We’ve recently been researching tools to measure customer satisfaction. We’ve heard all about the benefits of their software and how efficient their systems are. But each conversation has focused on measuring how well an organisation has performed, rather than how they can improve. Wouldn’t it be great if the companies were forward thinking as well as retrospective? This article titled ‘rather than asking customers for feedback, ask them what you could do better in the future’ by Thomas Barta, it’s is a short but informative read. Asking what you could do better in the future will allow you to understand the needs and wants of the market, allowing you to either start or continue on your journey to be market orientated. You can find out why being market oriented matters for your community in this article. Even if these companies did change their focus, many of the products we reviewed cost over $15,000 a year, which is a hard sell into any CEO and board. But hope is not lost. Although expensive software makes it easier, you can still collect useful information using free tools and a bit of common sense. But before you can ask the questions, you need to know why you’re asking them. That will depend on your planning stage and whether you have a marketing strategy.
At this point we must clarify that a marketing strategy is not the same as an engagement/advertising plan. You cannot look at the 4Ps (product, price, place, promotion) until you have a marketing strategy. Without it you will not know where to effectively spend your marketing budget to connect with existing and /or potential customers. In order to create a marketing strategy you need to answer three seemingly simple questions:
- What market segments will be targeted?
- What will our position to those targeted market segments be?
- What are our objectives to each of the targeted market segments?
If you are still developing your marketing strategy there is an opportunity to ask your existing customers what it is they like about your organisation; why they use your services; why they don’t use your competitors. From here you can start to define your positioning for each of the targeted market segments.
If you already have a marketing strategy in place you can focus on the 4Ps. In particular, questions around your product and what people need and want. These will help improve your service to keep existing customers happy and attract new customers. Understanding what people need and want will also help you decide if you should add any new products to your portfolio; and if so what these should be and when you can launch them based on your organisation’s core competencies.
Conducting the research
There are various ways of asking questions and collecting responses. If you have the budget you can reach out to a market research agency. But if your budget is tight then we recommend saving that money and collecting the initial information yourself. There is no point having the answers if you then can’t afford to do anything with the information. Then, if beneficial, use a market research agency at the end of the process to test your positioning and new product ideas on your target segments via focus groups. Their expertise at this stage will be invaluable and worth every dollar of your investment.
If you, like many organisations, already collect a Net Promoter Score (NPS) this gives you a year on year comparison of how well you’re doing. We suggest adding in other questions based on what you’re trying to achieve. These answers will produce actionable insights, which when acted upon will allow noticeable impact to your organisation and the community you support. If you don’t currently survey your customers, SurveyMonkey is a great starting place. SurveyMonkey offers a free plan, which allows you to ask up to 10 questions and view up to 100 responses per survey, and offer other plans that allow you to add more team members, ask more questions etc. But start with the free account and do a test to see if it’s for you. There are lots of options out there that you may prefer (just Google ‘alternatives to SurveyMonkey’ and there are numerous comparison articles that you can read).
Face to face surveys
Depending on the people you support a survey may not be the most suitable option. Asking people a series of questions or making the questions into a series of activities may be the best way to obtain the valuable information you require. Survey Tips:
Keep it short
People are busy.You’re better off running a quick survey often, instead of a long survey once a year. If you’re willing to pay people to respond to your survey then you can make it longer.
Ask the right person
The person who decides which services to purchase with what organisation may not be the service user. For example if your organisation provides support to children, the child may be able to tell you what would make their experience more enjoyable. But they will not be able to help you define the key drivers that makes a parent allow you to support their child.
Focus on one thing at a time
Before you start to write questions make sure you understand why you are doing this survey. Focus on what it is you need to know. Make sure you write the answer down so you keep referring to it. It’s easy to get side tracked as different ideas pop into your head.
Know what you are going to do with the answer
Sense check the questions you’ve written, by asking yourself if the answers will help you improve your organisation/service/customer experience.