Customer Surveys and Interviews
It can be difficult to get accurate customer information. In some industry sectors there may be general customer data available in terms of publicly available (e.g. journal, newspaper, trade association, government) survey results, however many companies will find it necessary to go directly to their own customers to find out what they need to know.
Types of information
The types of information required might include:
- Who are our customers?
- Why do customers buy our products?
- Why might they continue to buy our products?
- Why might they stop buying our products?
- Why might they buy our competitors' products?
There are various ways in which a company might go about finding this information. Asking the Sales and Marketing team may produce accurate information in some companies, but in others may result in inaccurate and biased opinion based on fantasy rather than reality. More accurate information may be obtained by appropriate use of the following:
- Telephone Survey Questionnaires
- Telephone interviews
- Face-to-face interviews
- Mail Survey Questionnaires
- Purchase-Point Survey Questionnaires
- Field Service Interviews or Questionnaires
- Customer Complaints Data from Interviews and Questionnaires
There are many things to be considered when designing a survey tool, among which the following are particularly important:
- It is important that interviews or surveys are constructed carefully, attention being paid to both the comprehensiveness of the questions and their usefulness - there is no point in asking a question if no action can result from its answer!
- It is important not to alienate your customer - filling in questionnaires and being interviewed both take valuable time. What is in it for them?
- It is important to target the right individuals - if your customer is a company rather than an individual, whose answers are you actually going to get?
- Resource will need to be set aside both to prepare and run surveys or interviews, and also to collate and interpret the results.
- Who will act on the results? What will they do?
There are many excellent books available that provide guidelines and instructions for conducting surveys and interviews. We particularly recommend the following:
- Dillman, DA. "Mail and Telephone Surveys, The Total Design Method". 1978. Wiley. New York. ISBN 0-471-21555-4.
- Berdie, DR., Anderson, JF & Niebuhr, MA. "Questionnaires: Design and Use". 1986. The Scarecrow Press. Metuchen, NJ & London.