5 Questions to Ask Your Customers

in General Business Marketing

A previous article – How to Measure Customer Loyalty for Generating More Sales – recommended asking customers a few additional supporting questions to help analyze where to focus attention for improving customer loyalty and Net Promoter Score (NPS).  I received several follow-up inquiries for suggestions on what type of additional supporting questions to ask.

I’ve completed many surveys with the intention of providing constructive feedback, but after answering the questions, feel that the questions and answer choices didn’t allow me to express my real opinion or provide the intended feedback.  You’ve probably had the same experience.  Most surveys are constructed to get formulaic answers from the perspective of the company, rather than letting customers express opinions from their perspective.

Companies mostly use surveys with multiple choice answers to questions because they are easy to score and analyze.  But a limited choice of predefined answers limits the opinions and feedback customers can provide when responding to a survey.  Questions with open-ended answers are more difficult to score, collate and analyze, but provide significantly better feedback, opinions and insights from the customers surveyed.

Given that background, I would recommend asking customers the following 5 questions:

  1. How likely is it that you would recommend [company name] to a friend or colleague?
    This is the question to generate the NPS score as discussed in the previous article.
  2. What is one thing you think we do well and should keep doing?
    This question will help you identify what customers really like about doing business with you.  While you may have your own opinions on this, you may be surprised by customers’ opinions on what they consider as your big differentiator and/or unique value proposition.  You obviously want to keep doing these things and ensure continued focus on doing them well.
  3. What is one thing we do that you think needs improvement?
    This enables you to get real feedback on areas of your business that need improvement from a customer perspective.  Some of the customer responses may be unexpected, but this is truly valuable insight for improving your business relative to actual customer experiences and insights.
  4. What is one thing we do that we should stop doing?
    Businesses hardly ever ask their customers this question.  The problem is that many businesses do things because they think that’s what customers want, or because they’ve always done it, or because someone told them to do it, or it was someone’s cockamamie idea.  This could be something that a company spends resources on but has no or negative value for customers.  Answers to this question provide great insights for improving how you should work with customers.
  5. What is one thing we don’t do that we should do?
    There is no one better to ask than your customers – they’ve done business with many other related and unrelated companies and have seen good and bad business practices for how businesses deal with customers.  The feedback from this question can provide invaluable ideas for improving the experience for your customers and/or developing stronger competitive differentiation.

There are three very important points to bear in mind for using questions 2-5 in a survey:

  • Only ask for “one thing” in each question.  That makes it easy for customers to respond in an open-ended manner and not ramble on about all sorts of issues without giving you a succinct actionable response.
  • Don’t provide prompts or ideas on the type of things they should consider – you don’t want to lead them to any particular responses – keep it completely open-ended and spontaneous.
  • You can customize the questions to your business context but keep them short and easy to understand within the four primary areas of feedback indicated by the above questions.  The generic question wording shown above works well for many businesses.

Please share your feedback on using this type of survey format by leaving a comment below.
Copyright © 2010 Ingistics LLC and Marketance™ www.marketance.com

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Richard D. Cushing February 19, 2010 at 07:17

Nice work, Mike.


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