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Surveying Your Clients

The best way that I have found to be able to get feedback from our full client base is by sending a survey. Surveys can be sent either by mail or via the web. I would recommend sending web-based surveys over printed surveys as it is much less expensive and provides a higher response rate and a quicker return of information. Email marketing software tool called allows anyone to easily create, send, and receive results from web-based surveys.

In sending a survey, there are a few questions that can be especially helpful to ask. These questions include :

– What do you like about our product or service?
– How do you use our product or service?
– How can we improve our product or service?
– Is there anything we can do to improve your satisfaction with our product or service?
– Are there any other services or products we could offer that you might be interested in?

Generally I would recommend leaving these types questions open ended. You can also ask non open ended questions such as “On a scale of 1-10, how satisfied are you with our customer service?” or “Which of these five features add-ons would benefit you most?”

Once you have deployed your survey, the next step is to wait for the responses to come in. While this may vary by industry, I’ve found about 90% of the total responses will come in during the first 72 hours after deployment of a web-based survey. I’ve seen response rates for web-based surveys range from 5% to 50% depending on the number of questions, the type of list, and how well your customers know you.

Reviewing the Results
Once you have the results, the next and very important step is to review them. If you have more than a few dozen responses, I would recommend creating a Feedback Summary Document that categorizes each reported method for improvement and tabulates the number of times a similar request comes up. At the end of this process, you’ll be able to get a very good idea of why your clients like your product or service and what they feel can be done to improve it, probably the two most important pieces of information you can have as a business owner. With this information you can create an improved roadmap for your product that will allow you to stay competitive and provide the product that your customers want.

In addition to being able to create this improved roadmap, you’ll also likely have a number of very good testimonials or case study material that you can use from the answers to the “what do you like” and “how do you use it” questions.

Implementing the Changes
Once you have a good idea of what the most requested improvements are, you can consider how and when to implement these changes. Depending on your production or development cycle, it may take days or months to make some of the requested changes. Know that not all clients will want the same things. Some may even want changes or new features that conflict-causing you to have to consider offering multiple product lines or completing custom work.

When you have made some or all of the requested improvements be sure to get additional feedback from your clients prior to launching your new version or improved offering. One of the larger mistakes that I’ve made to date in my still young business career is not getting sufficient client feedback prior to launching a new version of my email marketing product to the full user base a few months ago. If we had allowed access to a few clients to review the new version prior to launch-we likely could have averted a number of the bugs and headaches that occurred after the launch. We since have changed our development process so that this type of beta client review is possible. In your organization, depending on what type of product you are selling certainly consider showing an early version of your new offering to some clients or holding a focus group session to get the very valuable post-change feedback prior to launch. Giving your client, and prospects for that matter, a role in the development of your product will help them feel valued and also be more likely to want to purchase your new product after launch.

Here is a review of the seven step feedback process I’ve discussed:

1. Ask the questions in a web-based survey
2. Create a feedback summary document from the results
3. Implement the changes
4. Get client feedback on the changes
5. Make final modifications
6. Go live with the changed product or service
7. Wait a few months and then restart the process

Listen to your customers and you’ll get the feedback you need to make customer-centric business decisions that will allow you to increase your client satisfaction, lifetime value, and retention rate.

Finally, I’ll leave you with a few best practice guidelines for sending out a web-based survey to your client base.

– Survey your clients at least every year, preferably every 6 months
– If your organization offers multiple products or services, create separate surveys for the customers of each major type of product or service you offer.
– Be sure to include questions asking both what your clients like about your product or service as well as any suggestions they have for improving it.