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Why conduct a survey?

By August 3, 2015 No Comments

Byte Shop was the first retailer of Apple-I and the owner Paul Terell was the first customer for Steve Jobs who planted a brilliant idea of assembled computers, which a layman consumer (non-techie, non-engineer) could use. They just needed to plug it in and get start to work! This was possible only because Steve Jobs welcomed his customers needs and worked on it.

In your business if you think you know it all, then you don’t know everything. You really don’t. Even if it is your product, your domain, every once in a while you hit a roadblock and need to get a fresh perspective. Sometimes, you aren’t in a too bad place, but you want to improve on what you’ve built so far. And there are other times when you just want to confirm what your intuition says. These are the times when you want to get a survey out there – whether it is an online survey or an offline survey – And find out what your customers want.

Surveys can be for internal purposes or external. Like you could conduct an employee survey to know and understand the problem areas and overall culture of your organisation. Or it could be a training survey to find out if a training program has been effective and how it can be improved.

Or it could be an interaction (understanding) with the outside world, a product launch survey or a market research survey to know what changes are required in your strategy or product. Or my personal favorite, a process or event survey you can ask the customers you served about their experience with the service. For example, a survey of your experience with a restaurant after you’ve eaten there or a survey of how you liked the process of buying something.

You will observe that a lot of why you want to conduct a survey has to do with wanting to learn more of customer taste and preferences. This will lead you to new insights that might never have crossed your mind. All of this leads to customer satisfaction.

Know and address expectations

Be it an employee survey or a customer survey, you will learn things about what is expected from you as an organisation. You might or might not be able to address or cater to all expectations, but knowing what is expected of you is the first step towards a happier stakeholder – be it the employee or the customer.

Discover and manage perceptions

Sometimes there is a misalignment between what you think you are providing and what the receiver perceives they are getting. In all likelihood, all it might need is a little tweak in the system to realign perceptions. Sometimes, it might be a larger effort to clear the air around a misperception – and get back on the right track.

Identify and affect improvements

You know you need to change, but you know not where to begin. A carefully designed survey that has observed the rules of how to create a survey will certainly help you uncover areas of improvement. It is usually within your control then to make sure those improvements are made. A survey can be a very useful feedback tool.

Create and retain engagement

It is always nice to be asked. Whether or not they have a solution, it gives the survey-taker a place of importance. They are more likely to be engaged just because they’ve been asked, especially if they have something negative to say. In such a case, most people will be full of praise and public appreciation if their complaint has been addressed.

Know your customer and target them better

Any well-articulated survey worth its salt is going to gather a whole load of important demographic data. When sliced and diced from all angles, this information can be used to target customers with a more refined approach.

Also, this can be used as an opportunity to know the customer a few levels deeper than just demographic data. It all depends on how well you have created the survey.

Motivate employees and serve the customer better

A customer survey after an event can be used to motivate employees to serve them better while the event is occurring. In fact, employees can be incentivized based on the customer feedback. The more detailed the survey and the stronger the incentive, the happier the customer in all likelihood.

Raise issues and stimulate discussions

The results of a survey lead to a lot of outcomes. If you have followed all ‘do’s of how to conduct a survey you will have a wealth of information that will open up doors for a lot of discussions. These might be things that you hadn’t considered earlier and lead you to new avenues of growth.

Find and adapt to changing trends

If you have a keen eye you will notice that the environment is in a constant state of change – whether internally or with consumer tastes. A well-timed survey can get you in tune with these changing trends. It is then a matter of adapting to the new playing field. This might be a small bug in the system or might require deeper shifts, but at least you know the direction of change.

Test and implement new ideas

A survey is a good place to see how a new idea will be received. Test surveys can be used to prepare yourself for what to expect after a full-blown marketing/product launch. Again, it is important to design the test and the survey that will be as close to the real thing as is possible.

You will have noticed that a lot of the learning points mentioned above depend on how well the survey is designed. In an age where surveys have become easier and cheaper to conduct and analytical tools are aplenty too, it is very easy to be swayed in the wrong direction.

Not only will the quality of data determines the quality of data out, the analysis is a double-edged sword too. On one hand, you could lead yourself to analysis paralysis by analyzing irrelevant details. And on the other hand, you could see cause and effect where none exists. Correlations should be understood well before decisions are made based on them. Having said that, there is no escape from the advantages and importance of surveys as a tool to learn and implement effective changes.

Author Meeta Kabra

Meeta is a Chartered Accountant and an MBA but she’d rather not keep books or run a business. She deployed her analytical skills to reviewing movies instead and reviews movies at wogma.com. She's also trying her hand at short stories and poetry at minusi.com

More posts by Meeta Kabra

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