Today’s Business Products: How surveys can help improve customer service

It’s difficult to know for certain what your clients want if you never ask them.

“Businesses should be asking their customers: What are we doing right? What are we doing wrong? What could we do better? If they’re not asking these questions, apparently they do not care about their customers,” says Rick Voigt, president of Today’s Business Products.

Smart Business spoke with Voigt about ways to gather customer feedback and how to use the results.

How do you find out about customer needs and wants?

You want to conduct surveys, usually at the end of the year. In order to encourage responses, offer an incentive like an entry into a drawing for an Apple iPad. We did that and had about a 20 percent return rate.
With surveys, you want people to be absolutely open and frank. You can’t improve and address problems if no one tells you about them. Another reason to do surveys is that 99 percent come back with praise for the great job being done. When customers put that on paper, it’s really ingrained in their minds. Then if a competitor comes in their door, they’ve just finished saying how great you are. Why would they want to talk to someone else?

What types of questions should be included in a survey?

It’s important to keep surveys short and to the point. When you’ve answered 20 questions and see the survey is only 7 percent complete, you’re not going to finish it.

Two questions we ask are to name their sales representative and driver. That reveals how effectively the sales consultant is at developing a relationship. If they don’t know the salesperson’s name, they don’t have a great relationship. The same goes for the driver — if they know the driver’s name, they have a relationship. Every point of contact with a customer should form a relationship to help establish your business with the client.

We also structure questions to get more information about the customer, such as how many employees work at that location or if they use other suppliers for furniture or office products. This information indicates the customer’s needs and if there’s an opportunity to generate more business with them. Surveys also can be used to determine ways to expand your business into a different product category. If it’s something else the customer uses, they’ll want to purchase it from someone they know and trust.

Our survey asks respondents to rate customer service regarding accuracy of orders, pricing, ease of placing orders and overall satisfaction, as well as what changes can be made to better serve their needs.

One issue that was brought up was the speed of our website. After seeing the responses, it was imperative to upgrade speed of ordering to better suit customers’ needs. We listened and that issue was resolved.

What else can be done to generate customer feedback?

For larger accounts, you can conduct business reviews that show them your performance. It’s like a report card — how is the fill rate, average order size, product categories purchased, method of purchases, etc.

Customers like the reviews because all the cards are out on the table. There’s a list of the top items ordered, and they can see opportunities to save money by going with substitutes. Changing brands can save a customer about 15 percent on average. Or maybe they can save by ordering a larger quantity at one time.

That helps when a competitor comes into the office and says they can save the business money; the client already knows they could save 15 percent if they changed brands. You have to tell customers this information because if you don’t, someone else will.

It’s important to show clients you’re working on their behalf, as a business partner rather than a vendor. You can replace vendors at any time, but you can’t replace a trusted business partner very easily.

Rick Voigt is the president of Today’s Business Products. Reach him at (216) 267-5000 or [email protected].

Insights Customer Service is brought to you by Today’s Business Products

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