* How well did the vending company fulfill that expectation? Again, rate on a 1 to 7 scale.
Being specific is the key element of good survey questions, according to Knutson. That way, if overall satisfaction dips, an operator can look at each element to see where the trouble with perception lies, whether it’s friendliness of the route driver or product variety.
As a follow up, Knutson recommends a focus group. Go to the location and ask about the products, service and equipment. Being there gives the operator the ability to read the body language and intensity of the respondent, according to Knutson. It’s important when trying to determine how extensive that rating of “dissatisfied” on the survey is, for example.
INCENTIVES BUILD SURVEY RESPONSE
Knutson favors offering incentives to fill out the survey and volunteer for focus groups as a way to encourage participation. “I’ve found a chance to win a big prize works better than sending out a small thing,” said Knutson. She recommends a cash prize anywhere from $50 to $100, and more if operators are dealing with executives or doctors. “It’s worth the money if it increases sales,” said Knutson. Also, if the survey is done online, it can be a time and money saver since operators won’t pay for telephone interviews or paper and pencil costs. It usually means automatic tabulation as well.
Knutson recommends a pre-alert email indicating the survey is coming, followed a week later by the actual link to the survey and then a follow-up reminder that the incentive is still available for completing the survey.
Overall, Knutson doesn’t like comment cards, since they are not often representative of all users, just those with a grievance. But they are an easy tool for consumers to voice their opinion, she said.
“Today’s comment cards are Facebook and Twitter,” said Knutson. If a consumer tries to buy a soda from a vending machine and it gets stuck, the consumers’ frustration gets texted right then and there. “Smart vending companies better have someone monitoring social media on their brand,” said Knutson.
Using social media, specifically Facebook, to interact with customers and measure their satisfaction is something Dr. Bill Donohue, professor and director of sales communication at Michigan State University suggests. In the sidebar above, Donohue describes how reaching location consumers on Facebook and giving them an opportunity to interact with their vending service is invaluable marketing for the whole industry.
AFTER ASKING ABOUT SATISFACTION, TAKE ACTION
“No company should deploy a survey if they intend to do nothing, or very little, in reaction to the findings,” said Tom Britten, founder of Britten Management Services, LLC, a vending consultant. When an operator asks questions about price, quality, service and variety, it creates an expectation on the part of the respondent. According to Britten, the questions imply the operator’s intention to improve.
Britten has seen survey systems fail because operators didn’t communicate the results back to respondents, especially when the dissatisfaction voiced by the respondents remains unchanged. “If you are not willing to address all the perceived issues that may be surfaced, do not even start,” cautioned Britten. Options to share results may be a posting on the company bulletin board or on a machine noting any action that will be taken.
Britten suggests setting goals based on survey responses as well. For example if the score on the satisfaction with available healthy choices is 49 percent, then the operator can make it clear to the client that by the next survey, the goal is to be 70 percent. The operator can then suggest ways to accomplish this goal, such as eliminating the commissions on healthy products, which would allow for a price roll back.
An ancillary benefit of customer surveys is that they can be used by progressive firms as a marketing tool, notes Britten. He’s seen operators use survey results when pitching new customers. In such cases, the operator cites the number of clients that rate them excellent on service, product variety, etc. The operator then challenges the prospective customer to survey their employees about the current service to see if the rating is the same.