Customer Satisfaction surveys should be built on a foundation based on solid statistical methodology. In this chapter, we’re going to talk about that methodology as well as how we design and execute the survey questionnaires to provide the most comprehensive and credible data, as well as the highest possible response rates.  As we do so, we’ll walk you through a sample questionnaire, so you can see for yourself just how our Customer Insight surveys work.

Approaching the Clients Customer

When we prepare to go out to our clients’ customers with a Customer Insight survey, we always keep this one principle in mind:  anything related to the survey is a professional communication and should be treated with no less respect and care than any other important business interaction.

If our clients were sending their customers a notice of a price increase, for example, they would certainly want to make sure that letter had the exact right language and that nobody’s name was misspelled.  While a survey doesn’t contain that kind of bad news (fortunately), it still adds up to a little bit of inconvenience for the person we’re asking to fill it out; it stands to reason, then, that we want to do it as politely and professionally as possible.

That means no cold-calling and no dropping a survey in the mail without first paving the way. It’s important to note that PMG is representing our clients in this process; we don’t want to make our clients look bad to their customers by approaching the survey in anything less than a professional manner. We also want to drive home the message about why the supplier is coming to them with this survey; it’s to say that they care about them to such an extent that they’re soliciting their input to improve their business relationship, as well as the quality of product and service they provide.

You also have to keep in mind that the survey questionnaire generally needs to be completed, or at least partially done, by a senior executive at a company.  These men and women are in positions of high level leadership and expect to be treated a certain way.  They’re also usually very pressed for time and completing surveys isn’t an activity that’s at the top of their to-do lists; that means we have to have a process in place that introduces the survey in such a way that makes them as comfortable as possible with the concept and the actual task.

That requires us to create any survey documentation, correspondence and material with great concern and care.  To that end, we first spend a great deal of time double-checking a forthcoming survey’s recipients’ list, making sure names are spelled correctly (to the point where we make sure a first name is spelled “John” and not “Jon”) and that addresses are exactly right.

Next, we send out a letter on our client’s company letterhead to each of their customers announcing the survey.  That letter talks about the fact that the supplier is doing this survey because it values the customer’s opinion and wants to improve.  It goes on to say that the supplier has hired PMG and that we will be contacting the customer in question shortly with the actual survey materials.

This introductory letter is designed to do two things.  First of all, since the customer may not know anything at all about PMG, the letter validates us; when we finally do contact them, they’ll know who we are and why we’re contacting them.  Even though we may have been the ones to physically send out the letter, it appears as though the supplier has actually begun the process. That allows us to simply slide in and take over after this “official” introduction.

Second of all, the letter heightens the importance of the survey process; it “announces” the survey is coming in a way designed to demonstrate that it’s significant. The survey doesn’t just fly in the door without any warning to the customers; this separate letter indicates that this is an important business matter that deserves to be seriously considered and completed.

Shortly after the introductory letter is sent to all the desired customers for the survey, we follow up by emailing a copy of the actual survey questionnaire.  

Since this isn’t a mass mailing but, rather, one targeted to a strictly B2B population, the survey itself needs to be designed more like a business correspondence; we definitely don’t want to come off like we’re talking down to the executives as if we’re administering the SAT to a student.  Executives must be approached respectfully, not condescendingly, and avoid making the survey sound in any way like an onerous chore.

We also need to make the survey questionnaire as easy and foolproof as possible. Our survey format is not some kind of industry standard, but we’ve found it just absolutely works the best for our purposes in this kind of arena.

The front of the survey documents will contain a cover letter and instructions, so the customers are reminded of what it’s all about and why our client would like them to fill it out. Most importantly, it will have a PMG name and the project manager’s direct phone number at the bottom of the page, in case the executive needs to contact us directly with a question about the survey.  We want to enable easy access so they can reach us quickly.

A typical questionnaire front page containing instructions is as follows:

Customer Sat Instructions