Dear Professor Bruce: I own a few pet shops and am struggling with the right way to survey my customers and get much- needed feedback about my offerings without annoying them too much. What do you suggest?
Surveys are a great way for your business to stay in touch with your customers and to enable them to share their feelings about your products and services. It’s important that you design your survey so that you get the most useful information without burdening your customers with lengthy questionnaires. Think about the key things you hope to learn and craft a set of questions that you most want customers to respond to. For example, “how does my business compare with the competition?” or, “what new ideas do my customers like best?” Then, visualize the reports you want to create from the survey and collect the data for your analysis.
You can now take advantage of new technologies that provide do-it-yourself survey tools; with them, you can obtain information that was once available only to large enterprises. According to Justin Wheeler, VP and General Manager for SurveyBuilder, “surveys are an effective way for small businesses to better compete in the marketplace. With these new tools, entrepreneurs can now gain useful business insights much more efficiently and at a lower cost than ever before. And online assistance is available, so business owners need not hesitate about asking for help.” Online surveys can be cost-effective for small businesses, but make sure to avoid long-term contracts, since you may not want to survey your customers all that often.
He offers these tips:
— Think of your survey as a conversation with your customers. Build a dialogue with them by listing questions in logical order so you get the answers you are looking for.
— Know your audience. How smart are they? How well do they understand your business? Never assume that your customers’ knowledge is equal to yours. Avoid technical or professional terms since that could turn off your customers.
— Create clear, concise questions. Ask direct questions such as “Do you like…?” or “Which of these would you prefer?” Avoid leading questions that could influence the answers.
— Keep it short. Remember that many people don’t really like taking surveys, so make the questionnaire brief and interesting. Doing so will result in more completed questionnaires.
— Engage your customers. Once you have designed a clear, crisp, and direct survey to get information from the widest possible range of customers. Use your own customer list or a purchased list and make an effort to distribute the questionnaire as widely as possible.
For more information, see www.surveybuilder.com.