Pssst! Your Customers Are Talking About You

Lind Hanson

In a world where customers seem to be demanding more and more it is not surprising that your company's relationship with its customers has a lot to do with your future success. So you better hope your customers are talking about the good things you do for them when they tell others about your company and its services.

Want to know what your customers are saying about your company? Ask them. When conducted with a good follow-up program, surveys can be an effective tool for growing sales and turning customers into loyal repeat customers. Customer surveys can also head off any small problems before they become big and negatively impact your sales.

Statistics show that when customers become dissatisfied, they don't usually continue to buy from the company and they don't tell us why they are unhappy - they just leave. Unhappy customers will tell many more people if they have had a problem with your company. But, if you can find out what makes them unhappy, fix it, and ensure it doesn't happen again you can retain and even gain back customers. Recent research by Fred Reichheld, a Bain & Co. consultant and author of Loyalty Rules, found that even a 5% increase in customer retention rates results in a 25% to 95% increase in profits (depending on the business). So it definitely pays off to keep customers happy.

Research conducted by Benjamin Schneider and William Macey from Valtera, an international HR consulting firm specializing in employee opinion surveys, has found that customers report higher levels of satisfaction with organizations when employees report higher levels of job satisfaction. This linkage is true across a wide variety of industries. So if your customers are unhappy, your employees maybe unhappy. These are good reasons to conduct customer satisfaction surveys.

Here are some tips to help you put together successful customer surveys.

  1. Decide what you hope to accomplish with a customer survey and what you are prepared do with the results. Explain to people upfront how the information will be used and who will be seeing the results.
  2. Determine what type of survey you will use - mail, telephone or online survey. Some companies design report cards that are left behind after a job is complete.
  3. Ensure anonymity to your customers so they will be honest with you when answering questions.
  4. When writing your questions, ensure you are not leading the customers to the answer you want. Let them say what they believe.
  5. Limit the number of open ended questions where customers explain in detail how they feel. Too many text boxes will cause the reader to get frustrated and possibly skip answers.
  6. Test your survey with several people to ensure your questions are clear and will produce the desired results before you send it out.

If you want to grow your business and your profits you need to proactively listen to your customers with surveys.

Linda Hanson, CMC, is a certified management consultant and author of 10 Steps to Marketing Success. She writes, speaks and consults on marketing, management and customer service issues and can be contacted at www.llhenterprises.com. Sign up for her free newsletter The Superior Performance Report.

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