How to Find Out What Your Customers Think

Posted by Joanna Conti on July 04, 2014 in


This month’s Consumer Reports survey of the fast food industry contained some surprising findings -- customers rated the taste of the flagship products of the biggest fast food chains very poorly.   For example, McDonalds’ hamburgers were given poorer taste ratings by their own customers than the hamburgers at any of the 20 other hamburger chains included in the study.  The taste of Taco Bell burritos and KFC chicken were also rated at the bottom of the pack in their categories.



While it is fascinating to think up explanations for why this might be so (and even more amusing to visualize the reactions of top managers at these chains to these widely-reported results), perhaps the most important question to ask is “are you sure you know what your customers think of your products?”

There’s a common tendency to overestimate how satisfied our customers are.  They came back, right?  And if they didn’t, there’s nothing that calls our attention to the fact.

With today’s technology, there’s no excuse for not conducting regular surveys of your customers.  Follow these seven rules to make sure a survey provides useful insights into what your customers are thinking about your products or services:

  1. Conduct the survey online.  This allows you to segment the survey by product or location and to view the results immediately.
  2. Make it easy to complete the survey.  Hand a mini-iPad containing the survey to customers as you are ringing up their sales or have the survey pop up online immediately after the purchase confirmation.
  3. Provide an incentive to take the survey, such as a coupon for 10% off the customer's next purchase or an inexpensive gift.
  4. Keep your survey really short.  You’ll learn more from a survey of three or four quick questions than you will from a 15-minute survey for the simple reason that almost no one is going to take a painfully-long survey. 
  5. Include an open-ended question that allows your customers to tell you specifically what they like or dislike.  For example, after asking customers to rate their food and service and how likely they are to dine there again, a restaurant should simply ask “Why?”
  6. Provide an option for people to give you their email address, but don’t require it.  Many people will avoid taking a survey if they think you’ll inundate them with email as a result. 
  7. Make sure your survey is visually appealing.  I’ve been using for years because their surveys are attractive and allow you to choose what questions to ask next depending upon the answers to previous questions. 

We’ve never seen a competitive landscape like today’s.  You’re no longer competing solely against similar businesses in your town; competitive offerings from around the world are now only a click away.  If you’re not regularly surveying your customers and using the results to improve customer satisfaction with your products or services, you’re falling behind.