How Surveys promote Continuous Improvement

Customer Surveys - S&B Finishing

How does a company confirm the effectiveness of its products or services? How do leaders know which areas to focus on for improvement?

The answer is by asking the people who know your services best:  your customers. Used smartly, customer satisfaction surveys can give companies the information they need to make improvements that really matter. 

Taking the time to answer surveys gives companies valuable feedback that may help them to improve challenging areas like the training of their employees. Whether on the giving or receiving end, at S&B Finishing, surveys are taken very seriously. President Kenny Spielman goes as far as to call the feedback his company gets from surveys a gift.

“We know them and they know us,” says Spielman. “If you don’t know your suppliers and customers, it’s pretty easy to lose them.”

He makes a point of responding to surveys he receives, too. He hopes his response to these businesses  (whether insurance companies or garbage collectors) carry weight like the responses he receives from his customers.

Why companies send out surveys

A popular way to collect customer feedback, surveys help companies measure customer satisfaction, preferences and expectations. Surveys have limitations and drawbacks, though. According to a recent article on LinkedIn, learning how to design and conduct effective surveys is important before incorporating them into your customer experience strategy. 

By collecting quantitative data to analyze, companies can begin to identify trends, gaps and opportunities for improving their product or service. This is one reason S&B sends surveys out several times a year. As part of the company’s ISO program, these surveys go to major customers and ask more in-depth questions than “rate us one through five.”

“The metrics that come back from customers help us improve our services and get better from year to year,” says Spielman. “Continuous improvement promotes customer satisfaction and company growth long term.” 

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How to get started

Creating and distributing surveys is a relatively easy and inexpensive vehicle for generating customer feedback. Several online tools and platforms are available to help companies design surveys to reach customers through email, social media or the company website. 

To begin with, define clear objectives and an appropriate audience for your company’s outreach. This will aid in deciding on survey type and format. Once that is clear, draft questions that are easy-to-understand and unbiased using simple and consistent language. 

Basic guidelines for customer satisfaction surveys

  • State intentions
  • Include instructions
  • Organize with a clear layout
  • State questions concisely
  • Make sure questions are neutral
  • Test survey

Before launching a survey for the first time, test it with a small sample of customers or colleagues. Check for errors, clarity, and usability, then adjust it based on this feedback.

Spielman’s advice, in a nutshell, is to keep surveys short, and be sure to follow up. Effective customer feedback surveys are relevant, concise and engaging. 

Feedback helps companies grow

Surveying customers to get feedback is beneficial in several ways. Along with aiding in understanding customer needs and expectations, feedback helps businesses pinpoint customer issues and solutions. Follow-up surveys help in measuring company performance and progress on resolving previous issues. 

Who doesn’t welcome a pat on the back for things done well?  That is one nice thing about getting feedback from customers: it can be complimentary. Both compliments and complaints are valuable to Spielman. Since the goal at S&B is continuous improvement, so-called negative feedback on surveys is extremely welcomed. 

 “Your feedback really makes a difference around here,” he tells his customers. “Candid input gives us something to focus on to continue to improve.”

Spielman answers every response from the company website and every email the same day they arrive. He addresses the person who wrote it, ensures they get adequate attention and thanks them for their time. Often, through conversations, Spielman is able to help his customers clarify and correct issues that might be happening on their end. These requests for further information are kept very short. The S&B team analyzes the answers and comes back with solutions for further discussion.

Previous feedback has led to improvements such as shorter turnaround times for orders. When companies don’t get this information for whatever reason, it’s likely that they’re going to keep doing the same thing that is wrong.

Surveys promote continuous communication  

Long-term relationship building can be strengthened through open communication. It helps to build trust and rapport, discover customer preferences and opinions. Paying attention to surveys customers fill out helps keep communication going. 

Spielman believes that the personal touch is what really counts. Customers want to know they are valued by the companies with which they do business.  It’s one reason the company has retained so many long-term customers and suppliers —  for 46 years. “We know them and they know us,” says Spielman. “If you don’t know your suppliers and customers, it’s pretty easy to lose them.”