clientSMARTS

Satisfied customers are your most valuable customers, and your most loyal. However, many clients won’t even tell you if they are unhappy, instead they’ll simply stop using your services. You may never find out that anything was wrong. Even if a particular client no longer needs your services, you want them to speak favorably about your business.

One way to keep your clients loyal is to keep them happy — but how do you find out whether your clients are happy? The only real way to find out what a customer is thinking is to ask.

Customer perception is Customer reality

It doesn’t matter whether customer feedback is based on fact or fiction. Buying choices are often driven by perception, and perception becomes the reality by which people will do business with your company or go to a competitor. Build information gathering into your sales and marketing programme on an ongoing basis, as this generates two way communication and makes your information current to the situation, allowing you to meet these expecations at the time they occur, rather than some future date. This builds trust, and a reputation for responsiveness.

Exceed customer expectations

Understanding, exceeding and measuring customer EXPECTATIONS should be the most important part of your marketing and sales planning. The introduction of online media and social networks makes it very easy for your customers to spread the word, and make or break your reputation. Regardless of the truth!

Just providing good service or a product that works is no longer good enough. We call it the “chocolate on the pillow” factor. Once upon a time only 5 star hotels provided turned down sheets and a chocolate on the pillow. Now even some 3 star hotels do this, raising client expectations that every 3 star hotel should do it. So if you don’t meet this benchmark they will go to someone who does.

What surveys can achieve for your business

Surveys, polls and quizzes, if done properly, can be a “crystal ball” for developing good customer service. Not only can they help you identify those clients who are happy, they can also make you aware of problems and potential problems, as well as give you an idea of what new products or services would be well received.

It’s important to know the strengths and weaknesses of your business against your competitors, as no business can operate in a vacuum. While you may think that you have a pretty good idea of what your strengths and weaknesses are, do you have the client’s perspective? Without it, you are only operating according to your own perceptions, which may not be the same as your customers. Many clients will appreciate the fact that you’ve gone to the extra trouble to ask for their opinions, and using surveys can often be used as part of the sales cycle to encourage client engagement.

marketSMARTS can help improve your client knowledge through various methods

We help you identify which information is important to have about your specific target market for your specific product or service, so that you can avoid gathering data for the sake of gathering data. We build information gathering into your sales and marketing programmes as part of your sales cycle, not as a stand alone activity.

We can formulate questions on a topic, help to understand and interpret responses into strategy & analyse statistics to determine a trend. The best way to conduct surveys is online so that a more complex system can be setup to get more out of the process, with backend analytics that do all the hard work on your behalf. Ideally, the software tools should be able to gather data, compile statistics, provide some immediate feedback to the participant, and possibly interface with a mailing list or auto-response sequence to allow further contact with the reader.

1. Identify WHICH method to use to gather customer information

There are at least three ways that you can gather information and when used appropriately can be invaluable in building a full picture about client buying behaviour characteristics:

  • Polls . . . best used online when you want quick yes / no answers to determine a trend, direction or identify elements for a more in-depth survey
  • Surveys . . . face to face, by telephone, online, by email – when you want to establish in-depth opinions, determine satisfaction and find out key buying behaviour characteristics.
  • Quizzes . . . when you need to establish the knowledge level of your target market in order to develop a marketing collateral and a sales approach.

2. Identify HOW to approach the customer to get the best responses

  • Orally — An oral survey involves calling clients and asking specific questions. An oral survey can be used to contact all clients (particularly if you have a small client base), or just a sampling. (Make sure that you have permission to call.) With this technique, you may get answers from clients who would never otherwise take the time to fill out a survey.
  • By Email — A survey can also be sent to your clients through email. (Make sure that you comply with laws pertaining to email spam.) An email survey may be one of the most convenient methods of conducting a survey. However, many clients will not take the time to return an email survey.
  • Anonymously — You can also conduct a survey anonymously. An anonymous survey could be mailed out to your clients or accessed through a weblink. The beauty of an anonymous survey is that clients might be more honest in their answers.

3. Formulate WHAT questions to ask

It is important to get to the essence of why customers buy from you, so it is important to formulate questions in such a way as to get opinions as well as yes/ no answers, or you will easily be misled to making assumptions. Questions need “ask” as well as determine to be of value.  It is too easy for a customer to answer yes to the “will you buy from me again?”, whether they mean it or not. You want to ask other questions  to get closer to the expected behavior and to collect information about what to change and what to keep doing.

4. Interpret results into strategy

Once you’ve gathered your data, it’s important to make use of that information.The biggest mistake that some companies make is to conduct a client survey and then ignore the results. It is important to build the outcomes into future  planning, and COMMUNICATE to your clients these outcomes so that they know you take their feedback seriously. And don’t panic if you receive some negative responses. This gives you an ideal opportunity to build trust by demonstrating that you are actually doing something to rectify the situation.

Contact Janice for more information on conducting either online or offline surveys, polls or quizzes