How to Use Customer Surveys To Grow Your Business, Step-By-Step

Blockbuster. Curves. Aéropostale. Three companies that were at the peak of their industry before disappearing into obscurity.

All because they didn’t listen to their customers.

Take Aéropostale for example… their premise (“clothes that help teens fit in at school”) was one that teens grew out of. As they started to become comfortable with who they were, they wanted to express who they were instead of trying to fit in.

Aéropostale missed this and ended up going from $2.4 billion in sales in 2010 to filing for bankruptcy in 2016.

That’s why customer surveys are so important for your business. They help you keep a finger on the pulse of your industry to avoid missing a key insight that could lead to a catastrophic demise.

However, they can also help you grow your business too. Listening to your customers helps you understand what they care about and also what they do not like about your products and services, which helps you improve.

But only if you’re able to analyze the results from that survey and glean useful insights from it. Here’s how to do that, step by step.

Step 1) What Are You Trying To Learn?

This could be as simple as trying to understand how your customer service team is doing or as complex as trying to understand usability hangups in your UI. But whatever you decide, you need to hone in on a single purpose for your survey. This will help you produce more focused insights.

Step 2) Formulate Your Questions

What you ask is key to ensuring you get the information that will produce the insights you need to improve. So the way you formulate your questions is a critical step in your survey process.

First and foremost, you’ll want to make sure you’re accounting for both of the variables that usually produce the most valuable insights: demographic information and psychographic information.

demographics and psychographics for surveys
The most valuable survey insights are often at the intersection between demographic and psychographic data.

Next, you’ll want to think about the type of questions you’re asking. Some of the most valuable information your customers have to offer comes from asking open-ended, freeform questions. So if you can formulate what you’re asking in that way, it’s best to do so.

However, there are ways to turn qualitative data into something that is more quantifiable. A great example – the Net Promoter Score survey question that you see everywhere:

netpromoter score survey
Image: Source

This turns what could be an open-ended question into something that you can measure.

One last thing to keep in mind when you’re formulating your questions – be very careful not to word them in a way that is leading. This will introduce bias into your survey and skew your results.

Step 3) Collect Responses

When you’re ready to collect responses from your customers, the most important thing to think about is when to do so (that is, wherein the customer journey is best to ask your questions).

For example, sending a mass email to your general list asking about customer service experiences might not yield the best results. You’ll likely have a lot of responses to wade through that aren’t that helpful.

Instead, it’s much better to ask your survey questions after a specific, relevant event. Here’s an example:

best times to send a survey

Step 4) Analyze Your Data

Now for the fun part! Once you’ve collected your responses, it’s time to look for specific patterns in the responses that can help your business grow.

The best approach for this is to drill down into the data based on responses and demographic data (the intersection between psychographics and demographics). Here’s an example of how to do that, using the question “What do you think of our new chatbot?”:

new chatbot

The key to doing this well is understanding what you’re looking for in the first place. The example above is trying to hone in on who doesn’t like interacting with a new chatbot. But you could easily reverse that and go through it the other way, looking for an insight that explains who does like your chatbot as well.

Bottom line, think about what you’re trying to learn from your data to get the most out of your drill down.

Final Thought: Ensure Your Results Are Reliable

So you’ve done your drill-down and gathered your insights… nice! One last thing you’ll want to double-check is to make sure that the insights you gathered are backed up with a statistically significant number of responses.

Drill downs are great for organizing your data. But when you do one, you’ll often end up with a subset of responses that is smaller than your total and may not be demographically representative of your greater audience. So it’s best to double-check your results with a statistical significance calculator.

Cool? Cool. Now go forth and get to know your customers!

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Heidi Thiel
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