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10 Ways Surveys Can Boost Your Service Provider Business

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I'm always impressed when the service providers I work with take the time to ask me how things are going. When it comes to checking in with customers, consumer-oriented companies are pretty savvy. They know that regular customer satisfaction check-ins will help to maximize customer retention, and help them figure out how to best position themselves to win new business.  But businesses that provide services to other businesses have been slower to figure this out, and I'm continually surprised at how few companies in the IT business regularly conduct surveys of their customers.

And, increasing customer retention and loyalty is only one of the many reasons you should be regularly conducting surveys – of your customers as well as your prospects. Here are my top 10 additional reasons you should conduct customer surveys:

1. Redeploying resources on most important issues.
All too often, companies spend a lot of time on issues THEY think are important, little realizing that there may be completely different issues that are of most concern to their customers. Surveys can quickly pinpoint the most important issues that you and your staff should be focused on.

2. Competitive Intelligence.
You might think you know how you stack up against your competition – in terms of awareness, pricing, perception of your company, etc. But what are you basing your beliefs on? Simple market surveys can get you the real facts about where your company stands in comparison with your competitors.

3. Product/Service Development.
Too many service providers design their services and solutions based on what their existing customers are telling them or asking for. But the biggest opportunity may live with the huge part of the market that are NOT your customers. A well-done survey to prospects may shed better light on what future service offerings you should consider.

4. Customer Outlets.
Surveys give unhappy customers a way and place to vent any negative feelings they may be harboring. And you gain key data to help correct the situation.

5. Service Quality Improvement.
You may have ways to measure your first response to ensure you are complying with your SLA, but that doesn’t always translate into delivering “great service…” only “fast response.” A customer satisfaction survey can complete the picture of your overall service delivery.

6. Stimulate repeat business.
If you sell a number of one-off services or products, a survey can often bring you back to “top of mind” with your customers, and lead to more orders . . . or alternatively give you clues as to potential needs that you can fulfill.

7. Measure the performance of your staff.
By linking your surveys to individual transactions or activities, and collecting that data over time, you can get real solid data on the performance of your staff who interact with clients and prospects.

8. Prioritize Development Resources.
What better way to prioritize your product and service development resources, than by taking a survey of both customers and prospects?

9. Get feedback on new products or services.
Of course, you have sales numbers to track performance of new products or services, but do you know WHY a new offering is doing well, or flopping? And are there simple things you could do to make big improvements? A well-constructed survey will tell you.

10. Demonstrate your customer commitment.
Even if your customers and prospects never respond to your surveys, just asking their opinions will win you points, and earn their respect.

There are probably even more reasons than I can think of to conduct surveys of your customers and prospects. But with just the examples above, you can see why surveys are so essential for continuous improvement of your services, support, products, and your overall ability to compete.

In future blogs, I’ll dig a bit deeper into this topic and talk about some of the ways that our company uses surveys to run our own business, better.

Bob Godgart is the CEO of Autotask Corporation, developers of Autotask hosted professional services automation software, the VARStreet family of advanced quoting and e-commerce tools and Taskfire a hosted service desk and ticket management system sold by IT solution providers for businesses of all sizes with internal IT resources. Guest blogs such as this one are part of MSPmentor's annual Platinum sponsorship program. Read all of Godgart's guest blogs here.

Discuss this Blog Entry 2

Jay McBain (not verified)
on Jul 20, 2010
Great blog Bob. One of the interesting trends I have seen lately is micro-surveys...a series of short, timely, web based surveys closely linked to your purchase behavior. A good example is Hotels.com that polls you within 24 hours about your stay when your memory is the most detailed. Amazon does this as well. Tools like Survey Monkey have drastically reduced the cost and complexity of generating surveys allowing even the smallest companies to keep a pulse. Some companies even link it back to their loyalty program to drive up yield.
Joe Panettieri (not verified)
on Jul 20, 2010
Jay: Building on that theme... Here at HostingCon in Texas, the conference organizers are sending a "micro-survey" to attendees at the end of each day to get quick content reactions. I suspect the organizers are making tweaks/changes based on the daily feedback in near real-time. The age of paper-based surveys at the end of each conference session seems to be over... -jp
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