If you have ever undertaken a survey of your customers you will have quickly realised it is never easy. Finding your customers can be hard and when you you do see of their feedback can be harder still to digest. But you will also know that you can only grow your organisation or business based on that feedback and, in responding positively to what your customers say, build a better and stronger relationship with them.
Surveys get a bad name but used in the right way they are a valuable tool for engagement and insight.
For organisations who regularly want to seek the views of a known group of customers (housing associations, schools, doctors’ surgeries etc) surveys are a useful tools to use in a broader process of communication. And be very clear: communication is a two-way proess. It involves speaking AND listening.
So how do you surveys fit into and facilitate this process?
Make it easier
If you rely on customers always having to make the first move to contact you and providing feedback via an email address or phone number there is already a barrier to hearing their thoughts. They must come to you.
So why not go to them? Change the relationship. Create a way that eases communication.
And to make it easier, why not provide a structure to the feedback and ask them some questions in a way they find easy to respond to. A friend recently told me it took longer to write a coherent email with basic feedback to their school than to complete a simple yet structured survey which covered the same things.
Surveys won’t work for every one of your customers. But they will work for some. Remember we live in an imperfect world. The responses of those who do engage via your survey are an important part of the jigsaw you need to build.
Keep it relevant.
Don’t ask for too much and make what you do ask for is relevant to your customers. Make it timely too.
We have recently designed - and made available for free - a simple survey to assist schools engage with their parents. The focus was on parents and carers' experiences of school's educational provision and support during lockdown.
It was relevant to parents at that time.
The number of questions was limited to the most pertinent and they were asked in simple, straightforward way.
This meant parents were able to complete it quickly without adding unduly to their existing pressures (speaking as a parent, definitely an incentive!).
It also meant that schools did not get swamped with too much information. They could start to see the wood for the trees more easily and as a result react more effectively.
It is an opportunity to start or enhance a conversation and to develop a better partnership. Look at the next point below and, whilst there may be other questions you want to ask, adopting this approach will create further opportunities to ask them more effectively.
Respond to what they say
Finally, make sure you go back to your customers once they’ve responded. Summarise what they told you, what you have taken from what they said and what you are going to do as a result.
This needn’t be an onerous task. A collective email, a plan on your website. Even better an infographic or a video that brings visually conveys your response in an easily and quickly digested format. Few customers want a weighty report. But by going back to your customers with a course of action you demonstrate you have listened. And by putting in place those plans you are reinforcing that impression further.
Following this simple process provides positives for everyone: You gain priceless intelligence about your products and services, your customers feel listened to and you have laid the foundations of trust that enable you to go back and ask other questions another time.
Do this well and people are likely to respond again next time.
Surveys can be overused when done badly. When part of a broader plan they are a critical tool not just to gather important intelligence from your customers but bolster your communication with them.
You may also be interested in
Thought, inspiration and how-to straight in your inbox - Sign up today
By subscribing you will receive our newsletter up to 4 times a year and occasional news of forthcoming events. You can unsubscribe at anytime.