It’s already December and soon you’ll be breaking out the party hats and bubbly for 2015! But before you begin your New Year celebrations, you’ve got to make sure that you start next year off on the right foot.
And what better way to get your organization on track for 2015 than creating an actionable customer feedback survey plan for the coming year?
What do we mean by a customer survey plan? Well, we’re not talking about pumping out a generic survey in January and letting your responses collect dust until summer.
We’re talking about creating a year-long, multi-survey plan, focused on measuring progress and driving correct business decisions.
To do this, you’ll need to have a firm research strategy ready for launch come the New Year. Sound like a lot of work? Actually, you might be surprised by how easy it is to set up. Below is your guide to implementing a customer feedback survey research plan that will push your company forward in 2015.
Adding context and meaning to your surveys
The problem with a stand-alone survey is that its findings can sometimes lack context. Let’s say your survey results show that 38% of your customers are very satisfied with your services. Sure, this number may be useful to see where you currently stand, but this initial data point won’t identify whether your business is moving in the right direction.
That’s where your multi-survey plan kicks in. By scheduling recurring customer feedback surveys, you’ll be able to conduct your own internal benchmarking. With this information, you’ll have the ability to effectively measure your company’s rate of improvement—as well as help create and achieve your long- and short-term goals.
For a refresher course on internal benchmarking, check out how to Benchmark Your Survey Results.
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Structuring your annual research plan
Your 2015 research plan will be based on a scheduled cycle of Assessment, Planning, Implementation, and Evaluation. Here’s what we mean:
Assessment: This refers to your initial feedback survey. Your survey’s focus should be two-pronged:
1. Gain an understanding of your company’s place within its current competitive landscape. This means collecting quantitative and scalable data (via rating scales, multiple choice questions, Likert scales, etc.). Your results will work as a starting data point to measure your company’s improvement and the effects of new action plans.
2. Focus on collecting feedback from customers on potential opportunities for improvement. Ask your customers for your company’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as the changes they’d like to see take place. This information will be crucial for your Planning phase.
For example, let’s say you own a restaurant and decide to conduct a customer feedback survey. The survey’s results indicate that 40% of your customer’s are very satisfied with your restaurant, but there’s a significant amount of customers who would like to see a higher selection of items on your menu.
Planning: It’s time to put what you learned into action. Based on your survey’s results, set some goals for your company. Your action plan should go beyond solving the small issues that you can handle immediately.
Decide which areas you’d like to improve in, like customer satisfaction, brand loyalty, or even a specific part of your organization that was revealed as having room for improvement. These goals can be larger in scope, giving your company something to strive towards throughout the year.
With your goals set, your next step is creating an action plan. Ask yourself: “How is my company going to evolve in order to achieve our desired scores?”
A great way to get started is by looking at the open-ended feedback your customers provided in the survey. Were there any common sentiments revealed by your survey responses? Maybe your customers feel your products fall short in a particular area, or that there’s an opportunity somewhere for better customer service.
Based on this feedback, build a strategy on how your company will attempt to address these weaknesses and opportunities.
So, after assessing your survey’s results, you create the goal to raise the percentage of customers who are very satisfied with your restaurant to 60% by the end of the year. One strategy to achieve this is to build upon your limited menu within the next month.
Implementation: Now for the fun part! Put your action plan to the test by implementing it into your company. Don’t let your hard-earned research go to waste by refusing to make changes. Instead, take action based on your findings. For example, your restaurant could introduce several new items to the menu.
Evaluation: You’ve conducted a survey, planned a well-researched customer feedback action plan, and set it into motion. Now it’s time to evaluate whether your plan was successful by conducting a follow-up survey.
This is where internal benchmarking becomes important. By carrying out the same survey again, you’ll be able to measure your action plan’s effect on your customers. If your scores rise, your action plan is pushing your company in the right direction. Awesome job! If your scores drop, your changes may have been detrimental to the company and you may need to re-assess your action plan.
Regardless of your progress, it’s important to continue moving forward with new goals and searching for new ways to improve. Because of this, the cycle of your customer feedback survey research plan continues on through the assessment, planning, implementation and evaluation phases. For your next survey, add questions that quantify the issues that were revealed in the first survey.
So it’s been three months since the new menu was introduced to your restaurant and you want to see its effect on your customers’ satisfaction level. You conduct a follow-up survey that is almost the same as the previous one, with the added question—How happy are you with the selection of menu items available at our restaurant? This question will begin to measure the progress you are making in this specific area.
After collecting your results, you’ll also be able to compare your new results with your previous survey. Your customers going from 40% to 52% very happy is a great indicator that your strategy has been successful and that you’re well on your way to achieving your goals.
How often should I plan to survey customers this year?
This question is really dependent on your industry and the time it takes to implement your action plan. If your company has the ability to make changes instantaneously, then it could be worthwhile to conduct a quarterly survey to measure your progress throughout the seasons. It’s important to have that three-month time period in between to ensure your action plan has been fully implemented and your customers have been exposed to the changes that happened to your business.
However, if your action plan will take several months to implement, it may be worthwhile to conduct your evaluation process after a longer time period. A good rule of thumb is to introduce a follow up survey at least once every 6 months no matter where you are at in your implementation phase. This way you’ll be aware of any changes in customer sentiments and be able to collect feedback on any issues that could have appeared within that half year.
On the flip side, you could also think about continually surveying to keep a constant pulse on your customers. By monitoring the results of this survey and keeping a close eye on survey data trends, you’ll get an early tip when problems may arise. If you decide to go this route, you may want to have a shorter survey that you always have running and a longer, more in-depth survey for your quarterly check-ins.
Make 2015 the year you achieve your customer satisfaction goals
Now that you have 2015’s survey research defined and ready to launch, all that’s left is to stick to the plan. After collecting your first survey’s responses, you’ll have information on company’s current position in customer satisfaction and customer loyalty. Don’t be afraid to make some year-long goals to improve those ratings over the seasons. Give your company concrete numbers to strive for and achieve these numbers by making smart marketing decisions based on the customer feedback you collect!
Do you have a survey research plan for 2015? Have questions for Rick on the best ways to implement those plans? Let us know in the Comments below!