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How to Survey Clients and Customers to Understand Their Needs

How to Survey Clients and Customers to Understand Their Needs
Key Takeaways

It was ‘Wizard of Ads’ author Roy H. Williams who once said, “The first step in exceeding your customer’s expectations is to know those expectations.” This mantra holds true for marketers across every level of business, whether you’re a small business owner or an external SEO professional. Striving to understand your clients and customers is essential. After all – you can’t meet your customers’ needs if you have no idea what those needs are.

One of the best ways to enhance your understanding of your customers’ wants, needs and expectations is simply to ask. Surveying your customer base is one of the most effective ways to get to know them as consumers. But what questions should you be asking? Are there any tools that can help? Does traditional market research with focus groups and interviews still have a place in today’s digitally dominated world?

Let’s delve deeper into the world of customer surveys and research to establish the most effective ways of getting to know your base.

Think about what you want to learn

The first step in creating a survey for your clients and customers is to establish exactly what you want to learn from it. SurveyMonkey says that defining your objectives up front will help you to make your survey more focused when it comes to writing out your questions.

Do you want to find out more about what your customers think of your business and brand? Are you eager to discover what your clients’ pain points are? Will the survey be geared around a particular product or service? Answering these questions will help you to shape the survey more effectively.

Consider the method of contact

There are so many ways to reach out to clients and customers that it can be difficult to know where to start. Traditional market research used to be the go-to method for any business or marketing professional hoping to gain insight into the way customers think. But hosting interviews and focus groups can be expensive and time-consuming. Surveys are far more efficient, with cost, reach and time-saving benefits.

Online Surveys

Online surveys are by far the most efficient option. Tools like SurveyMonkey make it easy to put together polls that can be emailed through to customers, perhaps as part of your after-sales engagement strategy. These resources also present the findings of your surveys in easy-to-read charts and graphs, so you can analyze the data in detail.

Customer Surveys SurveyMonkey Screenshot

You can also include surveys on your website itself – try a service like Hotjar which allows you to embed responsive surveys, giving you the ability to collect deeper insights at the moment of conversion. Just make sure you don’t display the forms on pages where they could distract from a purchase decision.

Customer Surveys Hotjar Screenshot

Go old-school with telephone calls or SMS

Telephone surveys are becoming a relic of the past, especially if you’re cold-calling, but SMS surveys can be effective. If your clients or customers have provided their cell number and given permission for it to be used for marketing purposes, send a text message asking for feedback. Text Marketer offers a low-cost way of gathering customer feedback via SMS, and many of the email survey tools like SurveyAnyPlace also offer a text-based option.  

Take it offline

There’s plenty of value in conducting offline surveys too. Having a comment box in your store is a great way to solicit anonymous feedback and customers or clients are likely to be more honest if they don’t necessarily have to provide a name or email address. Try handing out feedback cards with receipts and offer incentives for customers to fill them out, such as 10% off their next purchase on presentation of a completed card.

The benefits of surveying regularly – but not too often

Surveying your audience shouldn’t be a one-time endeavor. In fact, helping your customers and clients get into a rhythm of delivering feedback regularly can provide a constant stream of new insights for businesses and marketers to consider.

Monthly or quarterly customer satisfaction surveys will help you to remain up to date with your customers’ needs and expectations without pestering them. Asking for feedback weekly or fortnightly can be counterproductive, as customers may feel badgered and be more likely to consign your communications to their spam folders.

Compose your questions carefully

When it comes to putting together the questions you’re going to ask in the survey, try to gather both qualitative and quantitative data. Quantitative data revolves around facts and hard figures, whereas qualitative data helps you delve deeper into the thoughts and feelings of your customers. The combination of the two should give you a much clearer picture of how your customers think and feel.

Don’t fall into the trap of adding dozens of questions to your survey. Your intentions may be pure (after all, you want to better understand your customer so you can provide them with a better service or product), but your customers are busy too. They’re unlikely to want to devote hours of their day to filling out surveys.

According to a research paper, entitled Forum: Ideal and Maximum Length for a Web Survey published by the Market Research Society’s journal, “…the ideal survey length is a median of 10 minutes and the maximum survey length is 20 minutes. The reported lengths were significantly linked to the fact that respondents liked answering the survey and that they trusted that their data are treated in an anonymous way.”

Surveys can be valuable in a multitude of ways

In addition to market research, HubSpot suggests that survey data can be used in other ways to drive your brand forwards. Online survey data can be used to optimize marketing efforts, for example, by helping you to identify targeting and segmentation opportunities and to power thought leadership (such as by providing data for data-driven research papers and blogs). HubSpot also suggests that surveys be used for internal communication too – so as to strengthen the relationship between sales and marketing teams, for example.

A well-timed survey can also play a part in preventing bad reviews. If a customer has had a bad experience with your brand, but your survey reaches them before they’ve had time to leave a review, they may feel that ‘venting’ through your feedback form is enough. This also shows that your business is eager to learn, which breeds a sense of goodwill among dissatisfied customers. The answers you receive in your survey could be useful when it comes to content generation – you could produce an infographic or a whitepaper based on the results.

Surveys are for learning, not for drastic change

Perhaps the responses to your survey haven’t been as positive as you might have liked. That doesn’t necessarily mean you need to drastically change your business model overnight. Use the responses to learn and evolve, rather than trying to start from scratch. Look to the results of your next survey to see how well the changes have been received.

We’d love to hear your thoughts

Do you use surveys as part of your marketing strategy? How do you make use of the data? And what tools and techniques have you found to be most helpful? We’d love to hear your thoughts so share your experiences with us in the comments.

Jamie Pitman
About the author
Jamie heads up BrightLocal's content team, ensuring we produce insightful articles, research and resources that enable businesses and SEOs to get even better results in local search.

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