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November 30, 2015
Customer Service  |  10 min read

Customer Surveys: How to Raise Your Sales & Marketing IQ in 4 Easy Steps

Good small businesses listen to the concerns, suggestions, and demands of their customers. But the best small businesses take that feedback and implement essential changes to meet the needs of their customers. This is where customer surveys come in. Without a customer survey, with clear, well-written questions, you won’t know what your small business is lacking and what changes need to be made to better serve your customers. 

While it may seem easy to ask customers how they feel about your business, products, or customer service, how can you record, organize and analyze their responses? What about the responses you get from face-to-face interactions? Are those customers being completely honest with you, or are they avoiding critical comments to spare your feelings?

The process of conducting market research and gathering customer feedback can be simplified by sending a survey. Asking a variety of questions will help you better understand your customers and what they want to get out of your products and services. This blog post will guide you through the process of creating a survey, from setting a goal, to creating a plan of action based on the findings. Read on to learn how a survey can provide a wealth of data you can use to improve the way your small business runs.

Step 1: What do you want to know?

First and foremost, you have to determine what you want to know. Don’t just send out surveys without a clear goal behind it. Surveys are a great way to gather information you can use to make better decisions across your entire company. For example, surveys can be used to:

  • Gather feedback on new product and service ideas
  • Measure customer satisfaction and find areas that need improvement
  • Identify key traits of your most profitable customers and what influences them during the sales cycle 

The most effective surveys have clearly defined objectives with questions that are related to the overall goal. This prevents the survey from becoming bloated with unnecessary questions, while ensuring that your research findings are actionable.  

Step 2: Ask the right questions

Surveys are great at gathering two types of data: objective facts and subjective states. If your goal is to identify your most profitable customers, you’ll want to gather objective demographic data (age, marital status), as well as subjective information (behaviors, interests, and opinions).

But beware—the way you ask a question can have a big impact on the answers you receive. When measuring customer satisfaction, you could use a numerical scale (“How satisfied are you on a scale of 1 to 5?”), Net Promoter Score (“How likely are you to refer us to others?”), an open-ended question (“How would you describe the quality of our customer service?”), and more. The results and reports you get will vary greatly, depending upon your approach. 

Knowing how to ask the right questions is more art than science. However, the table below can help you identify the right types of questions to ask, based on the circumstances.  

It’s also imperative to ask the right question based on where your customer is in the sales funnel. If you are targeting people at the top of your sales funnel, you can consider these survey questions (and examples of how to execute the questions):

  • How often would you like to hear from us?
    • Provide a dropdown menu or radio buttons to capture the answer
    • Which topics are you interested in receiving updates on?
      • Provide a list box or checkboxes to allow the contact to select as many topics as s/he wants to hear about from you
      • Age Range
        • Provide a dropdown menu or radio buttons to capture the answer
        • Annual Household Income
          • Provide a dropdown menu or radio buttons to capture the answer

Landing page top of funnel.png

Customers in the middle of your sales funnel are likely still in the buying process, or the consideration stage. For these customers, it’s best to use survey questions that will help you better understand where they are in the consideration process. Middle of the funnel survey are great for a longer buying cycle. For example, a real estate agent may build a survey into the nurture campaign to track engagement of a prospect they have not connected with after a few months. Questions could include:

  • When are you looking to buy?
  • Do you have a home to sell?
  • Desired neighborhood
    • Property type (lot, single family home, condo, townhome)
    • Bedrooms
    • Baths
  • Do you have a pre-approval?

Customers at the bottom of the funnel have already purchased from you, so you’ll want to ask questions that pertain to the service or product they purchased and their experience with your business. Examples include:

  • Based on your recent purchase with our company, how likely are you to buy again?
  • Based on your recent purchase with our company, how likely are you to tell a family member or friend about us?
  • How would you rate the quality of [product/service name]?
  • What was the main reason you purchased [product/service name]?
  • How well did [product/service name} meet your expectations?

 Landing page bottom of funnel.png

Anytime there is a dropdown option, it’s best to include a text area to allow the contact to provide more details if they would like to.  This is also a great way for the company to capture testimonials to use on their website, social media pages, or in their marketing.  (If a company wants to capture testimonials, they should also consider asking if they can use the customer’s comments). 

Step 3: Create incentives and minimize friction

There are two primary factors that impact the number of people who will complete your survey—motivation and friction. 

Offering an incentive for participation, such as a free gift or raffle entry, can greatly increase motivation. It also helps to simply explain the purpose of your research. To create a sense of urgency, set a deadline to complete the survey. A longer survey should have a bigger incentive.

Friction is anything that makes it difficult to take the survey, such as length or the difficulty of questions. Keep the survey short to prevent fatigue. As your survey gets longer, fewer people will complete it. A typical survey should take no longer than five to seven minutes to finish. Be sure to include how long the survey will take in your message to the customer.

If you can, avoid including too many open-ended questions. You’ll get a better response rate with set responses and it will be easier for you as the business owner to analyze the survey.  

Step 4: Build and test your survey

The majority of surveys are now conducted online. You can choose from a number of affordable, easy-to-use online survey tools—such as SurveyMonkeyTypeform, or Google Forms—to set up and administer your survey. Each option has advantages and disadvantages, but regardless of which solution you use, always test your survey before distributing it to customers.

Surveys can also be made in CRM software, like Infusionsoft. Simply make a landing page with your questions and provide the link in your email blast. The Infusionsoft Marketplace offers premade campaigns you can download into your app, including a customer satisfaction survey and a customer feedback survey (for recent purchases).

Share your survey with co-workers, friends, and family to get a wide range of feedback. Look for spelling and grammar mistakes, in addition to errors like leading or confusing questions or responses that are not mutually exclusive. It is very important to identify and correct any errors before launching the survey. Remember, once it’s live, you can’t take it back.

Once you have tested your survey and are confident the questions are clear, it’s time to start gathering feedback from your target audience.  

Once you’ve gathered your data, it’s time to crunch numbers and create reports. There are so many potential ways to slice and dice the data that it can become overwhelming, so be aware of overanalyzing.

To keep things simple, start with an overall analysis that includes data from all survey respondents. This chart outlines common types of reports you can create from survey data, and explains the advantages of each type.  

types of analysis.png

Once you’ve completed your overall analysis, identify two or three possible ways of slicing your data for further review. For example, you could segment your data by industry or annual revenue to see if there is a difference in behaviors between the groups. 

Avoid the temptation to oversimplify the meaning of the data. While it can be exciting to uncover findings in your data, remember that outliers can skew your data in unexpected ways. Know your margin of error and keep that in mind when comparing groups. You generally need at least 100 respondents in one group for the analysis to be meaningful or trustworthy. 

Finally, don’t lose sight of the original goal of your survey. Charts and graphs are fun, but stay focused on the data that supports your research objectives and provides insight to bigger questions. Data and statistics can supply the numbers, but only you can make sense of them in the context of your business.  

Surveys are an excellent form of gathering customer data to influence the course of your business, but they must be handled carefully. Questions cannot be open to interpretation and must align with the overall goal of the surveys. Additionally, the findings must be looked at objectively and interpreted in a way that will allow you to establish a course of action. When executed properly, surveys can open the eyes of your small business to issues you didn’t even know existed or highlight things that your company is doing exceptionally well. Most importantly, stay focused on survey goals and proper execution. By conducting meaningful and accurate customer surveys, you can substantially raise your sales and marketing IQ, helping your business to succeed.

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