Have you ever wished that you knew exactly what your customers were thinking? A crystal ball would be nice, but not terribly efficient or reliable. Fortunately, a low cost method of gathering input from customers is now available via online survey software. Used correctly, an online survey can help you understand your customers, monitor trends, and get some honest feedback about your products.
Many small businesses still cling to the idea that gathering customer feedback means handing out comment cards or meeting face-to-face. The challenge with the former is encouraging customers to take the time and make the effort to complete and return the card, and the issue with the latter is that people tend to be uncomfortable giving honest feedback in a face-to-face situation, perhaps out of politeness or not wanting to hurt that nice salesperson’s feelings.
The ability to complete the survey in the comfort of one’s home, at the consumer’s convenience, and with nothing else needed other than to press “Send,” means that the customer is much more likely to complete a well-crafted survey.
Here are 10 tips to create an online survey to connect with your customers:
1. Narrow your focus:
Create survey questions that provide the information you need. For example, if you own a wool store offering products and classes and you want feedback on the classes, don’t create a survey with questions about the products.
2. Keep online survey short & simple:
Marketers recommend that an online survey should take no longer than five minutes to complete. You can choose between open-ended or multiple-choice questions, but reward your customer with a discount or coupon for a longer or more complicated survey.
3. Make the questions measurable:
Open-ended questions are fine in some circumstances, but if 90% of a survey consists of open-ended questions, the answers will be much harder to analyze and quantify. Instead of asking, “Which of our products do you like the best?” aim for “Which of the following products do you regularly purchase?” and then give the customer a selection to choose from.
4. One thing at a time:
Creating a survey that asks for information on one aspect of your business at a time will result in measurable answers. For example, if you’re interested in understanding whether a product is useful and if the ordering process is convenient, create two separate questions so that you can easily measure which aspect the customer is addressing in the survey.
5. Don’t leave room for interpretation:
Create an online survey that asks clear, unambiguous questions. Try to avoid words such as “Always” and “Never,” because they can set the stage to move the customer in a particular direction, creating bias in the response.
6. Leave room for free choice:
It’s fine to require that certain questions be answered, but online survey software can allow questions to be missed and still provide relevant information. Forcing your customer to respond to a question he or she is uncomfortable answering, or doesn’t want to complete, will only turn them off the survey altogether.
7. Go with the flow:
Order matters. Group similar questions together and make sure to create a survey that flows in a logical manner. It’s also customary in the world of online surveys to leave demographic or personal-type information, such as age or gender, to the end of the survey. This signals to the customer that the survey is coming to a close.
8. Choose your audience:
If you are creating a broad, general online survey, it’s okay to send it to the entire customer base. But if the survey is about a specific event or soliciting ideas for a newsletter, target the people who attended the event or subscribe to the newsletter. Sending the online survey to people who did not attend the event or have no desire to subscribe to the newsletter, not only annoys the recipient but is also a waste of your employees’ time. It’s also a good idea to have an employee or friend complete the survey before it goes public. Any typos or illogical questions can be picked up at that point.
9. Keep an open mind:
When reviewing the online survey for answers, avoid the temptation to pass judgment or jump to conclusions. Wherever possible, create the survey with an online software program that will automatically collate the information and present it in a graph, pie chart, or text in a word processing software. Your customers have hopefully been honest and unbiased in their feedback; you need to be equally unbiased in interpreting the information.
10. Finally, listen to your customers and share the results:
This is an important step in creating customer loyalty and building relationships. Leaving the impression, “we heard what you said and this is what we’re doing to improve/change,” leads the customer to feel vested in your business – and that’s worth gold in this competitive world.
Creating an online survey doesn’t need to be expensive. There are numerous survey software companies that offer free online software for smaller numbers of recipients. And it doesn’t need to be complicated; a good survey software program can take care of the details, leaving you to take care of your customers.
This article is written by David Miller. He is an educational researcher who has vast experience in the field of teaching, online testing and training. He is associated with prestigious universities and many leading educational research organizations. He’s an ed-tech veteran, currently pursuing research in ProProfs Knowledge Base Software, and is a contributing author with ProProfs.