Just about every business believes in creating satisfied customers. One way to find out if your company is doing a good job of that is by conducting surveys.

By supplying the customer with a survey after the purchase, you can learn a great deal about the quality of service the customer received, motivating factors for the purchase, the likelihood of future purchases, and more. Here are the key steps in executing a customer survey initiative:

Determine the objective. Be specific about what you’d like to learn and achieve. Limit your goals so the survey can be completed in a short amount of time.

Decide who takes the survey. Is there a particular segment of your clients you’d like to know more about? Do you have a few key accounts?

Develop the survey. Start with several potential topics. The questionnaire could address product features, desired products or services, effectiveness of employees, customer appreciation, service hours, cleanliness of environment, company perception or after-sale service.

Edit the list to include only those areas most applicable to current company needs and resources. Then consider using a scale or ranking method to help determine customer priorities. For example, questions could be answered with “very dissatisfied, dissatisfied, indifferent, satisfied, very satisfied” or “very poor, poor, average, good, very good.”

Avoid open-ended questions that are difficult to quantify, and remember to include a brief introduction to explain the purpose of the survey. Finally, always edit and test the survey before sending it out.

Administer the survey. Decide how you’d like to implement the survey. At your place of business as clients are leaving? At a carrel or on-site kiosk set up for this purpose? Through an online survey provider? Through a mail piece? Other options include email or telephone interviews. If the survey requires that customers send the information back to you, request that they respond by a certain deadline. 

Consider offering an incentive. To encourage survey participation, you could offer customers an incentive, such as entering them in a prize drawing or providing them with a discount on their next purchase.

Analyze the results. Depending on the size of the survey, this process might require special software or something as simple as a spreadsheet. Analyzing the information in terms of demographics or by company department might also be helpful. Determine if graphs such as pie charts or line graphs would be beneficial to your staff.

Implement changes. Determine the best changes to make in response to the feedback you receive. Are there certain adjustments that could have significant impact on customer satisfaction but will take a lot of work? Do others require little in terms of time or resources? Be sure to share the changes you’re planning with your customers.

Be wary of over-analyzing the data. It’s easy to lose sight of your long-term goals when you’re swimming in numbers. Keep in mind that survey information is only a guideline for potential change.

This news is provided as a service to you by Marlin Business Services Corp., a nationwide leader in commercial lending solutions for the U.S. small business sector. Marlin’s equipment financing and loan programs are available directly and through third-party vendor programs, including manufacturers, distributors, independent dealers and brokers, to deliver financing and working capital that help build your success.