DIY survey tools such as QuestionPro are fantastic at opening up survey research to small businesses, allowing you to gather the sort of customer insights you need to be successful. But as the novice DIY researcher, where do you start?

Follow these 5 tips every time you want to run a survey to ensure the customer insights you gather are the type and quality you need to answer your business questions.

 

Set clear objectives

Defining exactly what you want to find out is the first and most important step to running a successful survey. The more specific, the better.  “I want to know what customers think” isn’t specific enough–you need more focus. Why do you want to know what they think? What are you going to do with the data?  

Start with your business problem and work from there. Looking to increase sales? Think about which customer insights will help you do that.  It could be ways to improve your service to current customers so they keep coming back, it could be learning how your highest value customers found out about you so you can better target your marketing efforts, or it could be understanding how your brand is perceived in the marketplace so you can set the optimal price for your products.  

 

Who can give you these insights?

Work out who you need to approach to get the information you need to answer your objectives. If you are asking about the purchase process, you’ll want recent purchasers. If you are asking about your website, you’ll want recent visitors. A general customer satisfaction survey might go to all customers. Or if you are looking to see how your product is perceived in the marketplace or test a new product concept you may want to cast the net more widely and speak to your target market, even if they have never purchased from you before.

Think about what data you have – do you keep a customer database? (If so, always check local data protection laws to make sure you have the relevant permissions to use these details for research).  Do you have an online following you can reach out to?  For target market sample, you could advertise the survey on social media or for a more controlled and statistically valid approach you can purchase sample lists–for example, QuestionPro offers targeted sample if you are using their software.

 

Write a good questionnaire

It is absolutely vital your questionnaire ticks two boxes: it needs to ask the right questions to get the insights you need, and it needs to be interesting enough for the participants to want to fill in.

The most important thing is to always keep your objectives in mind and refer back to them for every question: what customer insights will this question uncover?  What am I going to do with the information? You also need to be careful how questions are worded so they do not lead participants to a particular response, and how they are ordered so earlier questions do not influence the responses of later ones.  

Always consider the person filling in your survey as you write your questions.  They are busy people and they are giving their time to share their views – be grateful and respectful of this.  Questionnaires that are too long, ask superfluous or irrelevant questions or ask questions which do not give the answer option the respondent wants are definite no-nos.  The questionnaire should have a logical flow, be interesting from the start and make the customer feel that their opinions and feedback are genuinely valued.

There are a lot of resources online to help you write good questionnaires, or you can engage a consultant to help you with this step (for example you can find me at www.orangesheepresearch.co.uk).

 

Engage your participants

You can have the best questionnaire in the world, but if you can’t convince anyone to answer it you are never going to get those crucial customer insights you need. Your survey invitation is as important as any other element, yet it is so often cobbled together last minute, almost as an after-thought. Make sure your survey invitation checks all the following boxes:

  • An attention-grabbing subject line
  • Explains why you want their views in particular
  • What you are going to do with the information they give you
  • What is in it for them?

On that last point, consider a small incentive or prize draw for everyone who completes the survey. Be careful though, and check local laws on prize draw implementation. For example in the UK, businesses are not allowed to offer your own product as an incentive as this is classed as marketing. It’s far better to choose a neutral prize, such as a tablet or retail voucher, to keep things above board.

 

Uncover those insights!

The last step to getting the true customer insights you need is to take your data and find that story. But don’t be tempted to think you know the story before you start. Look at the data, then look again. Look at the differences between different types of customer. Maybe as a whole, people seem happy, but it’s important to make sure there are no subgroups who don’t feel the same.  

[bctt tweet=”Don’t be afraid of what the data has to say.” username=”QuestionPro”]

And don’t try to ignore or explain away any negative feedback. You did this survey to see what you could improve, so look for the opportunities, look for the improvements. Be true to the data and be clear on the message you’re communicating to your team off the back of it. It only becomes insight when you do something with it, so prepare an action plan to deal with what you found. Make those changes, get better, be the best. And when you have done this, tell your customers! If they can see that their feedback has made a difference, this will make them feel valued and build on the relationship they already have with your brand.

If you don’t feel comfortable with data and can’t see the wood for the trees there is support out there you can tap into for help–the QuestionPro reporting tool will help you visualize your data, or ask a consultant to help you pull out those all-important insights.

You have the power to deliver strong customer insights to improve your business.  So what are you waiting for?
Katie Spreadbury is an experienced market research consultant. She specialises in helping businesses get the most out of their DIY surveys by offering support at all stages of the process, from survey design to reporting and uncovering those all-important insights. Follow her on Twitter for tips and advice (@orangesheepres) and check out her website for more information on her services www.orangesheepresearch.co.uk.  

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