Magazine article Black Enterprise

Up Close and Personal

Magazine article Black Enterprise

Up Close and Personal

Article excerpt

Survey your customers to get intimate knowledge of their wants and needs

How intimately do you know your customers? What turns them on? What causes them to tune out? A customer survey is a simple way to acquire information about their wants and needs. "With mature products--those that have been around awhile--and when there is a significant amount of competition, you get a lot of mileage out of doing customer surveys," says Sheila Kessler, president of Competitive Edge in Fountain Valley, California, a consulting firm that helps small, mid-size and Fortune 500 companies devise marketing campaigns, surveys and focus groups.

People want more service and better products, yet companies continue to disappoint their customers, according to the ... American Customer Satisfaction Index, which measures the attitudes of purchasers of products or services in 34 different industries. "If you're not measuring customer satisfaction, then you're not managing it," says Kessler, author of Measuring and Managing Customer Satisfaction: Going for the Gold (Quality Press, $29).

Three survey methods you can use to help measure customer satisfaction are:

* Direct mail. A two-page questionnaire can be sent directly to a a home or business. Costs include printing the survey, envelopes, postage and incentives used to get customers to respond (e.g., product discounts or drawings).

* Telephone. The main costs are phone charges and time spent by reps making the calls.

* Personal interviews. You can ask open-ended questions face-to-face or with in-store questionnaires. The biggest cost is the interviewer's fee.

Big corporations may spend more than $100,000 on customer surveys, but you can get by for less than $1,000. Experts suggest using an independent firm to develop the questions and analyze the responses for the first time out, unless someone in-house has experience in quantitative analysis. …

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