Your customers have an opinion about the products or services you provide them. Unfortunately, unless you directly ask them for that opinion, you may never hear it. Even more unfortunate is the fact that you could interpret that silence for happiness. That could lead you to make important business decisions based on incomplete, if not inaccurate, information.
That’s why it’s so important to understand your customers and their evolving needs. And why you need to ask them directly, instead of assuming. Here are some easy ways that small businesses can conduct effective surveys so they know how their customers feel and what to potentially do in response.
Online SurveysOne of the quickest (and easiest) ways to know your customers is through online surveys. Some common tools–most of which offer a free version–are SurveyMonkey, QuickTapSurvey, Qualtrics, and Google Forms. These apps can be customized and tailored to a variety of different formats.
In-person SurveysYou can conduct surveys in-person just as efficiently as online, thanks to mobile devices, applications, and tablets. Many of the tools mentioned above have mobile capabilities, allowing for quick response recording. So, dive into your customer list, and see how many are local. Invite them to lunch or an event in which they’ll be surveyed, and you’ll get tons of valuable feedback. Customers will appreciate the invite, want to talk longer, and offer body language that you simply can’t get with online surveys.
Define your strategyKnowing your customers helps guide and define your overall business strategy. While you may be safe in assuming your business solves a problem for your customers, making any assumptions beyond this general statement could be dangerous.
How pressing is the problem it solves? What would happen if it didn’t get solved, or didn’t get solved quickly? Does it cause your customer pain, or money or time, or something else? When do they have the problem, what else have they done to fix it in the past? These are just some of the questions you could (and should) ask to truly understand why they are your customers and what you need to do to keep them.
Every time you conduct a survey, you need to define a specific goal and area of the customer you want to know. This could be anything from customer service satisfaction to price sensitivity. Each survey is just one piece of the puzzle, and the more you have in your possession the better equipped you are to make decisions in the future.
What to AskBefore you conduct your survey, it’s important to know what to ask.
Things that you should ask about:
To conduct an effective survey, you need to have a few key bases covered. First, as mentioned, you need to select the right tools. Sign up for tools like SurveyMonkey and test their capabilities by building some example surveys.
You then need to consider the length and difficulty of your survey. Before you decide, think back to the big questions your survey is designed to answer. With long form surveys, for example, you can get more detailed responses and ask open-ended questions. The downside is, fewer people will take the time to fill them out.
Instead, many surveys are designed in short form, asking one or two simple, yet important, questions that will only take most people a minute or two to complete. That’s why it’s also important to make sure your survey is optimized for mobile, so people can simply click and fill out a short form survey on their mobile device when they’re on the go.
Once you choose the platform and survey with which you’re most comfortable, decide how you’re going to promote the survey to your customers. This could be via email, your website, or social media. The survey promotion should feel like a warm invitation, not an inquisition. Make sure to include a pleasant greeting, a reason for the survey, and estimated time commitment. Special incentives or product discounts can increase participation.
Interpreting ResultsAfter you’ve collected the results, take a look at things like the percentage of people that filled out your survey. Did they skip certain questions? This helps you understand the reliability and accuracy of the survey. You want to look for any glaring irregularities that might speak to the accuracy of your survey. You then want to try and answer the basic question, or questions, that the survey was designed to answer. Do the results tend to prove your original hypothesis, or does the data go against it?
What to Do with the ResultsOnce you’ve uncovered the data you sought, find an effective and attractive way to present it. This could be in the form of a marketing report to the rest of the company or presentation to employees and investors. You then need to decide what changes you’ll make to your business based on this feedback. While you don’t want to change anything in a knee-jerk fashion due to one or two individual responses, you do want to look for trends. If customers seem to be having consistent issues with your call center, for example, then customer service processes might be something you need to take a closer look at.
Get Started Today
If you don’t do surveys currently, then it’s probably something you need to start thinking about sooner rather than later. Here’s what you can do today to begin ramping up.
It’s holiday season again, the time of year when consumers most feel the need for instant gratification.
Instant gratification is a complex psychological phenomenon, going beyond simply wanting something right away. Lack of fulfillment can actually cause anxiety and tension, and no business wants anxious and tense customers. Take a moment and consider how the need for instant gratification will affect your business during the holidays and how your business can satisfy that need to create new, loyal customers.
Digital and Instant GratificationInstant gratification means getting exactly what you want when you want it. Combine this tendency with an ever increasing, on-demand consumer society, and you have an environment where businesses need to provide services faster than ever. And they need to do so without any drop-off in the level of service! Social and digital media, in combination with devices like smartphones and tablets, have made it easier for consumers to fulfill many desires almost immediately. To drive the point home, a whopping 88% of Americans now expect to be able to schedule a service whenever they need it.Amazon’s same-day delivery service only fueled that expectation.
Not every business can be an Amazon.com, nor should they. Small, local businesses offer unique experiences not available from big box online sellers. But, how can your business can prepare for holiday shoppers and their need for instant gratification during the holidays? Let’s dive deeper into some tips and strategies below.
Ways Your Business Can Prepare for Holiday ShoppingThe number one thing to keep in mind during this time is to be prepared. Most importantly, this goes for your staff, who are on the front lines of your business. They need to be educated and ready for the holiday season and be up to the task of providing a consistent level of positive customer service. Ultimately, if your staff can handle consumer demands during the holidays it will reflect positively on your business in terms of happy customers that spread the word of their experience for your business. But, the flip side can also be true. If your staff is unprepared and customers have a poor experience, it could be all the reason shoppers need to never return. Social media often fuels instant gratification, allowing customers to voice their opinion in real time, often with the expectation of an immediate response.
Ensure that your website is seamless and up-to-date. If you don’t have one, get one. The National Retail Federation asserts that consumers conducted nearly 50% of their 2015 holiday shopping online.
Although day-to-day online sales may not be a part of your current business, you should still explore options to meet the digital consumer’s needs. For example, even if you are a service provider or restaurant that performs most sales offline, you could potentially sell gift cards online and have them shipped to the customer (rather than having them pick up in person) or enable an instant download of the gift card or certificate. If you’re a product retailer, research and evaluate product buying trends and ensure you have adequate inventory ready to go.
Free, fast shipping has enormous appeal to today’s consumers. Investigate a temporary partnership with a shipping and delivery company for the holidays and evaluate where you can recover the expense through sales.
Providing immediate, accessible product and service information to your customers is another great way to prepare. Any easily answered questions, FAQs, or special information about the holiday season should be readily available on your website or social media channels. This will lessen the stress on your staff and allow them to focus more on customer service.
Hand-in-hand with providing timely information is setting up proper email or text auto-responses to let customers know their questions or complaints have been heard. A simple auto-response email or text informing the customer that someone will be in touch with them within 24 hours can pay huge dividends in terms of coping with the need for instant gratification. Just make sure you have systems in place that allow your staff to properly follow-up and address the issue promptly and effectively. If possible, providing live support chat along with downloadable resources will also satisfy and empower your customers.
The need for instant gratification gets even more intense during the holidays, and by now you should be equipped to succeed when the time comes. Satisfying your customers’ desires on a moment’s notice without any noticeable drop-off in service is a beautiful thing when it happens. Put your business in the best possible position to succeed with your customers.
Satisfy Your Customers’ Instant Gratification NeedsHoliday season is upon us, here are some things you can do right now to get ready: