Incorporate Best Practices into Your Customer Survey Process
By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.
Do you survey your customers or clients? Should you do customer surveys? And if you already have a survey process in place, do the results meet your needs? Or should it be overhauled or even retired?
Regardless of where you are on the survey continuum, don’t rollout a customer survey without first determining if it’s necessary, ascertaining what you hope to accomplish, and having a well thought out plan.
Here are seven tips to conduct engaging surveys:
1. Determine Your Why
Decide what you want your customer survey to accomplish. Never do one until you know why you’re doing it. The worst reasons to do a survey are because everyone else is or because you think you’re supposed to. If it doesn’t make good business sense, don’t do it.
Here are some possible reasons why you should have a customer survey: To improve the level of customer service, to reduce customer churn, or to close more sales. But don’t try to achieve all three objectives with one survey. Pick one.
2. Fine Tune Your Focus
Next, you need to narrow your focus. Don’t expect one customer survey will meet the needs of every department throughout your organization. Thinking that you can conduct one survey to give useful information to your service department and your sales department and your marketing department is folly. Again, pick one.
3. Assign Responsibility
Based on your survey’s why and focus, assign it to the department that will most benefit from the results. Then pick a person in that department to champion it. They may or may not be the person to design and implement the customer survey, but they do need to ensure it moves forward.
4. Design with Intention
In planning your customer survey, be intentional with its design.
In preparation, take as many surveys as you can from other companies to see what you like and don’t like. Common survey issues are ones that are too long or too short. Other pet peeves include forcing users to explain their answer or not providing the option to leave a comment. Posting a time estimate for the survey helps increase participation; displaying a status bar increases the completion rate. Both are nice touches.
5. Test and Retest
With the design of the customer survey complete, it’s time to test it. The survey designer should test it thoroughly before asking for more input. Next, have employees in the sponsoring department test it. Then solicit input from the rest of your company. Last, invite select customers to go through the beta version.
After each round of testing, implement the recommended changes that support your objectives. But don’t implement every suggestion. Just do the ones that make sense.
6. Rollout Your Survey
At this point, you’re ready to publish your survey. But don’t blast it to every potential recipient, through all possible channels all at once. Instead do a soft launch. This way, if there are errors or oversights, you have a chance to fix them before everyone experiences the problem.
7. Iterate and Repeat
If you have a rolling survey that continues to collect data over time, periodically look at it to see if it needs tweaking but do this only after waiting a sufficient time and gathering enough data to do a thorough analysis of its strengths and weaknesses.
And if your customer survey is a one-shot endeavor, look at what went well and what didn’t. This can inform the next time you launch the survey, because—unless you really bungled it—you’ll want to do it again.
When done properly, customer surveys can provide valuable data and critical feedback to inform decision making. To achieve the best results, apply these tips to your design and implementation process.
Peter Lyle DeHaan is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Connections Magazine. He’s a passionate wordsmith whose goal is to change the world one word at a time. Learn about his books and read more of his articles at Peter Lyle DeHaan.