We’re all customer-focused. We shape our product and service offerings with government customers in mind. We build processes to ensure on-time delivery of contracted deliverables. Some organizations, though, excel at customer intimacy. They turn satisfied contacts into loyal customers, and a single contract win into long-term partnerships.

How can you better understand your customers’ interests and needs? One great “listening tool” is a customer survey, designed to collect candid feedback and input. Here are four tips for conducting powerful customer surveys.

1. Decide What You Want to Know

Before preparing your survey questions, decide what you want to learn. The three most common survey types collect feedback on:

  • Customer Perceptions: Discover what customers think about your company, products or services. How do customers describe you to others? When do they think of competitors first?
  • Customer Satisfaction: Find out how happy your customers are with your products, services and their overall experience. For candid results, conduct confidential or anonymous surveys by an independent third party.
  • Product/Service Development: Gain a better understanding of customers’ upcoming requirements for the next year or two and start your development process so you can continue to meet their needs.

2. Choose Who to Interview

Want to know how your organization is perceived in the marketplace? Interview executives who track market trends and players. Satisfaction is best measured by those who are close to the product or service you deliver.

Technical users can weigh in on product and service roadmaps. Be sure to survey a range of contacts – not just your favorites. Include champions and former customers, and everyone in between. You owe it to your organization to get a broad range of opinions.

3. Ask the Right Questions

If you ask the right questions – in a way that customers feel compelled to answer candidly – you’ll get insights that are missed in a single conversation. Include a mix of closed- and open-ended questions.

Rating scales, multiple choice and rank order questions are the easiest for participants to answer. Because you’re working with a fixed answer set, they are also the easiest to analyze. For online surveys, a majority of closed-ended questions will yield the highest response rate.

Open-ended questions are excellent for capturing stories, ideas and examples. “Tell us about your experience with…” “What else would you like to see…?” “If you could change one thing…” Customers are most comfortable answering these kinds of questions over the phone – when responses are confidential and aggregated back to the company without individual attribution. You’ll get a lot more detail if you do these via phone interview.

4. Honestly Assess the Responses

You’ll want to thoroughly analyze responses, so the truths emerge. You’ll find some of what you expected, but surprises as well. Resist the temptation to discard the answers you weren’t expecting. Instead, discover invaluable gems: overlooked strengths, surprising gaps and inspiration for what’s next.blank

BONUS TIP:  To uncover new customer testimonials, always ask participants if they are willing to be nominated for an industry award or provide a quote for a case study. Chances are, you’ll get some “yes” responses from satisfied customers who are able to share their experience with others.

Conducting effective customer surveys takes time. But getting the questions right, engaging customers and analyzing feedback is worth it! If you’re looking for support in conducting your customer survey, let us know. We’d be happy to help!