October 11, 2011

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Value from Customer Satisfaction Surveys

It has been said that criticism is the schoolbook from which we learn. Many businesses however avoid encouraging customer feedback on the off chance it may be negative.

But the fact is, it’s the negative feedback that will be of most benefit to you if you are committed to growing your business based on outstanding service.

A number of years ago, I consulted to an estate agency which had at the time one of the leading property management departments in its region and probably one of the best property managers in the business. Yet they were reticent to survey their landlords. I finally talked them in to doing it and the results were great - not because the feedback was predominantly positive, but more for the reason it wasn’t all “pats on the back”.

They learnt of issues that they would never have thought of otherwise, and were able to make improvements to their systems and processes that provided even greater service to their customers.

Customer feedback is an important part of your marketing

The process itself indicates you are genuinely focused on providing excellence in service and continually improving your customers’ experience. It also provides a road map for business improvement and growth through optimising customer centred service provision.

The message that you not only provide great service but are committed to continually improving it, tends to find its way to prospective customers.

Undertake customer feedback programs only on the following basis:

- You genuinely encourage both positive AND negative feedback,
- You’re prepared to act on the feedback not find excuses for it,
- You can provide outcomes and plans for change to all those who gave you feedback.

Ensuring great outcomes

1. First and foremost, quickly identify any vital issues that could cost you a particular customer or customers and do the following:
- Short term: Identify what you need to do now to fix the situation (and particularly make peace with any aggrieved customers).
- Long term: Fix it forever. What do you need to change or introduce in your processes to ensure this issue does not reoccur?
2. You should take up any particular issues with specific customers personally. Don’t hide behind other staff or emails.
3. Share feedback with your entire team - the good, the bad and the ugly.
4. Where segment-specific issues arise, prioritise and identify individuals or teams to suggest actions to rectify the concerns.
5. Identify any important improvements arising from the survey and communicate the outcomes to your entire customer base. Remember some of your customers may have had similar experiences and issues but did not bother to complete the survey. At least now they are aware that you have improved that area.

At the very least your customers will know that you are a company willing to act.

The above relates mainly to annual surveys of your entire customer base, however there are other intermittent surveys you should run:

- Vendor surveys two weeks into the listing to ask what they thought about your listing process, advertising, etc.
- Post sale vendor and purchaser surveys (if they are positive make sure you ask for a testimonial).
- Tenant surveys: you can obtain feedback on the service you provide, but also try to ascertain if they are considering buying in the future. In normal circumstances, tenants tend to make the managing agent the last person they go to to buy a property, but if you encourage them to come to you it enables you to not only get a possible sale but manage the changeover of tenants more easily.

How do I implement surveys?

Carefully. A team of people should develop the questions, ensuring they are open and encouraging of constructive criticism. The survey should be kept as tight as possible at around 10 to15 questions. They can be multiple choice, but make sure there is also the opportunity for free responses to explain thoughts and raise issues you may not have thought of.

The shorter the survey, the greater percentage of response you will receive. Having said that, make sure it’s comprehensive enough to cover the important issues and has the ability to return significant information. At the end there should be an opportunity for customers to raise any other concerns or make random comments. Some of these unsolicited remarks are the most telling!

Ensure your team understands that this is about improving your service.

Small sample surveys may be run on paper, but there are some excellent web-based products that can be used for large-scale surveys. One example is surveymonkey.com. There is a limited free version, but for a relatively small amount of money (around US$200 per year) you can get a full version that offers greater functionality response time, a greater number of responses and questions that can be included.

There are of course a number of other products available. The advantage of these online products is that they are quick, easy and professional to implement and response time can be almost immediate dependent upon completion rates.

Of course, if you are really serious and have a large customer base, you can engage external firms that will independently develop, implement the survey and analyse the results for you.

Quick Idea

Survey prospective vendors who did not give you their business. Ask: “What was it that made you select another agent over us?” You can obtain great information on how to improve your presentations and service offering.

Clearly articulate in the covering letter/email that you are committed to continually improving your service and wish them the best results from their sale. This is a great activity, particularly if they end up being dissatisfied with the agent they chose. The the door is open for you!

Final word

Engaging customers in surveys can be one of the most useful communications you have with them if you are committed to real customer service. You cannot provide that service until you really know what they think. Most people will not complain to you – they will just find someone else. Make sure you take control.


Related posts:

  1. How Well Do You Know Your Audience?
  2. Surveys Shows the Problems with Print
  3. It’s More Than Just An Ad On A Portal
  4. Vendor Reports: Why Are They Important?


  1. Rick Bengson says:

    Good point on the necessary 2 types of feedback needed in the real estate business:
    1. Feedback on your showings which by providing transparancy to the sellers not only help sell homes faster by adjusting pricing, condition etc… It also saves you time automating it with a system and shows professionalism by providing that seller a portal to view all of their showing activity and feedback. http://www.showingsuite.com/products/homefeedback
    2. Customer satisfaction surveys are necessary to see what you and/or your team are doing right or wrong in their businesses by polling your clients both during escrow and after the close of escrow. http://www.showingsuite.com/products/customer-surveys
    You can use either of these service on a free trial to see how it works for your business.

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