Right now, how confident are you in your ability to accurately answer the following questions: What do your customers like best about the service you provide? What specifically could you do better to keep them happy?
How likely would they be to recommend you over one of your competitors? How likely are they to stay with you in the future? What do they think about a new service idea or product you are considering?
Information may be power, but it is good information that leads to good decisions. Some of that information may be readily available, but some of it lies hidden in the form of people's opinions. Opinion research is often the only way to uncover this kind of information. It is the tool that allows you to move beyond hunches and guesswork into reliable feedback directly from your customers.
Opinion research can be a competitive advantage
Research is an "early warning system" that can help you identify opportunities for a competitive advantage and avoid potential pitfalls. It is the resource that helps you sift through a dozen good ideas and determine the very best one to pursue to achieve your goals and objectives.
Engaging customers through research lets you test the impact of decisions before you actually make them. Before you spend a lot of money to introduce a new product, service, change the name of the company, or develop a new marketing strategy, you can see what the reaction from your key customers will be first. This prudent investment may save costly mistakes and will almost always give you ideas for improvements.
Lastly, research is the critical tool that lets you listen to the most important people in your business - your customers. The success of your business depends on how well you listen and respond and how you react in the marketplace. They might include the general public, current or former customers, potential new customers, employees, other businesses, even government leaders. Because these groups are vital to your success, researching their opinions should be very important to you.
Principles of good
- Questions should ask about first-hand experiences or perceptions.
- Questions should focus on one subject at a time.
- Questions should use words that ensure all respondents will answer the same questions.
Step 1: Identify objective of research
Failure to define clear objectives for your research is often the key reason why a research project does not live up to its strategic potential.
The first question is: What is the business objective behind the research?
Research should always be designed to meet a clearly defined and agreed upon business objective. If you can't answer the questions "why are we doing this?" and "how will the results help us improve our business?" you are not ready to launch a research project.
Setting a clear business objective ensures that each step of the process ties back to fulfilling these objectives.
Step 2: Define your audience
Who is the target audience to be surveyed?
Customer research is only as good as the people giving you their input. Defining the appropriate research participants is a critical step in making sure that the results represent the opinions and behaviors of the people you want to impact. Are they your current customers or potential customers? Are they top decision makers in the organization or front-line personnel who interact directly with your equipment or service people? Are some companies more important to study than others (say, for example, those that accounted for 80 percent of your revenue in the last few years)?
Step 3: What do you want them to do?
The questions that you ask need to focus on the areas where you have questions about your company's performance. Sometimes this is attitudinal - what do customers think about your business. Sometimes it is behavioral - getting customers to take a desired action like purchase more of your products, sign longer term contracts or tell others about your company. Defining what action you want customers to take is critical to designing the types of questions that they should be asked.