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The key to unlocking customer loyalty

The pot of gold all businesses hunt after every day – is in understanding our customer. Really understanding them. Not just wanting their sweaty-palmed Rands, but actually wanting to capture their hearts. When you have their hearts, you will have their loyalty, and customer loyalty is the ultimate prize.

So, I’m asking a question that might make you squirm a little in your seat, but I’m asking it nonetheless: Aside from the standard ‘Were you satisfied with our service?’ questionnaire, have you asked your customer base:
a)who they are,
b)how they feel about you,
c)what they feel about being your customer, and
d)how willing they are to recommend you to others?

We’ve been led to believe that a survey is simply a way to find out public interest or general feedback about our businesses.

But the buck doesn’t stop there. Customer surveys are an essential part of securing and maintaining your client base. How are you to know whether your product or service really meets your customers’ needs? How do you know whether your customers are truly satisfied with the services you provide?

Why creating a good client survey is as much a science as it is an art

1. Good surveys take time
Nothing good ever happened at the drop of a hat, and it’s no different when it comes to client research.

You should spend twice as long researching and compiling your survey than the time it would take to conduct it. The perfect question can often take hours of fleshing out, considering every possible version you could use.

Test your survey on a sample group before conducting the real thing. Trust me; all that time you take crafting the perfect survey will result in invaluable responses that will benefit your business and, more importantly, your customers.

2. Good surveys take effort
Asking a couple of questions hardly seems worth the trouble. I mean, your customers have stuck with you, right?

Don’t be naive: people are always looking out for the next best thing. They won’t stick around forever if they find better products and better services for a better price.

Changes you make to your offering based on honest responses to a well-crafted survey could be the catalyst that turns a seasonal client into a lifetime client. But do it wrong or too quickly and you’ve wasted time, resources and not to mention precious users from your client sample base. Good surveys take a heck of a lot of effort.

What kind of questions will you ask?
As Obi-Wan might say, ‘these are not the answers you are looking for’. Deciding on the type of questions to ask in your survey is deceptively simple. Only the right questions will get you the right answers.

How about open-ended questions? Multiple choice? Essay type questions? Or maybe yes / no type questions would be better? Or perhaps a scaled / rating style?

If you choose the wrong kind of question structure and your findings are unclear, you might need to start your survey all over again. And you can’t bug your client base with another survey. As you can see, simply choosing the right question style requires a lot of thought.

Survey rules – How are you going to ask those questions?
Crafting a survey is not just a case of typing up a couple of questions that spring to mind.

Keep your language simple
Keep your questions direct and to the point. Nobody likes a long-winded ‘anything’. Try to stick to one sentence per question.

Speak the language of your customer
If you’re surveying a stay-at-home mom of two about her online shopping experience, asking her high tech, irrelevant questions is going to annoy her as much as the toddlers clamouring for her attention. Speak to people at their level and you won’t go wrong.

Avoid bias
This is the most important rule of all. Never structure your questions in any way that favours your product, service or a person.

For example: ‘We think our sales consultants are really great. How great do you think our sales consultants are?’

Ever consider that your customer might not even have had a good customer experience with one of your sales consultants? Don’t assume anything. They might just be one poorly-worded question away from kicking your business’s butt to the curb.

A more effective question could look like this: ‘How helpful do you think our sales consultants are?’

You’re bound to get the honest feedback you need to save your client (and your business’s hiney).

Who should / shouldn’t I survey?
If you want to get the right answers, you need to ask the right people. Pinning down your sample base is essential to getting the best results. You need to find out who your top clients are, and survey samples from this group. Chances are you will also need to conduct several surveys specific to different client profiles.

Likewise, there are clients who you should actually avoid surveying. Knowing who your bottom clients are will impact your results as much as your top clients will.

Tips for creating a good customer survey
Don’t ask ambiguous or leading questions
Don’t ask too many questions
Keep your questions short
Only ask questions that lead to your end-goal
Ask one question at a time to avoid confusion
If using a rating scale, keep it consistent
Be specific
Avoid assumptions
Timing is important – when are your customers likely to have time to complete your survey?
Give your customers incentives for completing your survey

As you can see, there is no such thing as a quick survey. Surveys are complex procedures that should never be done willy-nilly. Yes, it’s probably possible to embark on a customer service journey like this one on your own. But being so deep in the trenches of your business yourself, you might not have that kind of time.

Fortunately, there are experts out there who can handle this for you. Find a good brand specialist who can help you put together the right surveys for your clients. They will be able to create surveys that support your brand and get the answers you’re looking for.

Article by Dylan Kohlstadt

Dylan Kohlstädt is Founder and CEO of Shift ONE Digital, a creative, integrated marketing agency in Cape Town, South Africa. Dylan has over 20 years marketing management experience in gaming, insurance, financial and property industries and can be considered a subject matter expert on all things digital. She has extensive local and international experience (South Africa, UK and Australia), and has managed global and national brands in multiple languages and countries. Dylan has her IMM (3 years) Marketing Diploma as well as an MBA through Unisa. She is also the mother of two young girls and knows the challenges of being a mompreneur. Dylan loves wasabi peanuts, café mochas and Game of Thrones. Not necessarily in that order.

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