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Customer Satisfaction Surveys Overview

When you run any type of business you would like to think that you knew, or if you didn't know, that you customers would soon tell you of any problems with your service and/or products.

There are after all a number of customers who are naturally vocal and can always be relied on to point out any sub-standard service, defective product, problem with personnel or even the lack of building maintenance. Businesses, if they are worth their salt, should thank those customers as providing their complaints are taken seriously and dealt with properly, they ensure that the business keeps the quality bar set high and has a mission to satisfy even the most demanding customer.

However, those proactive vocal customers are more than likely in the minority. The majority of customers just won't waste their time complaining when things go wrong or are not quite right.

These types of customer when they have a grievance will often weigh up if they feel that despite something being wrong, they will still continue to use the service, or instead, decide that they have had enough and simply take their business elsewhere. What organizations should not do is rely on the dissatisfied customer to contact the business and raise a query.

From a business point of view losing a customer in this way is not good, not only have they lost a customer but they have lost a customer for unknown reasons.

There are many things that can be done to mitigate the problem, such as making communications easier by enabling a number of support channels such as email, postal mail, telephone and in more recent time, live support facilities. However, not all these methods are viable all of the time and even if they were some people will just decide to move on to the next offer without so much as a by your leave.

What can be frustrating, to even the most caring and willing-to-please business, is the thought that customers can be lost when in fact their grievance may be as a result of a misunderstanding, or at the very least, without being given the opportunity to make things right.

Often what separates the best from just the good type of business is the ability to put right those things that have gone wrong, but it is difficult to put right something unless it is in some way highlighted as a problem in the first place.

Sometime businesses can take steps to try and retain a customer just a little too far such as in the case of the infamous YouTube video of a Vincent Ferrari trying to close his AOL account.

Good companies will be proactive in communicating with their customers and regular customer satisfaction surveys are among the most efficient and cost effective methods available.

Among the main benefits is that online surveys are both easy to administer and easy for the respondent to complete.

The key to a good customer satisfaction survey is asking the right questions, each question should attempt to do at least one of four things:

  • provide information to the business that is going to be useful in helping to measure the current level of service;
  • highlight areas where the service needs to be improved;
  • educate the customer on services that they may not be aware of;
  • gather information that has the potential to help improve the business.

The decision as to whether the survey respondents should remain anonymous needs to be considered carefully.

The main argument for having the respondents remain anonymous is that it may help them be more candid and if they feel that they will not be identified perhaps they will be more willing to highlight problems that were they would otherwise be reluctant to air.

This needs to be weighed against the considerable advantage of having the ability to request more details from a known respondent over a highlighted problem and the opportunity to address specific issues and put things right.

When conducting customer surveys it is essential to be clear from the very start as to what the objective is. Those new to conducting online surveys may wish to keep things general when first starting out, but keep in mind that surveys don't have to be general and can be specifically targeted towards a niche of customers. A more targeted survey has the opportunity to delve in deep to the thoughts and feelings of customers with specific interests and/or needs.

Don't make the questionnaire too long. Consider making the surveys short but conducting them more often.

Be careful to target the right people, for example don't waste time asking questions that relate to young children if the customer is not a parent or only have children that are grown up. Applying branching and skip logic to a survey will ensure that based on a respondent's answers only relevant follow up questions are asked.

Encourage people to participate by offering an incentive such as a gift or entry into a prize draw.

Consider the benefits of including questions that are asked not necessarily to ask a question but to educate. For example, a question such as 'How useful have you found the new baby changing facilities?' may be designed to educate the respondents of the fact that new baby changing facilities have been introduced, if one of the answer option was, 'I was not aware of them', the survey question has by being asked resolved that particular problem.

Questions can also be used to link to other information such have 'Are you aware of our campaign to bring schools to deprived areas?' that can then include a link to another website providing full details, even if the respondents answer 'No' they will have been made aware of the campaign.

For those companies that have attained ISO accreditation such as ISO 9001, ISO 9002 or ISO 9003 part of the requirements are to regularly consult with their customers that they are delivering a quality service. Online customer surveys make this process simple and will ensure that a historical record is compiled with the results being used to help towards the goal of continual improvement.

Online customer surveys offer businesses and organizations the chance to view the company from the outside looking in, which as many an experienced business person will tell you is not always the same same view as being inside and looking out.

For more information or to discuss how online surveys can help you please contact or visit the quick, easy and cost effective way to do online surveys.

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Martin Day is a Director of Survey Galaxy Ltd
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