Surveys can be useful to find out what your customers are thinking and how you can better serve them. To conduct a meaningful survey, you need at least three things:
1. A survey tool. You need a way to collect responses. That might be a paper questionnaire you distribute, a telephone survey or an online survey. The right tool depends on your market. For example, because this newsletter is online, an online survey tool was the obvious choice. If you have a store or other physical location, a written or phone survey might be better.
2. Qualified respondents. If you are surveying current customers, you can simply contact those current customers with the survey and ask them to respond. Relatively few will, and they will be self-selected. That means that your results may not be repre- sentative of all of your customers. Still, you can get results that will give you insight. (FYI–about 5% of you completed the Bright Ideas survey.)
If you are surveying people who might become customers, it is helpful to qualify them in some way. You might include questions about their prior purchases of similar items, etc. Keep in mind that what people say they want and what they actually buy are two different things. (Ford learned that lesson the hard way with the Edsel.)
3. Good questions (and answers). The types of questions you ask are important. Do you want multiple choice questions, or open-ended questions where the respondent has to enter their answer? Multiple choice limits the responses to whatever you thought to include, but some respondents will not want to come up with an answer on their own.
I included a mix of question types, using multiple choice for the basic questions (such as preferred format, text or HTML) and open-ended questions where I wanted you to tell me what you liked or would change, without me leading you.
Overall, I believe that the questions solicited the feedback I wanted. If I were starting it over, one change I would make would be to add a choice or two to the question about frequency. The choices I offered were Not more than once weekly, not more than twice weekly, and three to five times weekly. I should have included monthly and bi-weekly (every two weeks). At least some of you would have chosen one of those answers. Oh well– next survey.
Spend most of the time planning the survey on creating the questions and possible answers. Involve people who can suggest any questions you may have overlooked. Give sample surveys to a few people to see what they think about the survey itself. Were the questions clearly written? Were the multiple choice answers adequate? Are there questions you should have asked them but did not?
Once you conduct your survey, use the answers to better meet customer expectations. And let them know when the changes you make are as a result of their participation in the survey. It lets them know you value their input and you really were listening. And it makes them more likely to participate in future surveys.