How to conduct a customer survey

Tips to take the pulse of your business customers

According to William Schatten, Vice President, Research and Analysis, for Toronto-based Forum Research Inc. , customer surveys help you get valuable information about what customers like or do not like. Whether you’re launching a new product or service, or wanting to assess customer satisfaction, Mr. Schatten tells us what to do or avoid to get the most out of your surveys.

1. Choose online surveys.

For small business owners, online questionnaires, unlike telephone surveys, in person or on paper, are the easiest and the most economical, says Schatten. “With a paper form, you could ask clients to complete the survey at your company, otherwise you have to send it by mail and ask for it back,” he adds. “Then you have to transfer the results to a computer, which results in costs. “

Easy-to-use and effective (and often free) online tools like SurveyGizmo , Checkbox or SurveyMonkey will help you design your survey and analyze the results yourself.

2. Formulate your questions carefully.

“Preparing a questionnaire requires science and art,” says Schatten, whose company employs a full team for questioning. “Science is about getting the right data for analysis. The art is to write the questions in a very precise way to make sure that you are not influencing anyone, that there is nothing confusing, and that the questions are not biased or ambivalent. Results from poorly formulated questions can mislead you into making bad decisions. “

Open-ended questions (requiring more than a “yes” or “no” answer) provide more detailed answers, while multiple-choice or ranked questions (eg, “on a scale 1-10”) Allows you to quickly obtain demographic or percentage information.

No matter the format, the poll must be short. “The longer it takes, the less people will want to answer it. Five minutes of their time is not an exaggerated demand, “says Schatten, who also warns about incentives that could affect the validity of responses. “Respondents can complete the survey only to get the incentive. “

Check out the results.

The clearer the purpose of your survey, the easier the analysis will be (eg, do customers like or hate your new product?). It is also important to react to the answers. Use these valuable insights to assess customer satisfaction, encourage customer loyalty and other visits, launch the right products and services, or even just stay open on Fridays.

Similarly, it is a good idea to follow up with respondents or another client survey after any changes or improvements have been implemented to confirm that you are on the right track.

How to do a market study

You have a good idea for a small business, but how do you know if there is a market for your product or service? Do research. In other words, data collection and analysis, profitability, placement and price of what you sell, demographics, competitor information, daily earnings expectations, and trends in your business. industry that can change everything, better or worse.

Some companies benefit more from a feasibility study than others, says Mark Eversfield, market research analyst for Small Business BC where he runs seminars and webinars on this topic. “It’s more important to do a market research for a restaurant than for a journalist working at home,” he says, referring to various levels of risk. Here are five strategies to consider before the official opening of your business.

Secondary school first

Mr. Eversfield explains that there are two types of market research: primary and secondary. He always starts with the secondary study because it allows him to learn more about the primary study. “The secondary market study, which includes reports and market research or statistics, tells you what’s happening with your target market, your competition and the trends in your industry,” he says. This information is collected by trade associations and your local Chamber of Commerce, as well as government agencies such as Statistics Canada , BC Stats , the Conference Board of Canada and the Canada Business Network .

Also, visit your public and academic libraries with a periodic index, a powerful search tool that allows you to search content rather than keyword searches.

The primary then

The primary market study is information coming directly from the source: your potential customers. Mr. Eversfield recommends starting on social media to gather informal feedback by sending messages to your friends and colleagues, then to polls and focus groups.

SurveyMonkey , a free cloud questionnaire tool, allows you to create a custom survey. Do not forget to ask short, direct and relevant questions. Focus groups are more complex because you have to gather a reasonable number of people. Submit a draw or discount on the merchandise if you decide to use this method.

Where are the buyers?

You can offer the best product or service in town, but what will you do if your potential customers are in the city next door? Market research will tell you. “Suppose you want to open a bike shop,” says Eversfield. Your research shows that the number of bike stores has been declining over the past five years or that they have moved to a key location [organizations such as the Canada Business Network keep a record of this data]. Look for something that you can exploit as a growth in the number of children or planning a cross-country race. So you will know that a children’s bicycle store would be more profitable than an adult bicycle store. ”

Know your competition

Business directories, industry knowledge and web searches ( Industry Canada is a good source) contain information about your competition. Or you can discover it for yourself. “Go to a competitor pretending to be a customer and learn more about the services offered, how customers and complaints are handled and how they use social media,” says Eversfield. Google Alerts can also help you track your competitors, trends, target markets, and more. ”

Action plan

You have done due diligence in doing your research. What should you do now? “It’s all about feasibility,” says Mark Eversfield. Normally you will have a better sense of what you need to do. ¬ĽUse your new knowledge to complete your business plan ( LivePlan is a good online resource), select your site, adjust your product as needed, order inventory, purchase equipment, hire employees and choose a publicity campaign.

“Market research is your plan,” says Eversfield. It’s about matching your ideas to the market, or modifying them to get there, and then finding the environment in which your ideas will be successful. Market research is an argument for starting a business. Sometimes you have an argument. Other times, you do not have one. ”
Take from time to do a market study allows to minimize the potential headache. This is a good reason to do it.