The Best and Worst Times to Survey Your Customers: What You Need To Know

Business.com / Public Relations / Last Modified: June 19, 2017
Photo credit: Andrey_Popov/Shutterstock

When you ask the right questions at the right time, you can use customer opinion to steer your company in the right direction.

When you're surveying customers, timing is everything. Feedback from customers and contacts offers a wealth of information you can use to improve your customer service, pinpoint small issues before they become big problems, and even gather suggestions for new products or services. The key to gathering useful data is asking the right questions – at the right time.

Here are the best times to ask for feedback:

After an Order

When a customer places an order, they have already invested their time, attention, and money. Are they inclined to come back because the experience was good? A post-sale survey gives you the opportunity to find answers to a wide range of questions, such as whether your ordering process is efficient and easy to use, whether the customer trusts you to deliver what you promised (they won't give you high marks otherwise) and if they are satisfied with your product offerings.

Pro tip: Keep your survey short and to the point, and offer a small reward to compensate for the time. Perks like a discount code for a future purchase does dual-duty. While thanking them for their feedback, it also offers an incentive to order from you again.

Immediately Following Interaction

Customers may contact you for a variety of reasons, and getting their opinion each time is critical to refining customer service best practices. One of the most effective things you can do is find out how customers feel about your service. Inviting comment gives them an outlet for suggestions and frustrations. Your customer's comments can show you what makes them unhappy, so you can fix the issues and reduce customer churn. Most issues can be resolved if you're willing to act immediately. Slow or poor customer service is responsible for a lot of dissatisfaction among consumers. For most companies, the bulk of sales comes from repeat business, so retaining customers should always be at the top of your to-do list.

Pro tip: Conduct this survey immediately after the interaction. Waiting too long is the worst possible thing you can do.

As Part of Market Research

Say you're considering a major change to your product, service, or website. Consider how your loyal customer will feel when they find out. Before you make a change, survey your customers. Tell them what you're doing and why, and ask if they approve of the change, and if they have suggestions for making it even better. Loyal customers will feel more like part of the process, and they'll be more likely to enthusiastically accept and even champion your new direction. On the other hand, if you get overwhelmingly negative responses, you may want to rethink the new rollout, or rework based on responses.

Pro tip: Do a follow-up survey after the change is implemented to help gauge its reception. If your customers are unhappy with the change, let them know you're working on a fix or a new strategy.

When you Lose a Customer

Feedback from people who choose not to buy from you can be invaluable. Ask what made them unhappy enough to leave, offer to make it right, and make changes based on feedback patterns. While the answer might be beyond your control – you can't compete with big-box stores on pricing – you may be able to offer something that distinguishes your company and appeals to shoppers on another level.

Pro tip: Ask open-ended questions and look for patterns in unhappy customer answers. Try to discern and fix your most common complaints.

The worst times to ask for feedback are long after an interaction, sale, or decision. Asking at random times is confusing at best when the customer has to remember the call or experience. At worst, it's annoying enough to anger or alienate the customer, or spur them to mark your email as spam, putting an end then and there to your email communications.

Feedback can be your most important tool. When you ask the right questions at the right time, you can use customer opinion to steer your company in the right direction, minimize churn, and take your business in the direction customers want it to go.

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