The well-written survey could be viewed as a window, a window into the minds of your present customers. It could also be seen as a crystal ball, one that shows you the customers you’ll have in the future. If your survey is incentivized, you could also see it as bait, an effective lure to attract customers that might otherwise not have engaged your company or products. Ultimately, your survey is defined by the goals you set for it.
Identify Your Goals
Survey goals are the map upon which you will create, refine, and rewrite your surveys. What do you want to learn and achieve? What your existing customers want more or less of? To engage new customers? To see how your company is viewed in the public eye? To see what your competition is doing better than you? To inspire more loyalty? Goals such as these will become the rafters of your survey design and should be given thorough consideration before you begin the process of designing it.
Have a Game Plan
How often should you survey? Insiders recommend that growing companies conduct a customer survey once or twice a year. Have a clear idea of what you’re going to do with the information you collect and how you’re going to analyze it. Two common methods for distributing your surveys are 1) self-service surveys provided online based on questions you write, which return bulk raw data to you, and 2) professional survey services that have proprietary methods for gathering data and then present you with analyzed data in the form of charts, graphs and detailed comment reports (Source: Survey Software by Survey Systems). Whichever method you choose, the outcomes of a good survey campaign can include:
- Measuring customer loyalty
- Helping human resources departments train staff or execute new staff initiatives
- New product development
- Direction for new financing
- Gauging customer service effectiveness
Craft Your Questions Carefully
There is a science to designing surveys, to the questions themselves (phrasing, order, etc.), which is a branch of statistical analysis. But, if you choose to create your own questions, rather than have a professional do them for you, there are some tips that might aid in crafting well thought-out questions:
- Avoid ambiguous questions. Be specific and targeted.
- Segregate each question, rather than compounding them, e.g., ask “how easy was it to find what you were looking for?” and “how pleasant was it to find what you were looking for? versus “how easy and pleasant was it to find what you were looking for?”.
- Use a 1-10 scale (e.g., on a scale of 1 – 10…).
- Get a 3-D view of any topic, e.g., 1) how satisfied were you with our service, 2) to what degree did our service exceed or fall short of your expectations; and 3) how did our service compare with your ideal.
- More is better. You’re looking for a multi-faceted picture of every target of your survey; this will give you a clearer and stronger picture of how your customers feel about your product and/or service.
- Be consistent. Keep the questions identical from year to year so the results can be compared.
- Hang loose. Include at least a few open-ended questions and provide space for comments at the end of your most critical questions, or all of them, if the survey is short enough.
Once you have collected and analyzed the data, make sure everyone in the organization gets to see and incorporate it into their best practices. Experts say the worst thing you can do is collect data and then only make it available to managers and/or fail to respond to the information you’ve collected. Don’t be afraid to publicize it along with what you are doing to address customer concerns. Showing that you are willing to “go public” with areas for improvement can go a long way toward building better customer satisfaction.