Online surveys are becoming more popular and easier to use, and while their ability to find out exactly what customers want promises a goldmine for CRM, their real potential is not always tapped.
“There’s a lot more work that needs to be done by the organization than simply ask the questions and look at the answers,” said Esteban Kolsky, research director for Gartner.
The real art, according to Kolsky, is knowing which of your processes need to be improved. That way you can target your pain points and ask the right questions. Just as important is following trends over time. It’s not enough to ask questions today and analyze those answers, he said. Companies must monitor trends to guarantee that they’ve pinpointed the problems and implemented the correct solutions.
The Right Questions
Too often organizations turn to online survey companies such as SurveyMonkey, Question Pro and Zoomerang without a clear idea of exactly how customer responses will fit into their overall CRM strategies. Many times they ask the wrong questions — vague questions that reveal very little about true customer experiences. Questionnaires are also often distributed at the wrong time. One thing Kolsky recommends is that firms send out questionnaires at the point of service, when the interaction is fresh in the customer’s mind.
Even if you ask the questions at the right time, however, posing the wrong questions can skew results. Kolsky called the question, “How satisfied were you?” the most “bogus question in the history of surveys.” Instead, he recommends simple yes or no questions such as “Was the support person knowledgeable?” or “Would you recommend our services to a friend?”
The Queensboro Shirt Company is one company that used online surveys to ask the right questions — and was able to retool their processes as a result. Based in Wilmington, N.C., with 61 employees, the company creates customized, embroidered apparel. Before it turned to SurveyMonkey to gather customer data, the company had no way to gauge customer satisfaction.
“In the past we were going in the dark,” said Fred Meyers, founder, president and CEO of Queensboro. That approach can be deadly for a company. “The thing that keeps business owners up at night are not the customers who are yelling and screaming, it’s the customers who just go away,” Meyers said.
Meyers calls that the “silent killer of business.” At one point, Queensboro tried following each order up with a phone call, but that proved cumbersome.
Two years ago, Queensboro decided to use SurveyMonkey’s services to study its customers. “The main thing we want to know is, are we finished with this order?” Meyers said. Queensboro now sends out an e-mail to customers timed to arrive one or two days after each order is received. The company carefully tracks and analyzes the responses over time.
This spring, Queensboro executives noticed the firm was getting unsatisfactory ratings for lead times, which ranged up to five weeks. The company invested in new equipment and retooled its processes, and was able to get the lead time down to 10 days. The general satisfaction rating among customers for all the firm’s products went up 15 percent, Meyers said.
One other benefit Queensboro gets from SurveyMonkey’s setup is that it can tie each questionnaire to a specific shipment. When a questionnaire comes back with a less-than-perfect rating, someone at Queensboro traces that order back to the supplier. That way the company can check up on both ends of the chain.
Meyers said the company gets about a 50 percent response rate from first-time customers and a 20 percent rate from reorder customers. Response rates will vary depending upon your customer base, which will determine whether they’re enough to perform your analysis, said Dana Meade, general manager of Zoomerang. “Getting a representative sample just means you have enough data to really do an analysis and drill down into,” Meade said.
Too often, companies don’t follow Queensboro’s lead. In a 2001 survey of European companies, Gartner found that while 95 percent of companies collected feedback, just 50 percent alerted staff of the findings, 30 percent made decisions based on the findings, 10 percent deployed and improved processes based on the findings, and 5 percent informed customers of the resulting changes.
“Online surveys have a place in everybody’s business,” Kolsky said. “It’s not that it’s good for somebody and bad for somebody else, but it needs to be implemented within a customer feedback system.”
Closing the Loop
Recognition of online surveys’ potential for CRM continues to grow. “We’re starting to see a lot of clients who are starting to see the value of closing the loop,” said Scott Zaleski, sales director at Question Pro. That company partners with Salesforce.com, where clients can download Question Pro data directly into the Salesforce.com application.
For the Queensboro Shirt Company, the surveys have been a real boon. “The bottom line is, we really feel it helps us keep our finger on the pulse of our customers as a group. I just don’t know how you get that otherwise,” said Meyers.