ISVs who offer Software as a Service (SaaS) have the opportunity to collect data on how their customers are using their software. But do you really see the full picture? A customer survey is one way to understand your product’s real value and your users’ impressions of your customer service — you can’t fix weaknesses if you have a blind spot to them.
12 Steps to Valuable Customer Survey Results
It takes time to develop a plan for an effective customer survey, so make sure it’s time well spent. I’ve developed these 12 customer survey best practices based on my experiences conducting dozens of Customer Health Checkups since 2016:
1. Determine clear goals
The most effective surveys will have a well-defined objective, and all of the questions will be relevant to it. Choose what you want to learn and develop the survey in a way that will get the answers you need.
2. Schedule all activities before executing anything
Think through your battle plan. How will you write and test questions? Which survey platform will you use? Who will take ownership of the project? It’s a mistake to make things up as you go along. Develop a strategy that ensures a successful survey and valuable feedback.
3. Keep it short
Avoid the temptation to ask everything. Keep the goal of the survey in mind and ask only the questions you need to reach that goal. Most of your questions should be checkboxes or multiple choice because they take only seconds to answer. Include only a few open-ended questions. Research shows that if a survey is time-consuming or appears to be too hard to complete, most respondents will abandon it.
4. Brand the survey
Make sure your logo is prominently displayed on the customer survey. This not only contributes to brand recognition, but it gives context to the survey and allows you to ask questions without a lot of explanation — customers who use your application will know what you are inquiring about.
5. Allow anonymity
It’s great to receive positive feedback from a customer who’s more than willing to put their name on it. But you also want to know if any of your customers are displeased with your application. Those survey respondents may prefer not to use their names, but that anonymous feedback is still very valuable to your business. Give survey takers the option to remain anonymous to encourage unfiltered honesty.
6. Master marketing automation
Marketing automation platforms are the most efficient way to distribute surveys — manually sending hundreds of emails from one of your staff’s accounts could be inefficient. Leverage the marketing automation platform to organize your email list, manage bounce backs, and track who responds and who needs a reminder so you can collect the maximum number of responses.
7. Invite customers to take the survey — three times
Send three brief emails —Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays often work best — with a short subject line and a clear call to action such as “Seeking Customer Feedback – Please Reply.” Make sure you mention in the email that it will only take 5 minutes of their time and explain why you are conducting the survey. Don’t forget to say thank you and include your name (or another lead person in your organization) for a personal touch.
8. Monitor individual results and respond quickly
As responses to your customer survey start to come in, respond to them ASAP. Some complaining customers think they’re sending their answers into a black hole. They will be pleasantly surprised to know an actual person cares about their responses. This means your survey can be a customer relationship-building tool as well as a vehicle for data collection.
9. Analyze collective results
Plan to set aside at least one hour to review collective results. Identify trends among your customers with a focus on areas you can improve.
10. Plan post-survey actions
Use what you’ve learned from the customer survey to create a plan for improvement, and involve your team to make changes and address issues.
11. Create testimonials for marketing
If responses included glowing feedback, contact the customer for permission to use it on your website or in marketing materials. User reviews have powerful influence over prospects — don’t let great testimonials go to waste.
12. Use feedback in a customer service workshop
Don’t hide the truth from your staff. Share survey results and your plans for improvement with your team to help build their customer service skills.
What to Expect if You Never Ask
If you never uncover the truth about your customers’ impressions of your software and your customer service, frustrated customers may move to a new application when the opportunity presents itself. This will significantly impact your sales, your profitability, and, over time, the viability of your business.