Growing your business with customer surveys

Designing a clear and focused customer survey can help businesses find out what they're doing right and what they can improve.

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Customer surveys
Published: February 16, 2017

Customer surveys, when executed well, can help you understand what your customers want and expect from your business — pinpointing areas where you can improve the client experience and where your products or service may not fit your clients' needs.

"A good survey can help you identify your perfect customer and tailor your service just for them," says Brad Farris, Principal Advisor at Anchor Advisors Ltd.

An effective customer survey also offers insight into other areas of your business and can be used to:

  • Test new products or service concepts before launching them

  • Determine the effectiveness of your company's marketing strategies

  • Discover how your business fares against competitors

Here are four tips to help your business cultivate a loyal customer base and improve your business model using clear and concise customer surveys.

"You can state the objective at the start of the survey in order to elicit focused and constructive feedback."

Choose a survey objective

Any survey you create should have a measurable goal or objective. By knowing the purpose of the survey, you may reduce the odds of receiving misleading responses. You can also state the objective at the start of the survey in order to elicit focused and constructive feedback.

Select an effective interview method

Determine which interview method works best for you based on your budget, timeline, and objective. If you want quick results, then opt for a telephone or online survey, using different free software such as SurveyMonkey, Typeform, etc. If you want more detailed responses and aren't worried about a tight deadline, then mailed and in-person interviews may be the most effective options.

Plan strong interview questions

Once you have a survey objective, the next step is to decide the design of the questions and potential responses offered to respondents. You may want to provide an assortment of questions. Consider qualitative — open-ended — questions that encourage descriptive responses and quantitative — specific and measurable — questions that elicit numbers-driven results questions. You may even consider a mix of both. However, you should avoid any leading questions that prompt for specific answers.

"When you're trying to find out what a customer likes or dislikes about your product versus a competitor's product, you should always try to construct your wording in a more neutral or balanced way, so you are not leading with any negative or positive thing," says Becky Wu, Ph.D. and Senior Executive Vice President of Luth Research.

Interpret and measure customer feedback

Once you receive the survey results, the next step is to analyze the information gathered. While trends in the survey results may seem indicative of future business developments, Wu encourages small business owners to invest in and seek out an experienced market research professional or organization to analyze survey responses and help you understand how to use the results to benefit your business. If your budget is too tight for an external analysis, make sure you structure your questions in a way that will help you elicit beneficial responses as recommended above.

"Even though market research has been around for decades, it's still very relevant to know how to engage respondents so that you get the most authentic response."

Put results into action

Once you've analyzed the survey results, you'll need to implement changes to reflect feedback from your customers. Consider modifying customer service tactics, employing new marketing strategies, or creating new products that serve your customers' needs.

While the content or survey method may differ, focusing on a specific business objective can help you create a meaningful customer survey and unlock key insights into your business. Learn more about asking for customer feedback.

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