When it comes the opinions of others – and how much to listen to them – it seems the jury is split down the middle. Some wise men and ‘experts’ advise you to ignore and eschew everyone else’s opinions, and follow your heart.
Abe Lincoln once famously said: “If there is anything that links the human to the divine, it is the courage to stand by a principle when everybody else rejects it.”
Author Rudyard Kipling also rejects the idea of listening to one’s public with this exasperated quote “Good Lord! Who can account for the fathomless folly of the public?”
But in business, there are times where it’s necessary to determine and even act upon the opinions of others. Before you enter into a “feedback gathering” stage, take a minute to meditate on these two powerful quotes from two extremely wise guys:
“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” ~ Winston Churchill
“Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
Polling your customers and finding out what they really think of you is not just a business necessity. It’s an art! You need to know what tools to use and most importantly, which kinds of questions to ask.
And think outside the box re: what kind of feedback you’ll be collecting! You can use surveys for far more than order-satisfaction type conversations. Here is how to build a survey that will generate honesty from your customers.
Surveys can be used to:
- Determine which topics resonate with your readers
- Receive useful product feedback
- Conduct market research
- Elicit customer service feedback
Let’s talk tools first.
When you’re choosing which survey tool you want to employ, there are many considerations, only one of which is cost. There are plenty of free or low-cost options out there but remember to also keep in mind things like ‘ease of use’ and ‘seamless email integration’.
No sense in building a survey out in a tool that will confuse customers and be so difficult to use that they simply abandon it. Better to spend a bit more and actually get results and feedback you can use!
Let’s start with, in my opinion, the best free option out there…
There is plenty to love about Google Forms. For zero, zip, nada you get:
- Unlimited surveys
- Unlimited respondents
- Data collected from easy to use forms right into clean, clear, organized Google Spreadsheets
- The ability to add your logo or customize your theme
- The ability to add images or videos
- The ability to embed your survey right into your email or website
- The ability to add collaborators and have them help you with your survey collection efforts
- Did I mention that it’s free?
I mean – perfect right? Who wouldn’t love all that?
Everyone loves Google forms and if they are all you need, by all means use them. But some say they lack the professional, upscale design factor that makes taking the survey seem fun. One that entices folks to actually take the time to fill it out for you!
There are also more robust reporting options out there as well. Like…
If you’re going to go paid, Survey Monkey is usually next on most small business owners’ radar (although their basic version is also free). As you can see by the example above, Survey Monkey can help you create some really great looking surveys that are easy to use and very robust.
For around $300 a year you can have unlimited questions and responses. You can export data easily into reports, run A/B testing, randomize your question order, customize the design with your logo, enjoy ‘priority 24/7 email support” and a lot more.
Aside from the enhanced graphical options, two other benefits of using Survey Monkey over Google forms are: spreadsheet analysis and user display.
What I mean by this is that, from what my research has told me, there’s no easy way to show the user/survey taker what the results are, once they have answered the questions. This is problematic because people like to see where they fall in comparison with other survey takers. It’s a strong incentive to answer each question!
Also – the ‘data collection’ and display options with Survey Monkey are more elaborate. Google Forms will ‘summarize responses’ and also show you your results in a spreadsheet form. But Survey Monkey also offers:
- Real–time results
- Text analysis
- SPSS integration
- Custom reporting
- Filter and cross–tabbing and much more
Word on the street is that if you are asking surveys for pleasure, or you have a very small sample size or only need it once or twice, you can probably get by with Google Forms. If you want to be surveying on a regular basis and need it to integrate with your other business tools, apps and communicate results easily, go with Survey Monkey.
Another popular alternative is WuFoo, which is an online survey tool, but also much more.
As you can see in the example above, Wufoo can be used to create any kind of online interactive form. Mortgage applications, wedding invitations, even online order forms.
With 300 different templates, real time reporting (right to your mobile device) and the ability to take payments…Wufoo might be giving Survey Monkey a run for it’s money.
There is a free version or you can pay $199.95 annually for the big plan, which includes 60 users, unlimited forms and reports and much more.
Whichever tool you use, you need to know the basics of what questions to ask, and how to ask them.
Beginning and Ending
The two most important things to remember when you go about creating your survey is the beginning…and the end. Remember that those are the two most crucial times of the online survey process.
The beginning is crucial because that is when you are creating the survey and you should do so very thoughtfully. Choose your wording well, only ask questions if you intend to do something with the answer, and remember to keep it simple and short.
The ending is equally as important because the whole point of collecting survey results isn’t to sit back and review them. The point is not to look over your spreadsheet, think “hm, interesting” and then throw it on your pile and get back to work doing other things.
Act upon those results! Prepare to do something with them.
One at a Time and Not Very Many At All
Do not, I repeat, do not ask more than one question at a time. “What did you like/dislike about our product and would you recommend us to a friend?” is not one question. It’s three. Don’t overload your customer or you won’t get any reply at all.
Coco Chanel famously said, “Once you’ve dressed, and before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take at least one thing off.”
Same with surveys, less is more. Be brutal and chop your question list down to the bare minimum. You’ll have a higher answer rate and be able to use more of the answers in a real way.
Last year, my friend’s kindergarten class was rated on a color scale for their behavior each day. Green was great behavior, Red was the worst. And yet, in their afterschool program, Red was used for wonderful behavior and Purple was the worst. How confusing for 6 year olds!
Same goes with your customers. If you are using the wonderfully intuitive and specific answer code of “On a scale of 1 to 5”, make sure you always keep 1 as the best and 5 as the worst, and never switch them up.
Open the Ends
As long as you have first gotten them thinking about a specific topic, make sure you give your customers a chance to stretch their legs a little bit and tell you what they think, in their own
words. So for instance, you’d never want to start a survey with “What do you think about our product?” Way too vague and you’ll get a lot of “I like it fine” kind of answers. Useless!
But if Question #5 asks them to rate the chances of re-ordering a specific product on a scale of 1 to 5, you might want to follow up with Question #6 being more open ended. Something like “What do you most like or dislike about this specific product?” You’ll be surprised at the detailed feedback you receive!
My Challenge To You
Let’s survey your customers. Your assignment this week is to choose an online survey tool, load up a survey of (useful, actionable!) questions and send it out.
I want to see your surveys before you send them, so email me a link to your survey and I’ll send you back my critique and suggestions. Looking forward to it!
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