How to Use Phone Surveys to Improve Customer Satisfaction

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Are you interested in taking your proactive customer contact to the next level while at the same time gathering important strategic and tactical customer information. A simple telephone survey may be your answer. Here's a look at a few best practices to make telephone surveys work for your business.

By John Hlavac

Are you caught by surprise at customer hot-buttons or find yourself behind the curve when it comes to accurately validating your company’s performance on customer satisfaction? Telephone surveys of customers can help you take proactive customer contact to a new level while simultaneously obtaining important strategic and tactical customer information. In my experience they are more effective than any other type of survey.

Simple telephone surveys can help you validate particular needs and activities, identify current customer desires and confirm you are "hitting the mark" with your overall customer base.

Sure, there are other ways to collect customer data, each with its own benefits and risks. But my clients consistently tell me that they find telephone surveys a cost-effective way to capture real-time actionable information that they can implement quickly and easily. Telephone surveys can work for you, too.

Telephone surveys can be easily adjusted or modified to control cost, provide an open dialog with each customer contacted to make them feel appreciated, quickly capture customer input, validate satisfaction and future business possibilities, identify product concerns, clarify service improvements and confirm sales preferences. Are any of those factors important for you or your business?

Response rates are often higher using a telephone survey than other survey methodologies which also mitigates non-response bias (i.e. allowing you to obtain feedback from all types of customers, not just the people who love you or hate you). In addition, data from telephone surveys can usually be analyzed quickly.

A technology solution provider client of mine wanted to survey a random sample of their entire customer base on a monthly basis while simultaneously making each customer contacted feel appreciated. I recommended a short (2-3 minute, 10-15 question) telephone survey process for this particular engagement. The client first validated the customer data on file at the beginning of the survey and then included 12 questions with most answers being either simple "yes/no" or "scaled" responses. They also included a couple multiple choice questions and one open-ended question. The open-ended question was used to identify one action the solution provider might do to improve their service in the next three months.

My client was thrilled with the results almost immediately. This telephone survey provided the solution provider with a cost-effective process to collect regular and reliable data for making sound management decisions, enhanced their overall customer satisfaction ratings because of the additional proactive contact, provided additional leads from new client referrals and helped identify several new product and service enhancement ideas. My client has maintained this telephone survey program in place to reach out to even more customers, to keep refining their on-going processes and consistently demonstrate their customer commitment to new prospects.

Other effective uses for telephone surveys could be to maximize penetration or contact within a particular customer data base. I’ve helped clients implement MAX telephone campaigns to ensure and validate as many people as possible receive their message or offer. Some examples for MAX campaigns include event or training awareness and registrations, product releases, quality or service recall announcements, charitable fundraisers and even political solicitations.

Another client of mine was having a difficult time attracting both prospects and existing clients to attend regional product showcases and training events. I suggested they use a MAX penetration telephone campaign into a targeted database within the specific territories. The survey was very short (only a few questions) and the person conducting the survey made sure they immediately verified they were talking with the correct individual. Then they provided key information about the event, encouraged the contacts to register on the spot and provided each contact with help to register online.

My client also adopted another of my recommendations to provide all registered contacts with a second follow up call or voicemail reminder the day before the event. After implementing this telephone activity, my client started to enjoy vastly improved attendance and even had to add additional events in some locations because of the increased demand. Proactive customer contact counts.

Two Specific Telephone Survey Cautions:

  1. Specific federal, state and local regulations (like do-not-call lists) often apply to any type of telephone survey, especially for mass customer contact programs. Please check your respective authorities for details on how these regulations may apply to your program.
  2. A lengthy telephone survey with multiple answer options or numerous open-ended questions could be expensive, tedious to perform, hard to analyze and cause additional customer dissatisfaction.

(Tip for this situation: Web-based (internet) or paper (mail) surveys might be preferred survey methods to consider when conducting long or time-consuming detailed surveys with many variables.)

Telephone surveys work. When are you going to start surveying your customers by telephone?

John Hlavac is a resident expert at The ASCII Group which provides coaching and consulting to its MSP/VAR Community. Hlavac has spent over 25 years as a sales and service executive and advocate in the high-tech community and was inducted into the IT Hall of Fame with the class of 2010 in April 2011. John is currently the president of JLH & Associates LLC, a coaching, consulting and training company aimed at helping IT providers and other sales and service executives grow their businesses by refining, implementing and delivering effective and efficient management activities to solidify sales and service.