You know that getting to know your customer is important, but how do exactly do you do that? This is where what is known as an ‘exit survey’ or ‘comment card’ is invaluable. It stands to reason that if your customer is your most valuable asset, then speaking directly with him is a powerful tool. Not only will you gather information about who your customer is, but you will then be able to communicate with them, sending out promotions and information that will be invaluable for building a fruitful relationship. Don’t forget, it’s easier (and cheaper) to market to existing customers than to new ones, so this customer database will become invaluable. Keep adding to your database with EVERY customer and potential customer. No matter what business you are in, you can, and should, find a way to speak with your customer at the end of any interaction. Find out from your customer’s perspective what you are doing right and what you need to improve on.

Exit surveys are a surprisingly simple and effective marketing tool to do this. Essentially they are mini surveys given at the end of the customer’s time with you. Give them to a customer with an invoice, after a service rendered, or while they are waiting for their bill. Where possible, have staff hand the survey to clients in person and explain that you would like to hear their thoughts about their experience. You may incentivize it with a chance to win something, but to make it simpler you can just ask people sincerely to give their thoughts. Most people are delighted to give their opinion, especially the people who have enjoyed their experience with you (who are, after all, your best customers and the ones you are going to want to develop a relationship with) or unsatisfied customers (who you will want to appease in order to reduce negative word of mouth). Make sure that your staff understands what the survey is for (to better understand the customer and meet his needs). If you have an online or service business then use survey software such as to gather the information.

Make sure your survey is no longer than 8 questions or people won’t answer it, and be sure to capture an email address. Ask how the person knows about the business, if they would recommend it, what needs you fulfill and any suggestions. Be clear about what you will do with the contact details, explaining that you will be sending them information and offers, and don’t forget to ask for permission to use any testimonials in your marketing materials.

Use the information at weekly staff meetings to gauge performance, praise staff and discuss problem points. Send unhappy customers an offer to come back and give you another try; it is amazing how powerful an unhappy customer that you have turned around can be for spreading great word of mouth.

Add this information to your customer database and use it to refine your knowledge and carry out marketing campaigns. Filter customers by different criteria and look for opportunities. Test follow-up campaigns to encourage repeat customers. Send an email or postcard, thanking the customer for their business with an offer for the next time they do business with you.

An exit survey example:

An exit survey is a simple yet fantastically effective way to find out what your customer thinks about your business, collect important information that will affect your marketing decisions, and gather customer contact information for further marketing activities.

– excerpt from Win Win Marketing – The Essential Guide to Increasing Profits, Getting New Customers and Growing Your Business in Today’s Markets.

Win Win Marketing is THE essential marketing guide for small and large businesses alike. Immediately applicable and pragmatic, the book is a collection of proven strategies that shows business owners exactly how to grow their businesses. Experienced business owners and newcomers alike will learn:

  • Easy and affordable ways to increase profits and get new customers.
  • How to best use the Internet through good website design, SEO, social media and more.
  • To get more out of existing customers and develop new revenue streams.
  • How to encourage referrals, get good press and create effective advertising.
  • The secrets of highly successful marketers.

Win Win Marketing has no dry theories or textbook style teaching; in a series of quick, practical and easy to implement strategies, Foxwell breaks down marketing into activities that are sure to help any business succeed.

Author: Amy Foxwell is the owner of Foxwell Associates and creator of the Win Win Marketing System series. She is a recognized expert in the field of Customer Marketing. For over 15 years she has worked throughout the world with both Fortune 500 companies such as Microsoft, Disney, AOL, Vivendi and Channel 4, as well as small businesses and start-ups to develop and apply customer centric marketing. She is member of many business networks and is a frequent contributor and speaker on marketing topics.

Read more: How Surveys Can Help You Create More Effective Content Marketing