The Survey Says…

By John Sundberg

How well do you know your callers? Staying on top of what your callers are thinking and doing is important for your business, but it can be an ongoing CRM (Customer Relationship Management) challenge. Surveys have long been the gateway into callers’ minds. With new technologies, surveying has never been easier or more cost-effective.

We are seeing more real-time surveys, highly targeted sampling techniques, and sophisticated departmental data integration. As new and more sophisticated capabilities work their way into the marketplace, we are beginning to get a glimpse of what the future holds for survey software.

Today’s Survey Solutions: When it comes to surveys, organizations have four main surveying solutions from which to select. They include traditional surveys, ASP surveys, Web-based products, and enterprise survey management systems.

Traditional surveys: Many organizations rely on third party data consultants or internal resources to construct and conduct surveys through the mail, over the phone, or online. This method of surveying is familiar, consistent, and the most common. However, the costs of such surveys are high, the process is time-consuming, and response rates tend to be low.

ASP surveys: ASP (Application Software Provider) surveys have become a popular option for many companies. They provide low-cost surveys that can be quickly constructed, distributed, and analyzed. Although these methods are relatively inexpensive, they inherently offer less flexibility and overall control compared with enterprise systems.

Web-based products: Web-based products are becoming more widespread and result in sophisticated and integrated solutions. Web-based enterprise surveys provide highly customizable, flexible, and multi-department surveying tools. However, they require extensive IT support for each survey conducted, which can make them relatively costly.

Enterprise survey management systems: Enterprise survey management systems are making their way into the market. Some provide fully integrated solutions requiring minimal or no IT support once installed. These systems are designed to handle all survey needs from phone surveys to Web and e-mail – with coordination across the survey methodologies.

Closing In on the Customer and the Future: We are seeing increased usage of online surveys, or surveying the customer at the service moment. For example, a customer may be surveyed online while reading a company article or may be prompted by a survey at the end of a service call.

Voice-activated and wireless surveys are becoming more prevalent as well, and real-time surveys are becoming the standard. Today’s surveys are taking less time to complete and are providing more specific, actionable customer data.

As surveys become easier to conduct and more cost effective, there is always the risk of overwhelming callers with questions – and with the surveys themselves. You must be careful to not over-survey callers, or make the critical mistake of negating the positive impact of the survey by not acting on survey results. Some survey software solutions head off these problems before they occur, providing you with survey histories and even alerting you to the risk of over-surveying a caller.

Seize the Service Moment: To take full advantage of the appropriate surveying technology, now and in the future, you should identify and critically evaluate your current survey applications and processes. Are your survey strategies successful, obtaining the results and data you desire? Are there more effective ways of surveying callers? Is there information you’d like, but don’t have the requisite technology to obtain it? Does your software have the capability of handling multiple survey methodologies and integrating results? How cost-effective is your surveying solution? If this evaluation shows that your existing technology and processes fall short of your needs and expectations, consider future-proofing your survey solution.

The future holds exciting possibilities for enhanced CRM through survey software. The technology for these advances is available today – some of it easy to use and with a rapid return on investment. Proper surveying is crucial for remaining competitive. They key is understanding your surveying needs and staying ahead of the curve – and your competitors – in reaching and touching your callers.

John Sundberg is the president of Kinetic Data. Based in St. Paul, MN, Kinetic Data developed and delivers Kinetic Survey, a comprehensive tool for creating and administering surveys of all types.

[From Connection Magazine March 2007]