Over the Teacups

Giving Voice to the Tea Industry

Why You Need to Survey Your Customers Today

Posted on | May 8, 2013 | Comments

OMG! That cute guy in the office saw me *again* in my ugly green hat! But at least I'm wearing my cool green coat this time…

There’s a common misconception among new business owners that customer surveys are futile, when really nothing could be farther from the truth. Surveying your customers is absolutely critical to running your company. If you never receive feedback about your products and services, how can you possibly know if you’re serving your customers? The Huffington Post reports that many businesses fail to use regular customer surveys simply because they undervalue the importance of satisfied customers to staying in business for the long haul. But it’s important not only to ask for feedback, but to ask for the right feedback, and to provide incentives for customers to respond to your questions and give detailed opinions. This is what you need to know.

1. What Response Rate Can You Expect?

A study by survey company Vovici says that many things factor into how likely a customer is to respond to a survey, including length, subject matter, and incentives offered. But perhaps the biggest single factor in response rate is how the particular customer relates to your business. You might think a customer that has already decided to stop doing business with you would be motivated to give negative feedback, but really a lost customer only has about a 10-30 percent response rate. The highest response rates come from prospective or current customers, who have a vested interest in seeing you change and improve to meet their needs. So even if the response rate to your survey is low in general, you know the response you get is most likely from the right people.

"Step into my office!"

2. Feedback to Focus On

A simple survey where customers can rate their satisfaction with a number might seem like it would attract a higher response rate, but that’s not necessarily true. Customers who have the most valuable feedback to provide do best with open-ended questions, where they can discuss their specific experience and what they liked or didn’t like. This is the kind of information that is helpful to you. The way you design your surveys is crucial to how many responses you get and how useful the responses will be, because a simple low or high number rating doesn’t tell you exactly what you’re doing right or doing wrong. But you also don’t want to overwhelm the customer with too many complicated questions because they’ll give up on answering them. Often a number rating plus a follow-up question is best.

3. Be Proactive with Your Results

Customer surveys involve time, effort, and money, so you want to make sure you’re getting the most out of your customer feedback. You should discuss it with your staff, even if it’s less than positive, and open up discussion as to what you can do differently. Further contact with customers who responded to your survey, especially if they had negative things to say or specific bad experiences, is always a great idea. Personal follow-up tells the customer you really care about their opinion and about serving them the best way you can, and it’s a great way to change someone’s mind about you or solidify customer loyalty.

In order to help your business be successful, you shouldn’t look at customer surveys as frivolous or optional. Customer feedback is one of the most important parts of growing and improving your business. Rather than let the quality of your products and services be determined by sales numbers alone, you can stay one step ahead. If you find out what your customers need and expect, you can make sure they find it when they walk through your door.

Stacy Hilliard is regular guest blogger for business blogs. Interested in starting your own successful business? You may be interested in earning an mba from reputable schools such as Northeastern University.

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