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Treasure-Hunting the Truth (Conclusion)

Asking the right survey questions is a science and an art

SAN FRANCISCO — Getting to the truth is like a treasure hunt.

Do you ever wonder what your clients really think of your company, your customer service, your quality, your staff, your stores, vans or product range?

Cleaners who use surveys collect valuable information that helps them continually improve their business.

Most surveys elicit positive feedback, and most cleaners that use surveys report that they are “very happy” with the results. It is always a confidence-builder to receive positive responses.

It is even more valuable to uncover weaknesses and receive suggestions that help you make corrections and direct your future growth.


You have the choice of several survey formats, and your choice depends on the type of results you’re seeking. Survey selection and design is critical, as well. Some survey methods are more reliable than others when targeting a specific demographic group. Several format options include:

Internet/Online or In-store Tablet

  • Automatic ongoing response collection;

  • Targeted single-date responses.


  • Completed by internal staff;

  • Using outsourced expertise.

In-Person/Exit Interviews/Focus Groups

  • Implemented by informal internal staff interaction;

  • Formalized by outsourced professionals.

Note: Live interviews and focus groups are most valuable when they are recorded to ensure thorough capture and analysis of the responses. Beware, sometimes participants say what they think you want to hear. Written mail-in surveys are more thorough, but get lower response rates.


There are many alternatives to meet your specific goals for the survey:

  • Integrated into existing systems within the operation, i.e. your point-of-sale (POS);

  • Stand-alone formats that have a specific focus;

  • Sliding-scale overall rating;

  • Multi-question detailed assessments;

  • Trigger delivery (prompted by a specific action, i.e. bringing in a large order might prompt the question, “Are you aware that we offer pickup and delivery to your home or office?”);

  • Survey branching logic (triggers follow-up questions based on initial responses);

Example: If the customer was aware of your delivery service in the question above, the follow-up would be, “Would you like us to deliver this order for you?” Use single-language/multi-language options for cultural variances.


The responses will be more valuable if the survey is presented timely, so plan your survey calendar in advance. 

Example: Customers are more likely to respond to questions about storage or drapery services during a change of season. They are more likely to appreciate the advantage of a mat service during the rainy season. 


Question design is an art and a science with many variations that affect the responses. Many of the survey tools provide guidance, but if you are uncertain, hire an expert to draft your survey.

Quantitative questions ask respondents to specify their level of agreement or disagreement on a symmetric agree-disagree scale for a series of statements, such as a range of possible choices from “extremely likely” to “not at all likely” that they would recommend your service to a friend. 

Binary questions provide the target consumer only two answer options, usually yes or no. (You may want to offer a third option, i.e. “haven’t experienced.”)

Qualitative Questions are open-ended questions that allow respondents to provide information that is important to them that you may not have thought about. This is especially valuable information for your business development planning. Examples: “What can we do to improve your experience?” “Is there anything else you would like to share with us?”


NPS has been widely adopted with more than two thirds of Fortune 1000 companies using the metric. It's calculated based on responses to this: How likely is it that you would recommend our company/product/service to a friend or colleague? The scoring for this answer is most often based on a 0 to 10 scale.” (From Wikipedia/wiki/Net Promoter.)


Question design has a huge impact on the answers, and especially biased questions will defeat the objectivity of your survey.

Example: Susan and Walter are getting ready for their big summer barbecue party. Susan agrees to be the barbecue grill master if Walter buys all the ingredients. Not sure how many hamburgers to buy, Susan sends out a survey to all of the guests. When Walter checks the survey, he’s shocked. 0% of people want hamburgers. Then he reads Susan’s survey question:

Do you want to have someone kill a defenseless animal, skin it, grab some of it, add preservatives to it, and force me to inhale its death fumes while I cry silently because it reminds me of all my animal farm friends from when I was a child?

Walter shakes his head and sighs, “Do I have to do everything myself?” He writes a new survey question and sends it out to their friends:

Do you want to support local American farmers in these troubled economic times by grilling up a traditional American juicy burger?

Try to make people feel comfortable answering your questions truthfully. Remove unnecessary information. Balance the question. Balance the survey. (From

Both forms of the survey are biased, so a more neutral attempt might be: How many hamburgers do you typically eat at a barbecue?

As you can see from the options, surveys have many advantages and present many options from which to choose when treasure-hunting for the truth about customer happiness at your drycleaning store.

If you have never utilized surveys, the easiest option to implement is to simply ask, “What can we do to improve your experience with us?” Depending upon the responses, that one question may aid you in directing your business.

To read Part 1, go HERE.

Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Dave Davis at [email protected].