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Customer Questionnaire - 'Tis the Season For Great Feedback

Too often, we forget that clients can offer us a wealth of knowledge about our business - perspective on products and services, insight about what is important to your target audience and how they make decisions, as well as viewpoints on how your business compares with competitors.


Customer Questionnaire

The season of giving is upon us. You're busy mailing holiday greetings to prospects and sending thank you gift baskets to your best clients. The way you see it, it is a time for you to do the giving.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but it is your clients who may actually give you the best gift this holiday. However, it will come effortlessly. You will have to do a little work to receive that special gift.

"What is it?" you ask. It's the gift of feedback, and it can be the most valuable gift you receive this year. Too often, we forget that clients can offer us a wealth of knowledge about our business - perspective on products and services, insight about what is important to your target audience and how they make decisions, as well as viewpoints on how your business compares with competitors. The following key questions will help you obtain feedback from clients to ensure that you are meeting their needs and identify areas that might need a little improvement in the coming year:

  • Which of our products/services do you use and why? Sometimes you can be too close to see the big picture. What you may consider the premier product or service might not be on par with what clients view as important.
  • What have you gained from using our products/services? Again, your idea of value might be entirely different from your customers. Additionally, your customer might see value or disadvantage in a product or service that you might not previously have seen.
  • How can we improve our products/services? No one likes criticism but it is fundamental to improvement. Furthermore, your clients' feedback might offer up areas where you can expand business; offering products or services that you may not have considered.
  • What do you love about our products/services? The response here will underscore the strengths of your product or service. As a result, they can be your potential differentiators and can help to better define your brand.
  • What do you dislike and how can we improve upon it? Everyone wants to be likeable. However, in reality, we all have shortcomings. Acknowledging them is the first step to correcting them.
  • Were there expectations that we didn't meet for you? If so, what were they and how could we have rectified the situation? All too often, once the sale is made, the customer becomes a non-entity. To secure the sale, we sometimes make promises that we either forget or cannot keep. Though we may not remember, our customers do.
  • Where did we exceed your expectations? Sometimes the little things can make or break a customer's experience. Finding out what they are can be a crucial step to building a better brand, product and/or service.
  • In what areas can we be more proactive? Complacency will only garner trouble. By being proactive and anticipating your clients' needs and concerns, you will save yourself a lot of grief and instill goodwill and trust in your customers.
  • On a scale of one to ten (with ten being the best and one being the worst), where would you rate our sales team? Customer service? Billing department? Technical support? Were they attentive, responsive, knowledgeable and courteous? These areas mean the difference between a customer remaining loyal and one who defects; between a customer referring you to others or writing a bad review; and between your business growing or remaining stagnant. Why leave them to chance? They are as much a part of your brand as your logo and tagline. Take as much care and attention to detail with them, focusing on areas of improvement and enhancing training programs, as you would with your actual product or service.
  • Do you feel you have received a return on your investment? If so, how? If not, why? In today's economy, value is paramount. Not only must you sell your product, but also its value as an investment.
  • What attracted you to our product/service? Although it may seem obvious, the answers could reveal an untapped market or a new way of positioning the brand.
  • How did you hear of us? The responses here can shed a lot of light on where you need to focus your marketing efforts. If lead generation is coming from client referrals, then you might want to offer a client appreciation incentive to keep them coming. If new clients are acquired through specific mediums, such as the internet, then you may want to consider allocating more funds to this area for your marketing efforts.
  • What affected your buying decision? Understanding your client's motivation for buying is essential in converting prospects to new customers. Cull this knowledge and then use it to gain an advantage.
  • Is there an area we have overlooked that you would like to see addressed? The old saying, "No news is good news" isn't necessarily so. This question can bring up previously overlooked issues or potential market opportunities.
    The information uncovered by asking these questions can help improve business immeasurably. However, you must ensure that gathering the feedback is done thoughtfully and then used correctly.

Ensuring Accurate Feedback

There's no point in spending clients' time and your money soliciting feedback if you go about it haphazardly. What's more, once you have the information, do you know how to decipher it and leverage it to improve operations? The following tips can help with the process:

  • Determine and allocate funding for the market research. The last thing you want to do is abandon the project midway through the process. Make sure that you have adequate funding to complete the project and then implement the solutions.
  • Figure out how you will obtain feedback. There are several effective methods for gathering information. Will your sales reps call clients directly? Will you work with an outside third-party to maintain confidentiality of the responses? Your methodology depends on your audience and the required level of confidence for statistically projectable data. Today, quantitative methodologies reach beyond the traditional mail-based or phone-based surveys. The Internet has enabled organizations to gather market research easily and affordably online. It is often best to consult with a trained research expert to determine the most effective methodology for your specific needs.
  • Design a questionnaire that will elicit valuable information. Whether you're conducting a formal or informal survey, it's important to give careful thought to the survey or interviewer's guide. A good questionnaire cannot simply be thrown together. Ensure that the survey incorporates both open, unaided questions as well as specific closed-ended questions that use multiple choice, true or false, yes or no, or a rating system. In addition, be sure to conduct a beta test with a small sample before sending to your broader audience. You want to ensure the survey is clear, easy to follow and appropriately captures the information you are interested in gathering in a way that will be useful to you.

Making Sense of the Results

The following ideas can go a long way toward analyzing and then utilizing the data:

  • Compare and contrast. Where are there similarities in responses? Is there a common theme among them? Are there any striking differences between responses? Were there any areas that were not answered adequately? Do the narrative responses reveal commonalities or issues of which you were previously unaware?\
  • Be realistic about your responses. Most respondents will be forthcoming, particularly if the questionnaire or survey is conducted online or via a third party. However, not all responses will accurately reflect the participant's perspective. Additionally, the number of respondents will influence the results. The larger the sample size, the more precise and statistically projectable the results.
  • Enlist help if necessary. Information can sometimes be overwhelming. If you are having a difficult time analyzing the data, enlist the help of a professional market research firm. They likely will be able to identify trends and anomalies that you may have missed.
  • Stay neutral. The idea of feedback is to understand what you are doing right and where you need improvement. Don't take the respondents' feedback personally. The more objective you can be in this analysis, the better it will be for your business; giving you the opportunity to increase profitability and improve productivity as well as improve your products and services. Truly listening to the feedback can also foster better relationships with your clients.
    One Final Piece of Advice

All too often, organizations will conduct research or solicit feedback and then sit on the information from respondents. Perhaps they are overwhelmed. Maybe they are at a loss as to what they should do with the information.

Regardless, avoidance isn't the answer. Don't let that time, effort and money go to waste. Most of all, don't let your customers down. You've looked to them for input. They've taken the time to give you feedback, believing that you are sincere in your attempt to serve them better. Inaction sends a loud and clear signal to your customers that you don't care (even if you really do). Believe it or not, your clients will be watching and waiting to see what you do with their feedback.

That said, do not solicit feedback until you are ready and full committed to implementing improvements based on it. Then acknowledge your clients' efforts. Take steps to integrate the improvements. Communicate those steps to your clients and thank them once again. They will appreciate your interest in what they think and will recognize your commitment to customer service.

Article Credits

Collect feedback and ideas for improving your customer feedback - trial an Australian-built customer satisfaction survey tool:

PeoplePulse is an Australian-built online survey tool that is currently used by over 200 Australian and New Zealand based organisations of all sizes to conduct online customer surveys. The tool can be used to conduct cost effective satisfaction surveys, regular 'post-service' feedback surveys, new product feedback, website feedback ... to name a few popular uses.

Please complete the form below to arrange your FREE custom-branded customer feedback survey software demonstration and a PeoplePulse pricing and information sheet.

Upon completing the form below, a PeoplePulse representative will contact you to discuss your needs and current situation. From there we will set up your demo and arrange a suitable time to show the system to you:

Please be assured that your correspondence with us is confidential. We will not divulge email addresses or any other details you provide to outside sources.

The above demonstration request form was powered by PeoplePulse.

Laura Pasternak is President of MarketPoint, LLC, a brand management firm that helps businesses improve results by identifying, integrating and managing customer-driven brand equities and strategies. Visit


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