I cringe when I look at some of my older columns. Time has made some of my thoughts so contradicting, I wonder what song sheet I was singing from back then. One area where I’ve changed my tune is the value of customer surveys. In the past, I’ve penned how essential they are, insisted they be done annually, and made a lot of important business decisions based on their results. Fast-forward a decade and I think customer surveys of any kind are totally and utterly useless. A waste of your time and your customers’.
I understand the allure. A survey is like comfort food. Need to validate whether your customers like you? No problemo! Just have sales whip up a survey. But imagine going door-to-door and asking your neighbors to rate facets of your character on a scale of 1 to 10 (1, you’re a buffoon; 10, you’re godlike). As you stand on their doorstep, can you really expect honest, thoughtful answers?
Even if your survey is blind and anonymous, filling it out takes time that customers don’t have. Seriously, how much do you enjoy filling out surveys? How many do you actually complete? If you’re like me, it’s zippo. I won’t even do the ones that offer the lucky draw for a free trip to Vegas. I’m going to tell you how bad your service is and you’re going to thank me by sending me to Sin City for a free weekend of fun and sun? People are too busy to tell you what they think you should already know. By nature, we’d rather keep our mouths shut than open up about something that’s not very pleasant to do.
I say lose the customer survey and ask yourself these 10 questions instead: 1. If you were a transportation decision-maker, would you use the services of your trucking company? (If you wouldn’t, don’t worry about the next nine questions.)
2. Is your top- and bottom-line business growing with your existing, longterm customers? (It’s the fastest, cheapest, and most profitable way to grow. The 80/20 rule is A-OK.)
3. Are customers presenting you with new business opportunities that take you out of your comfort zone? (Shows a high level of trust and compatibility.)
4. Do you get unsolicited calls by word of mouth? (Far better than advertising and absolutely necessary to grow your business.)
5. Would you offer an unconditional 100% money-back guarantee? (Takes guts but makes a statement.)
6. What do your competitors think of you? (It’s easier to find out than you think.)
7. What’s being said about you on social media sites? (No news is not necessarily good news.)
8. Do you get a lot of one-shot wonders, people who give you a trial shipment only to turn into Casper the ghost, never to be heard from again? (A real litmus test. These customers were underwhelmed by their experience with you.)
9. Does your product solve problems? (On-time service does not build loyalty. It builds vanilla, neutral, bland relationships.)
10. What’s your gut tell you? (Almost never wrong.)
Surveys are unreliable, irritating, and most people don’t complete them when asked. If you need your customers’ input to tell you how you’re doing, it’s way too late. You probably already have a lot fewer customers to ask than you used to.