10 Things to Keep in Mind When You Are Doing a Client Survey

» Posted by on Nov 27, 2012 in Business Strategy, Marketing, miscellaneous | 0 comments

10 Things to Keep in Mind When You Are Doing a Client Survey

Every once in a while a client asked us to perform a client survey for them.   It is usually driven by the marketing department within the company with the goal of understanding how the product or service is viewed by those that have either purchased the product or those who have decided not to purchase. In some cases, it is driven from outside of the company by investors or stakeholders with the idea of helping the company to sharpen their focus on potential markets.

A customer and non-customer survey can be very valuable.  In most non-survey situations, client have contact either by sales (who are trying to sell them something) or support (who are trying to fix something that is broken).   Those two channels are not the best way to get a broader picture of what someone thinks about your company and your offerings.

Think a survey might help you? Here are 10 tips to get you started:

  1. If you can, try to have it done by an independent company. Most people are conflict averse and don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings or get them into trouble.   Having the sales or support person call is awkward, and should be avoided if possible.
  2. Use the phone vs. email for a small sample. We know, this can be difficult.  Phone contacts usually require multiple calls as most calls to go voice mail.  However, when done correctly there is great value in having a direct conversation.  E-mail is best when you have many many people to survey, you have their email already and you are ok with very low response rates. (A c1-2 percent response rate is pretty good for this type of survey. If you chose to do email, consider a raffle or a small gift if someone fills out a survey, as this will help.)  One issue with email is that those who bother to respond may represent the extremes: either someone who really likes you or really doesn’t like you. Not always the best data to make bet your company decisions on.
  3. Think of the end result first. What is your internal audience for the survey, and how are you going to best convey the data you collect? Will you be presenting the material to a group or will it be in a written form that will be reviewed by someone else?  Knowing this will help you on the next item.
  4. Spend some time thinking about your questions.  Think about what you are hoping to take away from the results of the survey. Have realistic expectations- one or two specific goals- about what you are going to get out this survey.   It is easy to lose focus and flounder.
  5. Make it short.   Ten questions or less is best.   Again, think of how you will present your data and frame the questions accordingly.   If you envision a graph-heavy presentation to your stakeholders at the end, ask multiple choice questions which will be easily represented. If you plan on presenting a written paper, you can leave more flexibility for open-ended questions.
  6. Include survey comments and quotes in your results. These give the reader a chance to get a more nuanced view of what customers think and often gives some of the most valuable feedback.
  7. Present results in a professional manner. Go to the extra trouble to prepare an excellent presentation or paper, and your data will be taken more seriously.
  8. Make full use of your unexpected results. Like a focus group, it is amazing what people will tell you if you listen. In some of your survey conversations, you may have come across product ideas for enhancements, or ideas for how the grow the use of the product. Be sure to present that data- preferably in the form of customer quotes – to the appropriate departments for their use.
  9. Try to make your results actionable. We’ve all heard the saying: “Present solutions, not problems.” Analyze the data with your team and present actionable steps on the basis of your findings. Any negative response is an opportunity for change.
  10. Rather one and done, think about surveying on a regular basis. A semi-annual survey will allow you to follow up on process changes and track results. 

Surveying takes time and patience but done correctly can allow companies to make course corrections, identify new markets, correct pricing errors, and determine how to increase penetration. You will always be valued internally if you can speak to what the client and non-client is saying.


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