Beyond the survey

While surveys are a tried and true method for soliciting customer feedback, you may have other, potentially more powerful and accurate methods at your disposal that you might not be fully leveraging.

Let’s face it; surveys are easy to put together, easy for customers to complete, easy to collate results and easy to pull out of the archives and reuse. But is easy really the right reason to do something?

Have you ever wondered whether the things customers tell you vs what they actually do might be different? Or whether they’re even telling you the truth? Or if there are nuggets of gold within the things they aren’t saying? Sometimes it’s the case that customers don’t quite know what they want when you’re using that survey to conduct a little market research.

Let’s consider some alternative methods and sources for soliciting customer feedback that might not be immediately obvious.

  • A/B testing: This is a common tactic employed by tech startups and it’s genius. Instead of asking customers what could work, you can implement two approaches or options for a concept in a controlled manner each with its own set of customers and compare results. You can A/B test anything from content to alternative signup processes. For example, you might have always wondered whether an alternative homepage design would yield more customer interest. Instead of asking customers whether a proposed design might result in them engaging more with your site, you can go ahead and implement the page and show it randomly to a select group of users for a period of time and monitor their behavior and whether it’s meeting the goals you have established. This method allows you to experiment and solicit actual feedback at the same time.
  • Analytics: If you’re not already using analytics to monitor customer behavior on your website then you should pause this article right here and set up a service. Analytics will tell you a lot. You can see where prospective customers are dropping off your site, what services they are considering vs what isn’t so popular and view or compare test results if you change up the content on your site. It’s a powerful and relatively inexpensive way to capture actual customer behavior. You can often glean insights here that you normally would never think to ask customers about in a standard “customer feedback” survey.
  • Complaints box: It’s been said numerous times before; complaints are gifts. This is very true. A complaint is a customer passionately going out of their way to inform you about something you can do better. You should always make it easy for customers to provide you with feedback (even a simple dialog that’s always visible on your website can go a long way). Complaints are often sources for gold.
  • Suggestions box: Suggestions are usually ideas or insights that customers or onlookers have about your business. Suggestions don’t necessarily have to come from the formalities of a suggestion box, they often come from casual conversations without you preparing. The key is to engage in frequent conversations with people about your business (especially customers) and keep an open mind so you can recognise suggestions which could have a big impact on your business.
  • Interviews: This is a great method to employ after you’ve examined the output from any of the approaches above. You could randomly select a number of customers and ask them very targeted questions to get qualitative feedback to support the actual quantitative feedback you would have already solicited through other methods. While analytics can tell you what is going on, it can be difficult to understand why without discussing with someone. Usually 8 or 16 randomly selected customers is a good representation of your customer base.

There you have it. So next time you think of recycling a past survey or brainstorming questions for your next one, you have some alternative methods now at your disposal that could better help you solicit quality customer feedback or uncover unanticipated insights.