You’ve been running your business for a while, and things are going ok but you don’t really know what happens after you make a sale.

Were your customers happy?

Disappointed?

Indifferent?

Sure, you may have customer reviews, but often feedback is at either end of the spectrum – either overjoyed or unhappy.

What about those who fall somewhere in the middle?

Do you know what you need to do to keep them coming back and telling others about your business?

It’s tempting to jump straight into creating and sending a survey. But investing time up front to plan ahead can make your research much more successful.

Here’s the critical building blocks to get you on your way to great insights.

Define the type of research you’ll do

When it comes to understanding customers, there’s many options.

You can write a simple survey or feedback form which people do online. Surveys are a great way to reach many people quickly, and will help you understand “how many” people think in a certain way (ie – how many people are happy, frustrated or whatever).

But, surveys aren’t so good for understanding “why” people feel a certain way, because they’re really a ‘one way’ conversation.

Here’s an example of this limitation.

When asked why they’d given a poor rating, a customer wrote “I’m unhappy because it took longer than I expected”. Well, what took longer? Placing an order? The checkout process? Delivery? A response like this is difficult to interpret because you’ve not had the opportunity to understand the context.

You can undertake personal interviews with customers over the phone, via skype or through Facebook messenger (more about that to come in a future post!).

The advantage here is you can have a two-way conversation to better understand your customers’ experiences.

The disadvantage is interviews can be time consuming, and results may not be representative of the broader customer base.

You could gather a group of customers together and run a focus group. This can be a group “in person”, or going virtual using software such as FocusGroupIT. That’s right – you can run a focus group from the comfort of home – and participants don’t need to leave their home or office to join. Focus groups are a great way to really understand why people think a certain way, but can take some practice to effectively run and draw conclusions.

You can also simply observe (where practical!) customers actually using your product. This has become increasingly popular – especially with new apps designed to help people diarise their experiences when using specific products using video and camera on their phone.

Decide if you’re going to create a one-time survey, or a process to continually monitor what your customers are thinking

Undertaking research sporadically (ie – once a year) can be a helpful start if you’ve never done any kind of research. But if you’re in a highly competitive category, you might benefit from designing a research program that allows you to really keep your finger on the pulse and receive regular, timely feedback.

If you’re opting for a continuous program to monitor how customers are feeling, specify when you’ll ask for feedback – within a couple of hours of the sale? A day later? A week later?

Get feedback as close to the event as possible, so that customers can more accurately remember their experience.  Ideally aim to seek feedback within 24 hours of a sale or delivery.

Define which customers you want feedback from

The customers you approach for feedback will be an important consideration, and is often dependent on how many customers you actually have.

If you’ve got only a small number, inviting feedback from all is a good start.

If you’ve got a significant customer base, consider surveying a random selection of customers, so you can manage the flow of insights and give yourself a chance to make changes.

Also consider how far back you want to go. Will you survey every customer you’ve ever had? Or just those who bought in the last 2 or 3 months?  Bear in mind, the further you go back, the weaker the memory of the experience being evaluated. Any experiences beyond 12 months are likely to be very difficult to remember, so our suggestion is to not go any further back.

We’ve got plenty of resources to help you build a great survey – read this to learn 8 tips to survey success, or this post which explains the five questions you need to ask.

Decide if you want to feedback on the entire customer experience, or just specific parts of the transaction

The most obvious place to start is to follow up with a customer after you’ve delivered your product or service.

However, if you’ve got concerns about a specific element of your customer journey, narrow your focus down to those experiences so you can fully understand any customer pain points.

Pain points might include navigating the website, placing an order, or the delivery process.

Create a process to follow up on negative feedback

The most actionable research you can do is having a set process to follow up with unhappy customers.

Yes, you might fear the idea of connecting with a disgruntled customer, but often you’ll be met with surprise (when was the last time you did a survey, gave a poor score and got a follow up?!) and hopefully a willingness to explain the issue. You also get the chance to resolve any issues.

Think about ways to recognise and thank those giving positive feedback

Research shouldn’t just be about identifying opportunities for improvement – it should also give you a sense of what’s working well. Additionally, you can use the opportunity to invite happy customers to leave a positive review on google, or your Facebook page.

Decide how customer feedback will be integrated with any other data you have

There’s more to monitoring what customers are thinking – understanding what they are doing is also important.

Don’t forget to review:

  • Web analytics to see pages being visited
  • Abandoned cart analysis
  • Inventory – what’s selling/what’s not
  • Response to campaigns – A/B testing

This list is just the start but is designed to get you thinking.

Finally, think about whether your survey will be anonymous (which can deliver better response rates BUT means that you can’t link responses back to customer records) OR identified. If you’re going to connect customer feedback AND customer records, be sure to let your customers know that’s what you’ll be doing.

So there’s your base building blocks.

Are you ready to take the first step in connecting with your customers?

Our Survey in a Box has everything you need to get feedback today.

You’ll get:

  • A survey template specifically designed for your business to get feedback from your customers.
  • An invitation template you can use to invite customers to give you feedback.
  • Step by step instructions on how to build your survey in less than 20 minutes using SurveyMonkey.
  • Guidance on how to interpret the results.

Check it out here

33 ways to learn more about your customers

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