4 Simple Ways to Find Out What Your Customers Really Think

A customer survey is proven to be a valuable tool for businesses. Here's how to do it right.
Contributing Writer, SmallBizTrends.com
March 16, 2012

It turns out there’s a really simple way to cement customer loyalty—ask them what they think. In a recent survey from Cint, 62 percent of consumers say they would be more likely to purchase a brand’s product if the company asked for their opinions. And more than half say they’d be more loyal to the brand as a result.

Surveying your customers can benefit your business in many ways. You’ll gain insights to help you improve your product or service, find out what customers actually think of your business compared to your competition and be better able to target their needs.

In today’s Yelp-review-driven world, consumers increasingly expect to be asked their opinions: 77 percent of them believe companies are more interested in what they think than they were 10 years ago, and 69 percent believe businesses actually act on their advice.

So how can you conduct a survey that gleans useful results? Here are some tips.

Get online. Consumers overwhelmingly prefer tech when it comes to surveys; 91 percent cite “smartphone,” “Web” or “SMS” as their preferred methods. Just 4 percent like mail in surveys, and a mere 1 percent want to be surveyed by phone. There are many low- or no-cost online survey tools out there. Zoomerang is one I like that lets you do surveys online, on Facebook, or by mobile device and offers both free and premium plans.

Keep it short. How many times have you started to take an online survey only to get bogged down in a seemingly endless series of screens? The Cint survey found shorter is better. Forty percent of consumers will spend one to five minutes taking a survey; 30 percent will devote up to 10 minutes; and just 13 percent are happy to spend over 20 minutes. (I’m surprised that number is so high.) Remember, people are busy, so keep it short and simple.

Offer incentives. If your survey is short and focused on a topic (like customer satisfaction) that customers believe will ultimately benefit them, you may not need to offer a reward. But if you’re conducting a lengthier survey or doing market research to assess a product or service launch, some type of “carrot” might be necessary. Money (no surprise) is the best motivator for 55 percent of the respondents in the Cint survey, while 34 percent want free products and 6 percent are okay with vouchers. (If you offer a chance to win a prize, make sure you are following contest/sweepstakes rules in your state.)

Act on what you learn. There’s no point to doing a survey if you ignore the results, and keep doing what you’ve always done. Plus, in today’s socially-connected world, people who’ve taken the survey are likely to talk about it. Assess your survey results and use your customers’ feedback to make changes where they’re needed. Even if the results show that your customers are happy, you’re not home free. You need to regularly poll your customers to keep them satisfied.

Photo credit: Photos.com

Contributing Writer, SmallBizTrends.com