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Successful Surveys: 8 Tips for Better Feedback

Surveys are valuable tools in evaluating your performance and improving your business. These tips will help you produce your own and reap the benefits of constructive criticism.

By Kathy Gulrich

Soliciting feedback from clients is a simple, yet underutilized way to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses in order to improve your business. But why would you use an email or online survey, when you could simply call your clients and ask for their input?

The main benefit is that online surveys are useful for gaining honest opinions from clients who may feel uncomfortable providing negative feedback face-to-face. These tips will help you produce your own survey and reap the benefits of constructive criticism.

1. Clarify your objectives
What's your reason for doing the survey? You might want to get your client's input on your products and services, let him know you really care about what he thinks or learn what keeps them him up at night.

Before you start, be very clear about what you'd like to accomplish. Then, be sure that each question on your survey will get you a step closer to your goal.

2. Choose a survey company
Many companies provide survey services at a variety of prices (from free to quite expensive), and with a variety of options (from basic to quite extensive).

Zip around the web a bit to find what's out there, and what seems most appropriate for what you're doing. In your wanderings, you may want to check out the following:

Survey Monkey:

3. Keep it short

You'll be asking survey recipients to do you a favor by filling out your survey. Be respectful of their time by keeping your survey short (no more than ten questions, unless absolutely necessary) and easy to fill out and return.

The easier it is to complete, the more responses you're likely to get.

4. Mix it up
Most automated surveys allow for lots of different types of questions, including multiple choice,
fill-in the blank and open-ended questions. Try to mix up your question format to keep it interesting. Too many essay-type questions require too much work for respondents to complete. Conversely, all multiple choice questions can get a bit boring.

5. Make corrections
One of the great things about most online surveys (Survey Monkey is a great example) is that you can pop in and look at results as they come in.

Here's why that's important: If the answers you're getting don't answer your questions in the way you expected, you'll have the opportunity to revise your survey, on the spot.

So get in there, see what's happening, and make course corrections if necessary.

6. Analyze results
Once all the answers have come in, look at them carefully. What does the data tell you? Slice and dice the numbers to learn all you can from the responses you get.

Some services offer different formats in which to view your data, from pie charts to graphs. For open-ended responses, consider general feeling that you get from reading them. How enthusiastic were the respondents to share their views? What's your gut telling you?

7. Use the results to improve your business
Use the results to make improvements and changes in your processes. Proceed boldly, but with caution. Always test a new process before you make a BIG leap!

8. Use the report as a special offer
Let's face it—humans are pretty curious. We send in our answers to a survey or questionnaire, and then wonder what all the other people had to say.

Capitalize on this curiosity! You can offer the report/analysis as a "thank you" for responding, or highlight the positive results to market yourself in the future.

Best-selling author Kathy Gulrich helps clients get from idea, to action, to results whether they're looking to write a book, develop a new product or market their product or business. Check out her book, Build Your Business with Testimonials, available through Amazon.

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