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Why Survey Your Customers?

Customer satisfaction is a key part of customer data management (CDM), and surveys are an efficient way to evaluate your customers' response to your products, services, new promotions, prototypes, and more. A better understanding of your current customers allows your company to attract and retain high-value customers. Customer surveys offer you a helpful tool for measuring the success of your business development efforts.

Best practice, in terms of customer retention and loyalty, is to integrate CDM information into your feedback surveys. This eliminates time-consuming introductory questions about how long a respondent has been a customer of the company, his or her age, gender, socioeconomic group, etc. This reduces the number of questions on the survey (which is always a good idea when you want to persuade a customer to respond), and it shows your customers that they are known and valued by you. Because you are not wasting their time asking questions to which they feel you should already know the answers, your questions can be focused on their specific needs, based on their history with your company. For example, a targeted survey could be sent to customers who purchased a particular computer three years ago, or a survey could be designed to follow up with clients who have recently taken on investments, with questions related directly to the performance of the investments they selected.

Writing customer-specific surveys is obviously time saving and good for customer relationships. At the same time, knowing exactly what you want to learn about a customer, a product, or a service, clearly helps in constructing your survey and deciding on your questions.

For the most reliable answers, questions need to be phrased very carefully. It is always better to avoid double-barreled or leading questions; respondents can be confused when confronted with two-part questions, they may not be sure which part they are meant to answer and therefore the results may be skewed. Questions should also be phrased in a manner that is as unbiased as possible; you don't want to imply a particular response.

There is a place for qualitative response data as well, but questions that are too open-ended make it difficult to analyze and evaluate the answers. Consider replacing open-ended questions with more specific ones. For example: "What kind of vacation do you prefer?" This question is completely open-ended and could be better phrased with specific options thus: "On vacation, do you prefer a beach resort, city, adventure, activity, or romantic getaway? Please choose one."

If you are interested in the level of satisfaction experienced by your customers, consider a numerical score – but limit the number to a maximum of five, fewer if possible. If you give respondents too large a range – perhaps from strongly agree, somewhat agree, slightly agree, and so on, through to strongly disagree you are likely to get a large number of responses that avoid the extremes and – when calculated numerically – may well cancel one another out, giving you an average score that is not very informative.

Questions that build on the relationship you already have with customers and that are based on your customer information will attract a higher number of respondents and should enable you to analyze feedback in such a way that you can retain your most valued customers and learn how to attract new ones. Specific survey questions should provide you with the data you need to target your marketing efforts. InSite's online survey software allows you to add or edit questions, track responses and analyze results. You can even generate real-time reports.

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