Do you want to make your business better? One of the simplest ways to improve your business—and your sales—is to find out what your customers really think about your company. While it might be tough to hear about problems they have or things you’re not doing well, you need to know the truth in order to make changes. The good news is, there are more ways than ever to survey your customers. Here are some ideas to get you started.
In person: If you have a business where you interact with customers, like a restaurant or retail store, surveying is as simple as talking to them and asking how you’re doing. If you regularly interact with customers, you’ll get a feel for what they like and don’t like, and they’ll be more likely to feel personally connected to your business.
Get social: You do use social media, right? Whether you’re on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn, you can pose quick questions to your fans and followers as often as you like. Keep in mind this isn’t a scientific method, but it can be a great, cost-effective way to get a quick read on consumer sentiment.
Survey companies: Online survey companies such like SurveyMonkey.com enable small business owners to quickly develop surveys for customers to take online. There are templates to make it easy and free basic plans, with more customization available for a fee. Online surveys are ideal for e-commerce companies, other companies that conduct a lot of business online, or businesses with a good-sized opt-in email list.
Phone surveys: If you don’t have the in-house staff to handle a phone survey, you can outsource to a telemarketing company. Ask about outbound telemarketing services, which can be used to survey customers by phone. This is a more expensive option than the ones I’ve mentioned up to now, so it’s best reserved for more complex survey needs.
Focus groups: You can hire a marketing company to hold a focus group for you, or save some cash by doing it yourself. Get a representative sample of your customers together, and have a moderator lead them in a guided discussion. It’s a good idea to record the session on video and also have someone take notes of key points. Focus groups are a good way to capture “emotional” data like how customers feel about advertisements or product names.
Of course, you don’t have to limit yourself to just one of these survey methods. In fact, you’ll get the best results if you mix it up and use several tactics. Whichever survey methods you choose, don’t forget the most important step: Honestly assess what your respondents tell you, and act on what they want you to do.
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Follow Rieva at Twitter.com/Rieva and visit her blog at SmallBizDaily.com. Visit her website SmallBizTrendCast to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.