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Posts Tagged ‘customer satisfaction surveys’

Conducting an Effective Online Survey

Tuesday, January 6th, 2009

Kicking off the New Year right might mean conducting a customer survey to gain a better idea of how your company can improve their products and services, identify new markets, and hone its message. If you’re conducting the survey in-house, you will want to make it a speedy, yet professional exercise, one that produces immediate actionable insights. Conducted right, an effective survey can have a wide-ranging reach, so here are three tips on how to create, deploy, and analyze a customer survey:

1. Emphasize in your email cover letter why responding to your survey is a good idea. In her 2-part  series Getting a Good Response to Your Surveys, Constant Contact’s Caroline Shahar notes two key ways of demonstrating the benefits of answering a survey to potential respondents. These tips are echoed in Zoomerang’s 10 Tips to Improve Your Surveys:

     a. offer an incentive and
     b. assure customers that responding will have an impact.

For incentives, the standard is to enter respondents in a drawing to win something, but Shahar notes that sharing a report on survey responses can also be a valuable incentive (I know I’ve responded to surveys where the results were the only incentive). I would add that it also makes sense to use the incentive as a way to drive conversions (I was going to write sales, but this advice applies even when you are not selling something).

For instance, offer respondents 10% off their next purchase, an exclusive online seminar, or an upgrade to a higher level of service, if the cost is not too high. This will not only encourage customers to respond to the survey, but will also realize the additional, ultimately more essential, benefit of more sales and/or conversions. If possible, include a link at the end of the survey to a landing page where respondents can immediately complete the desired conversion. Send an email reminder to survey respondents who arrive at the landing page and don’t complete the conversion.

As for assuring customers that responding will have an impact, clearly state what you intend to use survey responses for, rather than using a generic statement that survey responses help serve customers better. For instance, if you will use the information to improve products, say so specifically. Which brings up tip number 2:

2. Respond to the feedback–and make sure customers know how you’re responding. Using a multi-step process is the best way to demonstrate your commitment to listening to your customers. As noted above, start with your email cover letter requesting participation in the survey.

But don’t just stop at the cover letter–indeed, don’t just stop when the survey is finished. Follow up in a few months or weeks with concrete information about how you have put the survey results into action: release the survey results in a report made available on your site, or mention in your newsletter that a specific product revision came about as a result of feedback from the survey. This kind of concrete assurance that you are listening to customers via your survey, and acting on their feedback, will help boost response rates to future surveys, as well as the quality of responses.

Most importantly, it will help demonstrate that your organization is responsive to customer needs. Of course, this kind of utilization of survey results requires buy-in from many departments, which can be a challenge. But ultimately, the rewards are significant in terms of expanding market reach, increasing customer retention, and growing revenue.

3. Make the survey as easy, and as unambiguous as possible. Avoid respondent fatigue by asking a maximum of 15 questions. If you have more than that number of questions you really want to ask of your customers, consider segmenting your list, and creating two surveys, each with questions most relevant to that segment; Shahar offers excellent tips on sending out surveys to segments of your customers. For instance, she suggests targeting only retail store customers, or only online customers. Zoomerang’s 10 Tips offers a basic roundup of survey best practices for marketers, including several ways to reduce respondent fatigue, such as using closed-ended questions, logical ordering, and pre-testing.

Related to making a survey easy to complete is eliminating ambiguity. Responses can drop off when respondents get frustrated by confusing questions. In addition, if a statistically significant number of respondents misunderstands a question, the survey’s validity can be called into question. To make sure that ambiguity is reduced to a minimum, make sure that not only the questions themselves, but also the available answers that respondents can choose from are clear: eliminate open-ended questions, offer a reasonably large number of options for multiple-choice questions, and err on the side of writing somewhat longer items (for instance, writing “Once a Week” for a frequency question, rather than just “Once.”)

Conducting a survey can provide a host of benefits, not just for the marketing department, but for the entire organization. Implementing a survey well can make a big difference to your marketing efforts, providing a wealth of insights. Take steps to ensure a robust response rate, maximize utilization of results, and make the survey itself an effective vehicle of communication with customers. This will greatly enhance the usefulness of your survey.

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Christina Inge is a marketing consultant, and serves as Marketing and PR Coordinator for the New England Quilt Museum in Lowell, MA. She has over 10 year’s experience in communicating with both B2B and B2C audiences. 

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The views and opinions on this blog are solely those of the contributors and do NOT necessarily reflect the official opinions of the Boston Chapter of the American Marketing Association.