Summertime is a great time to conduct a “Voice of the Customer” survey. This is a valuable practice for when business is slow because it gives you a chance to reassess what’s working and what’s not so that when business is booming, you’ve fine-tuned your operations.
You can open a basic survey creation account such as SurveyMonkey or SurveyMethods to get customer feedback for free. You’re limited to several hundred responses and a set number of questions, but most good surveys should be under ten questions long anyway, and chances are, you’re not going to get more than the allowable number of people to answer.
The best way to go about this is to send an email invitation to your best customers. Use the 80/20 rule here (generally, 80 percent of your revenue comes from 20 percent of your clients).
The first question you may want to ask is, “What is the primary reason you chose to do business with us?” Give them multiple choices and tell them to select only one. Choices could include low price, superior quality, our easygoing selling style, promise of after-purchase service and support, on-time delivery, periodic promotions, or the convenience of shopping here (e.g. location, hours, pleasure of doing business). I like to distinguish the before-purchase experience from the after-purchase experience. Think of it this way: when you buy a car, do the sales people treat you differently than the service people do when you bring the car in to be serviced?
Based on the responses you get from this specific question, you can narrow down what your customers think is your unique value proposition – i.e. your competitive edge.
Another question you can ask is, “If you were running our business, what would you start doing, stop doing, and keep doing?” If you don’t ask this question, you may be trying to steer the customer toward what you think you’re doing well and what you’re already offering instead of truly listening to ways your shop can improve.
For example, you may have an overwhelming amount of people say that in addition to awards and custom gifts, they have a need for signs, decorated apparel, and/or promotional products. This may give you the justification to expand the business into other markets or to take the order for the other goods, subcontract the work, and sell the items with a markup. If the volume and profitability of that business is good, consider bringing the production in-house.
The last question should be a solicitation for a referral. Phrase the question like this: “Do you know of anyone who could benefit from doing business with us?”
As an incentive for completing the survey, offer all respondents a percent discount on their next order. The size of the discount and how long the discount is good for is up to you.
Voice of the customer surveys not only keep your shop top of mind in the customer’s eyes, you may even pick up an order during your slow period that you wouldn’t have gotten otherwise, plus you may receive more calls when school is back in session and the busy season approaches.
-Vince DiCecco, Your Personal Business Trainer