Growing a successful small business depends on repeat clients, and clients only come back when they are extremely happy with the products or services you're providing. It should go without saying that your initial focus should be on providing an exemplary product or service. Once you have that solid foundation, it's time to focus on the second part of generating repeat business—tailoring your offerings to exactly what your clients need and want.
Each one of your existing clients possesses a wealth of information that can not only help you solve more of their problems and increase sales, but also give you ideas about what else you can be doing to attract new business. The only way to get this information is to ask your clients direct questions and listen to their answers.
What Questions to Ask Your Clients
There are many types of questions you can ask a client to get their feedback on your products, services, customer service, and overall business, but some of the basic questions should include:
- Why did you choose us as your service provider?
- What service did we perform for you?
- How would you rate the service you received? (Provide a rating scale)
- In what areas did we meet or exceed your expectations?
- In which areas can we improve?
- Would you recommend us to others?
Whenever you ask for client feedback, you should make sure you are asking the right questions to produce valuable feedback without asking too many questions and risk not receiving a response at all. You may also want to consider offering an incentive for completing the survey—such as a coupon or other discount—especially if you find the response rate leaves something to be desired.
How to Ask the Questions
Aside from hiring an external survey company to poll your clients on your behalf or conducting a formal focus group, which is not financially practical for many small business owners, there are a few ways you can ask your clients for feedback. Here are some ideas to get you started.
1. Start a Conversation
Your client feedback process can be as simple as an email message with questions sent to your clients, or a personal phone call. This method is quick and easy, but there are some downfalls. When you take the informal approach to client feedback, you run the risk that the message will be put aside and eventually lost in the shuffle. Plus, if you're asking in a conversational manner, you are most likely using open-ended questions which can prevent any kind of consistency across all of your client surveys. Lastly, you must manually do something with the data collected in order to have it in any kind of useable form.
2. Create an Online Survey
If you have a set of standard questions that you would like to pose to many of your clients, you can take the informal format one step further and create a standardized survey. You can create a protected form in a word processing application, a PDF form, or a form that can be submitted through your website—or even a third-party site. This format will obviously take more time to create, but it allows you to have one standard survey you send to all clients.
3. Use a Hard Copy Questionnaire
Depending on the type of business you have, a hard copy questionnaire that is mailed to your clients may be the best way to go. Include a self-addressed, stamped envelope to make it easier for clients to return the survey. And make sure you have a system in place for entering the data into Excel or some other software so you can collect, review, and run reports on the data.
The key to any client feedback process is not just collecting the data, but gaining insight from it that you can actually use in your business.