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Timing Your Surveys for Success

May 5, 2009

by Mary Crogan, Constant Contact Senior Business and Marketing Manager, Online Survey

How often do you gather feedback from your customers?

If you're doing a general customer satisfaction survey once a year, you're missing out on opportunities to learn critical information that can help your business today. This is especially important in a challenging economy, where you can't take your customers for granted. Surveying customers more frequently helps you to identify and respond to trends in a timely manner.

Any touch point with customers is an opportunity to get a read on how they're feeling. The key is to choose your opportunities wisely and ask the right questions to get the information you need to make better business decisions. (Click here to learn how to write effective survey questions.) Here are three good times to do a survey.

After a Sale or Purchase
The post-sale survey doesn't have to be as long and detailed as a general customer satisfaction survey. Here you can ask how satisfied customers are with the product/service they just purchased, whether they think the price point was right, and what other products or services they might want to buy from you. As an extra incentive for participation, you might consider adding a coupon incentive, especially if you're one of these types of businesses:

  • Online retailers: Incorporate your survey link into the order confirmation page on your website. Add an incentive for customers to take the survey by offering to email them a coupon for dollars or a percentage off their next purchase.
  • Consultants and service providers: Email clients a survey after you've completed their projects or provided a service. Incent them to complete the survey with a coupon for a percentage off the next time they book your services.
  • Brick-and-mortar stores: Staple a note to the sales receipt asking customers to visit your website and take a brief survey about their shopping experience. Tell them you'll email them a coupon as a thank-you. That's an incentive to take the survey ... and an invitation to return to your store to redeem the coupon and buy more.

Before or After an Event
When you're planning an event, whether it's a product demonstration at your shop, an association or nonprofit fundraiser, or an educational event -- survey your audience first to ensure a more successful turnout. Ask your audience about things that may affect their decision to attend your event or not -- day of the week, time, location, agenda.

Let your customers know you desire their input to make the event a success for them. After the event, survey customers to ask them what they liked about the event and what you could do differently next time.

Before You Make Any Major Changes to Your Business
Businesses and organizations today are willing to go out on a limb to grow (or just to stay afloat). It's tempting to play a hunch and make changes you hope will be appreciated by the people you serve. But you can't rely on the anecdotal opinions of a few or even "going with your gut." Don't make any major changes to your business without consulting the most important people of all -- your customers.

Before you add or discontinue a product line, change your service offerings, or offer products and services at reduced price points -- survey your audience and find out what they think. You'll be glad you did. Any change to your business stands a better chance of succeeding if you get the blessings of a large, broad group of customers first.

Caution: Don't Over-Survey Your Customers
Too much of a good thing can have the opposite effect. Don't survey your customers so much that they ignore your surveys altogether. Think about what you need to learn from customers today to make smart business decisions, and plan on surveys during the year to coincide with your sales cycles and events. Be proactive rather than reactive to the ups-and-downs of the economy: Watch for trends and opportunities, and when in doubt -- survey your customers.

Keep the regular two-way communication going, and let customers know that you appreciate and value their opinions. They are, after all, the reason you are in business. Remind them ... and you'll benefit greatly from their feedback.