Over the last few years an increasing number of businesses have ramped up the frequency of asking customers how they are doing. Many retailers ask after every transaction. How many times a week are you asked to “rate us out of 10”? If human contact is involved I’m increasingly pressured to tell them if there is any reason why I won’t give them a 10. They ask because they are rewarded, or punished, on the survey results. Most of these surveys are not just useless but some companies actually believe that customers think much more highly of them than they actually do which makes them dangerous.
Too many surveys is a BtoB problem too
This massive over use of surveys in BtoC unfortunately also has an impact in BtoB. One result is that it’s harder to get businesses to respond to surveys than it’s ever been. The answer is not to do more surveys but to re-look at what specific information you would like from your customers and how it would help the organisation. This will determine the impact and level of importance that the knowledge would have. It’s then easier to set the priority and budget that can be applied to finding and gaining that knowledge.
Start with what, why then who
Once you have settled what you want to know and why the next question is which customers to ask. Some companies avoid this question and just ask everyone. Whatever method you use this blanket approach is unlikely to produce the quality of results that you want. My approach is to determine who the “perfect customer” is for the requirement and only talk to them. For companies that need help identifying their “perfect customers” I have a process that helps them do this. (Perhaps a topic for another blog some time.)
The human touch gets the best results
Having determined what and why you want to know and who to ask the next step is to create the questions. This also requires careful thought but it’s much easier when the above steps are in place. The final step is how. I recommend direct human contact either in person or over the phone. It’s at this point that we switch into open minded listening mode not just to the specific answers to the questions but to the other really interesting stuff that clients drop into the conversation.