Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Six Customer Survey Options: Which Will Work Best For You?

Which Customer Survey Method Produces The Best Data At The Lowest Cost?

You want to get feedback from your customers. But like most business owners, you are probably a bit unsure about which survey method produces the greatest volume of usable data at the lowest cost. Should you hold a focus group, for example, or send out an email survey?

Let's take a look at six familiar ways to solicit customer feedback and discuss some of the limitations of each:

  • One-on-one interviews with current customers and clients. These can provide useful, detailed feedback, but there are limitations. First of all, it may not be as inexpensive as you might think, since it typically takes more than one hour to gather information from just one customer. Another problem? After investing that much time, it is tempting to assume that that one, or only a few, customers' beliefs are shared by a large number of your other customers.

  • Focus groups. Now we swing to the opposite end of the cost spectrum, because it is not uncommon to pay $10,000 or more for a two-hour focus group attended by about 15 people. Despite the cost, focus groups are effective for digging out certain types of information, such as opinions about products that you might introduce. But again, guard against believing that the opinions of too-few people are indicative of all your customers. A professional researcher, which you will need in order to conduct focus groups, can provide guidance as to how to insure the information gathered is sufficient to apply to the majority of your customers.

  • Point-of-sale surveys. Surveying customers after they buy your products seems like another low-cost way to gather information. But it works best for a rather limited range of survey questions. What other products did customers consider before selecting yours, for example? What convinced them to buy? Another drawback is that it can be extremely labor-intensive to gather enough data to tell you much.

  • Phone surveys. Once a mainstay of market research, phone surveys are fading. One reason is the expense. Another is that it is very difficult to reach customers by phone in today's cell phone world. And then there's caller ID and Do-Not-Call lists. When consumers don't recognize who the caller is, they simply do not answer their phones.

  • Mailed questionnaires. This market research technique, once very popular, is also fading. One exception? If you are trying to reach an older demographic of consumers who don't spend much time online, mail could still work for you.

  • Online surveys. In my opinion, online surveys are the most effective, cost-efficient way to conduct market research today. One sound approach is to email survey invitations that allow recipients to click through to special survey pages on your website and complete your survey there. You can increase the number of responses by offering an incentive to take part. Today, it can be a coupon for a discount instead of a shiny quarter that you drop into the envelope.

No doubt about it. Times are changing, and survey techniques are changing too. Yet the value of talking to your customers remains as critical as ever.

Thanks to Diana Pohly / Step By Step Marketing - A Division Of The Pohly Company


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