Treasure-Hunting the Truth (Part 1)

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(Photo: Clem Onojeghuo/Unsplash)

Diana Vollmer |

Surveys help drycleaning owners discover customer happiness

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.

Direct experiences include Brian and Dave Cass of Martinizing in Milwaukee, who were early adopters of surveys, currently use internet-based Constant Contact, which has provided strong direction for their business expansion and is integrated with their POS system.

The difference in the responses by age group gives them insight into capturing upcoming generations as their families and fabricare needs grow.

Brad Pickett of Modern Cleaners in Washington state has been surprised at the high response rates and the fact that “no one ever questioned our prices.”

Peter Kuchlik of American Cleaners on Long Island uses the survey development website SurveyMonkey and likes the immediacy of responses “within minutes” and that the results are aggregated and presented in a usable format.

Bob Guthery of Nichols Hills Cleaners in Oklahoma appreciates the kudos received but cautions that customers’ time constraints may limit the participation, possibly skewing results to customers with exceptions to report and less representation from the middle customers with average results.

It is worth noting: Average results present the most vulnerability.

PURPOSE

The purpose of a survey is to determine actionable information that you don’t currently have available and/or to confirm things that you believe to be true.

Information gained from a survey can provide valuable feedback on the issues that are important to your customers, your suppliers, bankers, employees or other stakeholders.

Surveys can be designed to find out how well your offerings meet customers’ needs and their likes, dislikes, satisfaction level and where you need to make improvements that will advance your business goals and increase your competitive advantage in the market.

Examples of survey goals can include: Increasing customer loyalty and retention; reducing employee turnover; increasing favorable word-of-mouth buzz.

RESULTS

Clarity of your desired result is key to designing a useful survey.

“While any company can use data to optimize costs or sell more products, real differentiation comes from understanding new information about customers and orienting that business around those insights.  … Businesses that integrated multiple customer and marketing data sources saw 2.6 times the sales growth over three years compared to peers.” (From google.com/analytics/360-suite.#quotation.)

In an example Harvard Business Review reported: “In 2015, 60% of companies said that organizational silos were the greatest barrier to improving customer experience. Successful companies are finding ways to organize around customer needs, creating nimble teams with the customer experience at the center.” (From google.com/analytics/resources/whitepaper-marketing-in-the-drivers-seat.)

Question: Do organizational silos exist between your front-line customer-serving facilities and your plant?

Surveys offer business owners significant feedback, can emphasize your value to your customers and employees, and get them to think about your business.

ADVANTAGES

Well-designed and executed surveys can consistently interact with your target audience to help build insights that can direct day-to-day business decisions.

“Day in and day out, your customer service team answers the phone, handles email, and otherwise interacts with your customers. They’re a big part of your company and your success. In fact, our research suggests that 72% of customers are very or extremely likely to shop at a company with a reputation for excellent customer service.” (From a customer service survey at the SurveyMonkey website.)

Some things surveys can accomplish:

  • Assess customer service training gaps by comparing actual performance with desired performance;

  • Assist in determining customer engagement and value of touch points;

  • Help understand which marketing is working and which is not, therefore determining where to budget effective marketing dollars;

  • Create customer value by isolating where and how best to exceed customer wishes;

  • Help assess business model vulnerability (do your customers want 24/7 access?);

  • Cost-effectively gather large amounts of usable data.

DISADVANTAGES

Survey question design is sensitive and must be well and thoughtfully planned or respondents may:

  • Feel uncomfortable providing answers that present the company or the employees unfavorably;

  • Not be clear on their reasons for any given answer due to lack of memory or disinterest, or if they believe the survey is too long;

  • Not fully express themselves in closed-ended questions;

  • Not respond to a survey question and their opinion may be different from those who do respond, thus creating bias;

  • Interpret questions differently.

Example: Respondents may answer “no” if the option “only once” is not available.

Check back Thursday for the conclusion.

About the author

Diana Vollmer

Methods for Management (MFM) Inc.

Managing Director

Diana Vollmer is managing director of Methods for Management (MFM) Inc., a consultancy specializing in drycleaning businesses. You may contact her at dvollmer@mfmi.com, 415-577-6544.

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