey or Constant Contact.

Finally, to keep yourself on track, figure out a timeline: when you want to distribute and send reminders, the deadline for customers to complete the survey and when you want to send a response.

  1. Write the survey questions

Brainstorm by jotting down all the questions you can think of pertaining to your goal. Then edit to make them specific, customer-oriented questions, following these guidelines:

  1. Use everyday language
  2. Make the questions clear and concise
  3. Write unbiased questions (No leading questions) (e.g., How happy are you with our superb customer service?)
  4. Avoid loaded questions (e.g., How would you rate our service after the horrible experience you had with our competitor?)
  5. Keep away from overly broad questions (e.g., Why do you use our services?)

You can use both close-ended questions with multiple choice answers and open-ended questions with a space for customers to write in answers. You should keep in mind, however, that close-ended questions are easier to analyze if respondents can only give one answer.

Tip 1: When asking respondents to rate something, use words rather than numbers. For example, if you ask them to rate your customers service between 1 and 5, well, what does 3 actually mean? Instead you can use the Likert Scale:

                        How likely are you to eat in our restaurant again?

                                                Extremely likely

                                                Very likely

                                                Moderately likely

                                                Slightly likely

                                                Not likely at all

Tip 2: Use yes/no questions cautiously — they don’t uncover nuances. A rating scale like the Likert Scale shown above is a more effective way of gauging attitudes/opinions. But you can use a simple yes/no question for absolute answers (e.g., Do you own your home?)

 Tip 3: When asking a multiple choice question that’s not a Likert scale, offer “other” as an answer option to avoid forcing respondents to choose an answer that might not really agree with.

3. Distribute

There are several ways you can distribute your survey:

  1. Email
  2. Post it to your website and send an email, tweet, etc. with a link
  3. Mail

Whichever means you decide to distribute the survey, it’s a good idea to make sure you have an updated list of emails, Twitter accounts, etc. Also, accompany your survey with a letter or message explaining its purpose and giving the deadline. This letter /message is also a great opportunity to reach out to your customers in a friendly way and express your appreciation for their business.

Additionally, send at least one reminder before the deadline. Again, use this as an opportunity to reach out in a friendly way.

  1. Analysis

After you’ve collected your responses, remain objective when analyzing. Don’t take negative responses personally; see them as an opportunity to improve your products and services and, ultimately, your bottom line. Then you can create an action plan based on your analysis.

Start by reading through your responses. Look through them again with an eye to patterns. It might be helpful to put your data into a visual representation, like a chart or graph. Patterns might then leap out at you.

Also, you might want to take a close look at your participation rate. If only a 5 percent of your customers responded to your survey, think about ways you can increase that rate next year. The higher your participation rate, the better the information at your disposal.

Some important terms to keep in mind for your analysis include:

  • Filtering: Taking a closer look at a subgroup (e.g., new customers, customers from a particular geographic region, customers with certain titles or job functions)
  • Trends: Comparing this year’s result to previous years’. Analyzing how responses have changed over time.
  • Benchmarking: A baseline number for comparison. If this is your first time conducting a customer survey, make these responses your benchmark for future surveys.
  • Causation: When something affects data (e.g., higher prices and customer dissatisfaction)
  • Correlation: When data moves in the same direction but don’t necessarily affect one another (e.g., Increased customer satisfaction and increased website visits)
  • Regression analysis: Looking at the relationship between two or more variables

After you’ve fully analyzed the result, decide what action you should take to make improvement. And it’s always possible you might not have to make any changes.

  1. Respond to respondents

Communicate both the survey results and your planned actions to everyone who received your survey, whether they sent it back or not. By doing so, you create goodwill and show that the time your customers spent answering your survey was not time wasted. Seeing your proactive response might encourage more of your customers to answer the survey next time.

Customer surveys are a great tool as you begin to make plans for 2016. It should provide you with information you can use to assess your business and uncover new opportunities.


“How to write good survey and poll questions”: www.surveymonkey.com

“8 tips for writing effective survey questions”: http://blogs.constantcontact.com/category/surveys-and-feedback/

“How to analyze and interpret survey results”: www.smallbiztrends.com



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