Is Survey Becoming a Dirty Word?

As the guy who wrote Listen First – Sell Later, I’ve always been an evangelist for soliciting your customers’ feedback. I haven’t changed my mind about that but I’m not so sure that surveys are still such a good tool.

Here’s why – your competition has ruined them for you.

With the proliferation of ubiquitous tools like Survey Monkey and Constant Contact’s survey tool everyone has started surveying their customers. But, here’s how they are ruining what was once a good tool. Instead of asking questions about something the customer cares about your competition is asking thinly veiled marketing questions on ways to sell the respondent more stuff. Customers are smart. They smell that not-so-hidden agenda right away and they click the survey away. After a dozen of these hit their in-boxes they don’t even bother to open them anymore.

You still want to have a two-way conversation with your clients but may I suggest you make it about something that really interests and means something to them. For example, when we saw in the press of rash of attacks on social workers around the country a couple of years ago, my client that hires and places social workers in all kinds of settings sent out a survey asking them about their safety experiences, concerns, and suggestions. The response was overwhelming – over 65%. We then published the results so that all the social workers and the settings who employ them could read and hopefully act upon it. That’s the kind of survey you want to conduct.

Ready to start the conversation? Sit down and make a list of all the things that you think might keep your customers awake at night. What’s important to them right now? What are the questions you can ask to enter the conversation with them about these things? Now you can start to design your survey.

An even better idea if logistics allows is to meet them for breakfast tomorrow and ask them in-person. Leave your company literature at the office. Just be a real person. Your questions will let them know you care.  And, it will matter more than you think.

“Aw, people can come up with statistics to prove anything, Kent. Forfty percent of all people know that.”
– Homer Simpson quote from Simpsons Episode: “Homer the Vigilante”

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