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Silence Is Not Golden

The value of a customer survey

Customer surveys; they are the current rage. Businesses have heard that they need to ask their customers about their experience and now have taken the concept off the deep end. This thought as witnessed by what seems like most every hotel has a form at the front desk and in every room. We suggest the efforts have gone to extremes as we saw one in a hotel that had a survey asking some 94 questions about the experiences of the guests.

Assuming there are those individuals that are willing to devote the necessary amount of time to complete that massive questionnaire, the hotel would likely examine the results much like many other business. They employ a company that will tabulate the results and provide the appropriate individual with a report. The report is likely to be in a neat and orderly format as the questions are often posed in multiple choice format. Your choice of answers are usually extremely satisfied, somewhat satisfied, satisfied, somewhat dissatisfied, or extremely dissatisfied.

While we would agree with the idea of each business asking questions of their customers, we would suggest you consider these observations before creating your customer survey. We see that there are several flaws with the type of questioning we have mentioned.

The first is that the survey often gives the business the answer they want to hear. For most customers it requires a substantial amount of poor service for them to respond with either of the dissatisfied possibilities. Therefore, there is the likelihood that a customer will give one of the three satisfied responses.

With these responses, the person within the company having the responsibility of improving the way a company would do business would likely be pleased. This is similar to an experience that you would have if you were asked about your transaction with a restaurant, garage, or almost any other business.

"How was your stay? How was your meal? Everything on your car working alright?" And the answer from most any customer would be one of the "satisfied" answers. You could reasonably expect from what most of us have been taught about customer complaints that 2% of the respondents would mark the "extremely dissatisfied" option.

This is where we get into the part of business that differentiates the ordinary businesses from the exceptional businesses. There are two ways that the exceptional business will work to make themselves different. The first is that a "satisfied" or even the "somewhat satisfied" answer is not good enough for these businesses. As witnessed by a shop in the Midwest, they conducted a survey of their customers. The initial response was that 48% rated their experience as "extremely satisfied" and 49% rated their experience as "somewhat satisfied".

As you would look at this you would think most any business would be happy with 97% of the responses falling into these two categories.

By way of their survey, they were able to track who the customers were so that they could compare the results to the customer's spending habits. What they found was that the customers providing the "extremely satisfied" response visited the shop 1.5 times more each year as compared to the "somewhat satisfied" respondents.

The second bit of information they found was that these same "extremely satisfied" customers would spend $25 more on each of their visits as also compared to their "somewhat satisfied" shoppers. When the business did the math on the survey, they found they could have a 40% increase in sales if they could just move the "somewhat satisfied" into the "extremely satisfied" category.

Think about the change in advertising and marketing that this business decided to make. Instead of advertising to the general public to visit their shop, they instead worked to allow their current customers to become more pleased with their experience. They did so by sending postcards to customers telling them of the new products they had added to their selection by way of the trade show they had just attended. They also established a routine of placing a follow up call to each customer who had made a purchase in excess of $100.

They also began a series of "open houses" for their customers at the beginning of each hunting season, as well as creating a monthly newsletter that was sent to each customer. Each of these techniques did their part to fulfill an old business adage of, "Never forget a customer. Never let a customer forget you."

There is another idea that makes an exceptional business different when they review their customer surveys. While they expect 2% of the customers to complain about their experience with the shop, they are most definitely going to do something about it.

Have you ever had a horrible experience with a business and taken the time to tell them about it? Most often you only get a nod of the head from the front line person with maybe an apology. You probably got to speak with the manager only if you insisted on speaking with them. And then there is little chance they are going to do something about it.

It has been shown that when a business responds to a customer's complaint, and resolves it to their satisfaction, that the customer demonstrates an increasing loyalty to that business by spending more dollars in that business. It has also been shown that if you ask the customer what it will take to satisfy them, it is most often less than what the business person would be willing to offer. Of course, there is the counter experience that when a customer leaves a business unsatisfied they are most likely to tell numerous other people about their unpleasant experience.

"Silence is golden" may have been a popular song in the sixties. But today it is a most unprofitable way of business.

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This article is copyrighted by Tom Shay and Profits Plus Solutions, who can be reached at: PO Box 1577, St. Petersburg, Fl. 33731. Phone 727-464-2182. It may be printed for an individual to read, but not duplicated or distributed without expressed written consent of the copyright owner.
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