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Online customer surveys are good for business

Every time I take one of our vehicles in for service at Crown Automotive Group, I receive a customer survey in my email about 48 hours later. I used to just delete those emails, but now I usually complete them, especially if I’m offered a discount coupon for my next service as a thanks for submitting the survey.

Finding out what customers are thinking about a dealership has never been more important to customer retention. Today, customers who aren’t satisfied just disappear, usually without saying a word. So asking them what they think in an online survey is good business.

Doing surveys doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are some helpful tips from experts:

• Less is more. Keep any survey short and to the point. If your customers can’t do the survey in less than five minutes (promise them up front it will only take that amount of time) your survey is too long and will likely just be deleted.

• Keep it simple. Each question should be about one specific point, preferably with limited answers. For example, “Did our technician clearly explain what was going to be done? Choices: Very clear; Not very clear; No explanation.”

• Don’t lead the customers. Asking questions like: “Was your experience with our sales team satisfactory?” doesn’t do it. Rewrite a specific question like: “Did our sales team make doing your paperwork easy?” After all, the point of the survey is to get the customer’s real opinion.

• Mix up the answers. If you use multiple-choice answers, mix them up. Studies show customers tend to select the first answer on a list. For example, “How did you first hear about us?” If radio is first on the list, it will likely get the most checkmarks, even if you’ve never advertised on radio.

Many experts recommend giving customers the opportunity to select from sliding scales. In other words, rather than make them pick a categorical “yes” or “no,” allowing them to indicate a level such as “very satisfied” or  “somewhat satisfied” or “somewhat dissatisfied” or “very dissatisfied” can be more informative. And there are often extenuating circumstances to a customer’s reaction and it’s important to understand where they’re coming from.

To get this clarity, many questions should include a field for the customer to explain or comment further on their answer. When someone is dissatisfied, we need to know why. And if unhappy customers take the survey in the first place, they’ll likely reveal details in the comment boxes provided. It’s also possible the customers will offer a suggestion worth consideration. They might also have a compliment for your team that will help you understand what customers want from the service they receive. (Those can sometimes translate into positive dealership review quotes on your website – with the customer’s permission.)

We know not because we ask not. I’m paraphrasing, but I really suspect we don’t usually seek customer input because we fear all we’re doing is giving them a platform to complain. However, we need to know what customers are thinking and surveys are an easy way to find out.

Moreover, there is even help available from a website like www.fluidsurveys.com that offers free tools and suggestions for creating online and mobile survey forms or, for a fee, offer premium services.

Finally, surveys provide an avenue to offer an incentive (discount coupons, free service upgrade, gift, etc.) to persuade the customer to come back again.

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