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Survey dos & don'ts

Jun 1, 2010 12:00 AM

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You might survey customers regularly, but how frequently do you analyze the results? Even more importantly, have you implemented any changes based on the feedback? The bottom line is that you must take action on the results, or don't bother surveying. Surveying is not an event, but an ongoing process.

Should you survey customers with every print order? For repeat buyers, we suggest surveying no more than every 90 days to avoid driving down loyalty. In your e-mail message, explain the timing up front, so they won't assume the survey process is going to turn into a spam issue. If you are correctly managing the frequency of surveys to repeat buyers, you can anticipate a 20% to 35% response rate on a continuous basis. Let the feedback flow and let customers know that the survey is just another way to stay connected and responsive.

How many questions should you ask? Keep the survey to less than 30 seconds (5-7 questions maximum). State In the invitation that it will take less than a minute, and stick to that promise. You might want to change the questions and the invitation regularly to keep the survey fresh and inviting. If you can only ask one question, make it, “How likely are you to recommend us to colleagues and friends?”

There are two types of surveys. A strategic survey helps to map out necessary investments during the upcoming year. Customers appreciate this. If it's positioned correctly and you promise to share the results with them, they will give you five minutes and answer about 20 questions. The second type of survey is the post-job survey or the 90-day pulse survey to connect on an ongoing basis.

The biggest surveying mistakes

  1. Waiting too long between surveys.

  2. Making the survey too long.

  3. Making the process too complicated so it isn't done continuously.

  4. Assigning the wrong person to manage the process. I have seen “gaming” of the system, where an internal person doesn't survey certain customers because they don't want to hear complaints. You need to hear from everyone.

  5. Not monitoring the process continuously. Gathering and monitoring customer feedback starts at the top and must be part of the company culture.

Once the information is gathered, then what? The best, most successful printers contact every customer who responds to the survey. There is a story behind every response. In addition, the best printers put questions on the survey that probe for other selling opportunities.

Print out the survey results and review them with your team. Discuss what customers are saying and, together, come up with a game plan. The best, most successful printers also share glowing comments with their teams to build morale. Approximately 95% of survey comments are positive. Don't bury them in the customer feedback database. Share them.

If conducted properly, surveys are indispensible tools for growing your business, enhancing performance and making informed decisions about the allocation of resources.

Michael Casey is president and founder of Survey Advantage ( He is a strategic partner with NAPL supporting its consulting and research practices, he integrates project surveying with MIS systems and he is an approved supplier for several franchise networks.