Understanding your customers is key to the success of every business. While it’s easy to assume what your customers need and want, why not take the guesswork out of the equation?

In this “Customer Insight” series, we will explore some time-tested, classic methods for getting to know your customer base in meaningful ways. Today’s topic: polling.

One of the easiest ways to gain insight into your customer base is polling. We’ve all taken polls before – some fun, others on more serious topics. Many customers enjoy having their voice heard by their favorite companies, and are willing to answer surveys about their experience.

There are a variety of ways to poll your customers, giving you the ability to choose the option that is best configured for your audience.

Traditional Surveys

One of the most traditional ways to poll your customers is through a survey that is either handed or mailed to them at the end of a transaction. Customers then mail the paper surveys back to you after the they have completed the poll.

Traditional surveys have some major downsides. Customers easily forget about them or throw them away. They can also be a costly option, between printing, and postage for to get them back to the company, and sometimes to the customer in the first place. Many customers find them difficult to fill out, as some do not provide adequate space to fill in answers.

Social Media

Social media is a no-brainer outlet for customers to voice their complaints and good experiences with companies. There are a variety of social listening tools available, but those tools require a good deal of time and effort to use. Did you know that you can host polls on Facebook and Twitter?

Hosting polls on Facebook and Twitter is quick and easy. There are many Facebook apps available that make creating and sharing polls a snap. Twitter takes it a step further, and allows poll creation right from the “compose new tweet” window, and even has time limit feature. Through social media, customers can quickly and easily respond to polls as soon as they see them.

However, social media polls are best for only one question at a time, and questions may need to be posted multiple times to receive a high volume of answers. For simple polling campaigns, social media is a definitely something to try.


Email Marketing

Email is another effective way to poll your customers. Through email marketing, you can send your customers information about the poll, as well as multiple questions polls, all in one email. Customers are able to either take the poll when they receive it, or save it for later.

Two popular email marketing platforms, MailChimp and Constant Contact, feature the ability to include polls in your email blasts. These platforms also house the results through your accounts. Additionally, these platforms make it possible to segment your email lists based on how customers respond to polls.

Unfortunately, it generally is impossible or cumbersome to share these polls on social media or elsewhere. If going this route, prepare to put in a little extra work if you want to share the poll with customers who may not be on your email list.

Online Surveys

Online surveys are perhaps the most versatile polling option. These surveys live on the web, separate from social media, email marketing, and even your website, but are embeddable and linkable.

Two of the best platforms for online surveys are Google Forms and Survey Monkey. Both services allow you to create custom branded forms, including multi-choice, fill-in-the-blank, and scale questions. Both Google Forms and Survey Monkey have free plans, as well as monthly plans for high-volume polls.

One of the best features of online surveys is their versatile nature. You can easily share online surveys on social media, and embed them into email marketing and websites. Online surveys also generally offer in-depth analytics of responses.

What To Ask

Now that you have decided to poll your customers, it is important to ask the right questions. To create the most effective questions, decide what the objective of the poll is before choosing questions to include. Objectives can be anything from learning more about customer experience to products customers would like to see in the future.

Once you have picked an objective for the poll, it’s time to create the questions. Try to create questions that are easy to understand. The most common question types are short answer, multi choice, and on a scale. Put the questions in a logical order, and try not to make the poll too lengthy. No matter what the goal of the poll is or what questions you include, be sure to have a space for long-form comments at the end of the poll.

Whatever polling option you choose to use for your business, don’t forgo this easy and effective way to learn from your customers.