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TJ Tedesco

View from Mount Olympus

By TJ Tedesco

About TJ

T.J. is team leader of Grow Sales, Inc., a marketing and social media services company operating at the intersection of compelling content, clear vision and quality communication practices. In this blog, fire is a metaphor for print. Hang on, this ride will be weird...

Prometheus crept into Mt. Olympus, stole fire, returned to the lowlands, ran from house to house distributing it, got caught, was chained to a rock, lost his liver to a huge ugly bird and was rescued by Hercules. Leveraging his fame, Prometheus started Fire Enterprises Inc.  (FEI). Since fire was the hottest technology of the time, company success came fast and furious. Two generations later, fire isn't such an easy sale. Now led by Prometheus' grandson Org, FEI's growth is non-existent, competitors are pounding and prices are in the toilet.

Ask the Right Questions to Improve Your Survey’s Effectiveness

Last week, FEI marketing whiz Marka taught savvy salesperson Zoot and head honcho Org how in-person surveys can help businesses uncover useful information and strengthen customer relationships. This week, she tells Zoot how to develop intelligent survey questions. Remember, fire = print.

Zoot strolled into Marka’s office one morning. “So far 17 customers have signed up to take a brief in-person survey at next week’s Fire Expo conference,” he said. “This will be great! Surveying these customers will allow us to build better relationships with them.”

“Have you developed a list of survey questions yet?” Marka asked.

“Oops,” Zoot said. “I thought you were going to do that.”

“Let’s do it together,” Marka suggested. “When coming up with these questions, we need to strike a fine balance. We don’t want every question to focus on what FEI’s already doing well. What’s the point of doing that?”

“On the other hand, we don’t want to only focus on what needs improvement,” Zoot said, following Marka’s line of reasoning. “Certainly, we should ask questions whose answers we might not want to hear. But asking too many questions like that may put customers in a negative frame of mind. Some might even walk away from the survey questioning whether the FEI relationship is as strong as they thought.”

“You’re right on target, Zoot,” Marka agreed. “To counteract this potential issue, let’s make sure every question that invites criticism has a follow-up that asks, ‘How can we improve or correct this in the future?’ That will get customers thinking about the brighter future instead of pains they may have encountered in the past.”

Together Marka and Zoot brainstormed some survey questions. They arrived at this final list:

1) How satisfied are you with your relationship with FEI? What can we do to improve?

2)  What do you value most in a fire solutions provider? Does FEI deliver on this? If so, how consistently? If not, how can we improve?

3) What is your favorite part about working with FEI? Least favorite?

4) Name something that makes you’re hesitant to buy from us. How can we help you overcome this issue?

5) Tell us about a time we exceeded your expectations.

6) Tell us about a time we disappointed you. What would you like to see done in the future to ensure this doesn’t happen again?

7) How can FEI help better support your 2013 sales growth goals?

“These questions are focused on identifying what we’re doing right, what we’re doing wrong, and how we can change things (or keep them the same) in the future,” Marka said. “They reinforce the idea that FEI is a company that’s interested in—no, obsessed with—continually improving its customer experience.”

“I love it!” Zoot exclaimed.

A week later, Zoot actually surveyed 25 customers at Fire Expo. The honest, informative feedback they provided inspired FEI to make key changes in the way the company did business. As a result, sales from existing customers grew by 18 percent the next quarter! Org was impressed with the feedback loop the company had created and mandated that FEI customers be surveyed at least once a year.

Today’s FIRE! Point
Think carefully about the survey questions you will ask customers when conducting in-person surveys to uncover useful information and strengthen customer relationships. Don’t fall into the trap of asking too many “favorable” or “unfavorable” questions–striking a balance is key.

FIRE! in Action: Jani-King Uses Frequent Survey Outreach to Increase Customer Retention Rates
The commercial cleaning business uses monthly surveys to identify ways to better meet its customers’ needs. This attention and commitment to improvement helped Jani-King achieve a 99-percent customer retention rate in a very competitive market.

Next week: Marka discusses using inexpensive offers to drive direct mail results.

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