As dance retailers, we pride ourselves on knowing our customers: what they want, what they need, how they feel about our store. But how well do we really know them? Here’s how to use customer surveys to find out.
In an experiment set up like The Newlywed Game, researchers in the psychology department at the University of Texas at Austin asked people to predict their romantic partners’ like or dislike of 37 different activities. The partners were correct only 29 percent of the time, but—interestingly—they believed they were right an average of 80.5 percent of the time! We barely know our partners. What are the chances that we know our customers any better?
And knowing our customers matters. Our stores grow and thrive if we have the products they love. Our stores will be more profitable if we give them an experience that leaves them completely satisfied.
But knowing our customers gets harder. In the early days, we likely were closer to them. (When I started my store, I was in dance class with many of them.) But our stores grow, and we can lose touch.
Plus, the pandemic has changed our customers. What we thought we knew about them is no longer necessarily true. We need to reconnect, rediscover and understand them anew. And the best way to do that is through customer surveys.
Conducting surveys has never been easier. Online sites like SurveyPlanet, SurveyMonkey and Typeform do the legwork. All you have to do is give your customers a link. The sites even have free versions. But don’t just grab one of their templates. You want your survey to be smart and effective, not just easy to create.
Keep Your Survey Short and Focused
A smart survey is, first of all, a short one. Eight out of 10 customers abandon surveys partway through, according to research. If you want yours to get answered, you should ask only four or five well-worded questions.
A smart survey also must give a storeowner actionable information. So get clear on what, exactly, you want to know. Do you need feedback on a new line of leotards you’re selling or a particular product category? On your selection? On your service? Be clear about your objective, and ask questions that get the answers you need.
Satisfaction surveys are good. Customer experience surveys are better. A customer satisfaction survey asks “How satisfied were you with your visit today?” A customer experience survey explores the customer’s experience through all touchpoints of the customer journey. Did they have trouble finding your hours on your website? How was their in-store experience? Were they happy with the product after purchase? All of these are part of the customer experience.
Questions to Ask—and Tips for Good Response Rates
To make it easy for you to set up a customer experience survey, I’ve created a template of questions to get you started. You can access the template here.
To get the best response rate to your survey, when you ask your customers to complete it do so in as personal a way as possible. Hand them a card with the survey link when they’re in the store. Or text or email them after their visit. Tell them how you’ll use their feedback to serve them better. The more you show that you genuinely care about their opinion, the more likely they will answer your survey.
To Put Feedback Into Action, Track This Score
Surveys are useless if you don’t do anything with the information. And it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the data you collect and just tuck the survey away in a drawer. That’s why the simplicity of the Net Promoter Score (NPS) is so attractive. An NPS survey asks only one question and gives you a number that you and your staff can work toward improving.
The Net Promoter Score asks: “How likely is it that you would recommend [company X] to a friend or colleague?” The answers are on a scale of 1 to 10. Zero means “not at all likely” to recommend, 5 is neutral, 10 means “extremely likely.”
Frederick F. Reichheld and his colleagues at management-consulting firm Bain & Company, who designed the NPS, found that actual customers’ repurchase and referral behavior was correlated with their willingness to refer. They created three clusters. They named the cluster at 9 and 10 the “promoters.” This group had the highest rate of repurchase. The cluster at 7 and 8 were the “passively satisfied,” and those that scored referral a 0 to 6 were the “detractors.”
Finding your Net Promoter Score is easy. You simply calculate the percentage of respondents in each group and then subtract the percentage of detractors from the percentage of promoters.
You then get a number that you and your team can work toward improving. Decrease the number of “detractors” and/or increase the number of “promoters” and you improve your score. You can track that number over the months and years. With a score to improve, you will know when you are making progress. It’s a great way to motivate your staff.
The Net Promoter Score is effective because it measures loyalty and word-of-mouth. Loyalty is a key driver of profitable growth. And what better proof of loyalty than a customer’s willingness to recommend your store to a friend? And it’s not just theoretical—a higher Net Promoter Score has been correlated with a higher growth rate in most industries.
And This Score Measures Customer Actions, Not Intentions
The NPS does have its flaws. A customer saying that they’re willing to promote isn’t the same as them actually promoting you. That’s why I like the work by the agency C Space. Its survey asks the questions “Have you recommended?” and “Have you discouraged?” This measures customers’ actions, not just their intentions. The difference between the percentage of respondents who have recommended minus those that discouraged gives an Earned Advocacy Score (EAS). C Space found that this score more closely matched the consumer’s behavior.
The EAS survey pairs the two questions on actions with an open-ended question about why the consumer would recommend or disparage the brand. With this approach, you get information on what people like—and what you need to do to improve your score. An example of an EAS survey is in the template mentioned earlier.
How Feedback Fuels Spending
Running a survey and getting both a score and specific comments will give your store a powerful competitive advantage. Leverage that more by building that kind of customer participation into your store’s regular operations.
Studies show that a customer’s participation in a business is closely linked to increased spending. Letting your customers provide guidance and feedback ties them more closely to your store. So make customer participation, including surveys, a regular part of your routine. Set up feedback sessions with your ambassadors. Get their opinion on new product or procedures. You could even create a private, invitation-only Facebook group. Call it “Friends of [Your Store’s Name]” and use it for ongoing feedback.
Keep It Real (and Responsive)
Whatever way you survey, make sure you show that your customers’ opinion matters. Reply to comments if you have their contact information. Report back to customers on how their feedback has helped make your business better.
According to business professor Michael LeBoeuf (How to Win Customers & Keep Them for Life), 68 percent of customers stop shopping with a store because of perceived indifference. You are combating that perception by conducting a survey. You are telling your customers “Your opinion matters; we want to hear from you.” Don’t ruin that good work by not responding to their feedback.
More and more consumers expect to participate in the creation of what they buy—time to jump on that trend now and stay ahead of your competition. Start small with surveys. Get to know your customer better. Your bottom line will thank you.
Gilbert Russell is president of Brio Bodywear, which has two brick-and-mortar dancewear stores in Ottawa, Canada. Through his consulting firm, he also enjoys sharing his experience and knowledge with other independent retailers. Questions or comments? Gilbert would love to hear from you. Email him at Gilbert@NoQualmsRetail.com.