Knowledge - especially knowledge about your customers - is power. However, to get the right information, you have to ask the right questions. When it comes to developing products and services, and making changes to them, we’re partial to Eric Ries’, author of The Lean Startup, testing method. This method is based upon creating a feedback loop that helps organizations refine their offerings. There are three key components to this loop: build, measure, and learn. Customer surveys are the most valuable measurement tool.
Keeping a start-up mentality
Ries’ methods are designed with start-ups in mind - but that doesn’t mean this testing method isn’t for larger or more established organizations. Surveys net valuable information when customers are engaged early in the process of any change and assessing their reactions to it. This is the data you need to make the strategic decisions necessary to earn your customers’ loyalty.
One of the pitfalls a company faces once it becomes sustainable and successful is the tendency to stop innovating. Early on, organizations are constantly asking themselves, “How do we get more customers?” What they’re really asking, however, is “How do we please the customers we have?” - because that’s the catalyst for expansion. When they stop asking themselves “How do we get more customers?” they also stop asking how to please the customers they have. And that can be the death knell of an organization, no matter how desirable their products or services.
Fostering organizational learning
You need to develop a learning organization to continually innovate, test improvements, measure consumer response and make strategic decisions in response. A learning organization is one in which the feedback loop mentioned above is more than a method - it’s a fundamental part of the organization’s culture.
Perhaps the most important factor in developing a learning organization is caring about what your customers think about the company, its products, and its services. Now, you may wonder “What organization doesn’t care about what its customers think?” But not all companies do care about what their customers think - they care about keeping them, profiting from them, and obtaining more of them. Instead of asking customers what they think, their decisions are made in the boardroom, based on assumptions, or in R&D based on the opinions of a few employees. They may care, but they don’t care enough to bother asking.
Your customers are a resource
It’s a shame so many organizations don’t realize what an important resource their customers are. Customer surveys are essentially a way that you can invite your customers to be part of your development process. And why wouldn’t you? Customers know what changes they would like - there’s no need to guess about it if you are regularly surveying your target audience. Not only is there no need, there’s no reason to guess.
Your customer base can play a critical role in helping your organization hone its competitive edge if you give them a voice through surveys.