Getting a read on your customers

By default, we make a lot of assumptions in marketing. But where we can measure, we should. There may not be any area more critical for us to measure than how our current customers are feeling about our work, our people and our value.

Customer satisfaction surveys are nothing new and yet, they are often done poorly. The saddest part of when they’re done badly is that most companies are missing a huge marketing opportunity.

Yes, it’s wonderful to get the data points that you’ll glean from the survey, but there’s also an incredible amount of goodwill and soft marketing that can happen when the research is done well.

Your clients will appreciate that you care enough about their business to ask. But only if you also help them see how you are going to genuinely listen and react to what they tell you. We’ve all been on the receiving end of the same survey, over and over, from a business who asks the same questions after every interaction, but we never hear about the survey results or how they’re going to put their new insights into action.

In this week’s post  and next, we’ll review the ingredients to a successful customer satisfaction survey.

Invite your customers to participate and tell them what you’re going to do with what you learn: Without a doubt, this first step is one of the most critical. And yet, there are elements of it that are often overlooked or purposefully skipped. Don’t miss a single nugget of this step if you want to maximize the value of the research.

Start by sending an email or letter to your customer base telling them that you’re going to be sending them a link for an online survey or that your research partner is going to be calling to schedule a phone/Zoom interview.

Give them the timeline of when you’re going to be gathering information, when you’re going to be crunching the numbers and when you are going to share what you learned and how you’re going to address their feedback.

A couple key takeaways from this section. First – you will get much richer, more candid answers if you do not self-administer the survey. Your clients like you and won’t be as candid as you want them to be.

Second – the key to all of this working the way you want it to and getting some marketing juice from it is the report back. When you tell your customers what you learned (good and bad) you can emphasize the elements of your work that everyone loves and appreciates. It’s a smart reminder to your clients that odds are, you do more than what they’re currently buying.

By also disclosing what needs tweaking and how you’re going to make those fixes, you reassure your clients that you’re open to continual improvement and feedback. And you also might be fixing the very issue that is becoming a deal breaker for them.

There’s a formula to how you report back the information, but we’ll get into the details of that in next week’s column.

Strongly consider getting both qualitative and quantitative input: By mixing an online survey with some in person interviews, you can get the best of both worlds. It allows you to survey more people, which will give you more reliable data, but by adding the qualitative interviews in, your research partner can probe into areas of interest and concern. They can follow a script of questions but ask for more detail, clarification and allow the conversation to evolve.

Yes, it’s more expensive and more time consuming, but the insights gained are well worth the effort.

In next week’s column we’ll talk about question construction, how long is too long and how to decide where to focus.


This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.