Using Online Surveys for Customer Feedback
We recently ran an online customer survey about what types of products our customers were planning to buy during the first 6 months of 2011. It had actually been quite some time since we ran a survey of any type, and we were reminded once again of how useful these surveys can be in several different areas. Our plans for this year include using these much more frequently and broadly than we did last year to solicit feedback on our website, shopping experiences, customer satisfaction, and products.
We use the survey tool within Constant Contact. It's inexpensive, easy to set up a survey, and they have several different types of templates to help you get started. There templates include customers satisfaction, website feedback, event feedback, product or service feedback, and several others. There are many other online survey tools out there and I'm sure any of them will do for most small businesses.
The rest of this posting talks about several different ways that surveys can help your business and how to set up and motivate your customers to participate.
Customer Feedback & Input
The biggest immediate benefit we see from surveys is feedback we get on various types of product and website questions. One of the disadvantages of being "online only" is that you don't talk directly with customers very often. Surveys allow you to open up a conversation that you are "leading". Our latest product survey asked questions like:
- How likely are you to buy certain types of beads or findings within the next 6 months?
- Using this list of types of items we sell, where you like to see us invest our $$ in 2011?
- What types of jewelry supplies do you shop for that are most difficult to find?
- How much money will you spend on jewelry supplies in the next 6 months?
- Do you bead for yourself or sell products?
- Where do you buy products?
- Where do you look for beading inspirations?
We use a variety of question types - open ended, ranking a list, selecting all that apply and so forth. The remarkable thing we see is that if you leave a space for customers to comment on each question, about 50% of the respondents actually provide further feedback in each question. That's where we find really valuable feedback.
We use the feedback to build a shopping list for the year. We ask similar questions each year and are able to compare results from year to year to see trends. Each time we do this, we get ideas that we were not thinking about.
Other types of surveys we've used include Shopping Experience Feedback, Website Feedback, and Company Feedback. We are going to add one into our order confirmation page again that is 3 questions about the customers shopping experience. We receive great ideas of what's good/bad about our website and checkout from that. It's a great time to ask for input, because in addition to feedback, the customer knows that you care about their experience. Which leads me to the next big benefit.
Most customers like to know that their suppliers really do care about their experience and their opinions. I answer a lot of surveys, though not every one that presents itself. Usually, I'll take the time when I've had an exceptionally good or bad experience. In either case, I feel I'm providing useful feedback to my supplier. I also remember that they asked. That's really the important part of this.
Obviously, doing something with feedback is even more important, but as a customer I realize its not likely that I'll ever see the direct result. I do remember that someone asked and that adds to my overall satisfaction with that vendor.
How To Get Responses
Getting a customer to respond to feedback is really not as difficult as you may think. We frequently provide an incentive, though not always. A very simple incentive is a coupon for a discount on their next purchase. Another effective incentive is to offer a Gift Certificate that will be selected from a random drawing of all participants. We offered a $100 Gift Certificate on our last survey and got almost 300 detailed responses. Not bad for a total investment far less than that $100.
The next important thing is to set expectations properly. On your introductory page, let the respondent know the exact purpose of the survey, how long it will take them to complete, and what you will do with the results. We usually try to keep the time investment to 3-15 minutes and provide "feedback" in the survey itself on where you are in the survey.
We also make sure respondents understand we respect their privacy. We set our surveys to collect emails and names only if we are doing a drawing. We do not ever "contact" individuals or divulge individual responses.
Make sure to spend some time setting up your survey with good, open ended questions. Be clear on what you are asking and choose the type of question best suited to the response you desire. It may take you a few surveys to get the hang of questions, but its not rocket science. Pay attention as you respond to other surveys and note the how others are asking their questions.
We generally run our product or website surveys for about 2 weeks. We solicit input in our newsletter, on Facebook, and through Twitter. We also put a request in our email confirmations.
Give it a try. Online surveys are easier than you think.
Great Points! There is great value in customer feedback, but the challenge is always getting customers to respond. I think online surveys are a great way to get feedback from the customers, and they can be used for businesses of all sizes. Many smaller businesses think it is too difficult to create, but we have seen the valuable feed our clients have received and used to improve the customers eCommerce experience. We, here at Dydacomp, recommend that if you are going to take the time to carry out a survey, make sure analyze and use the feedback to better your business.