Surveys can benefit your company, your current customers, your potential customers, and the industry as a whole through usable information that might otherwise be lost.

Among the many techniques businesses use to engage customers and improve services, few remain as effective as the customer survey, according toGetResponseblogger Pam Neely.

What do customer surveys have to offer?

Measurement and analysis of customer satisfaction (or, in some cases, dissatisfaction). Companies can render a sample set of this information by reviewing sites such as Yelp or Angie's List, perusing blog comments, and checking out social media commentary--and they should.

Beyond this, customer surveys offer a business the opportunity to choose which information it seeks. Many customers, especially the unhappy sort, will express their chagrin without quantifying it or explaining why they're dissatisfied with your product or service.

Surveys offer specifics and the opportunity for subsequent synthesis by company personnel and marketers.

Identification of potential areas of growth. Treat customer surveys as the yellow bricks on your road to revenue ascension, geographical expansion, or new market penetration. Conquering your current market is only possible through give and take with customers.

At a crucial turning point, a survey could candidly ask, "What should we do next?" Finding out where customers' needs are headed will determine the future direction for your business.

An outlet for customers. If your customers are fed up with your slow-loading website or measly business hours, you should know. Also, if they can't get enough of your service or product, that should be evident to you as well.

Some customers will feel neither here nor there, but in any case a personal survey will allow your representatives the opportunity to communicate with clients to find out more.

Higher levels of communication with recipients. Perhaps the single most important thing surveys do is open the floodgates to communication. This not only gives your company more opportunities to run through the preceding benefits with new survey items, but it fosters familiarity for your customers and builds a foundation for loyalty.

Given the many benefits offered by customer surveys, some might wonder why many companies put out so few of them or customers respond as infrequently as they do. Typically, companies fear potential negativity or view surveys as useless.

Some customers find surveys inconvenient or figure the information won't be used. In some cases, surveys appear so vague that customers wonder how their input could possibly inform future decisions.

Few people enjoy generalizing their opinions on a scale of 1 to 10. Objectivity, convenience, and dialogue are among the ways to improve the survey experience on both sides.

Customer survey strategies

Tell a story. Display some humility by asking for assistance. To inspire customers, supply a tidbit about how your latest product, service, or policy was developed in response to a previously unhappy customer who expressed his disappointment. Shifting your surveys from "rate us" to "help us" can transform your image.

Foster convenience. Inconvenience is the number-one reason for unreturned customer feedback surveys. People have children to feed and homes to clean, and no extra time to help their pharmacy, computer company, or bathroom remodeler with its concerns.

Having to find or buy a stamp for a return letter or follow three links to get to your elaborate online exam are the quickest ways to get customers to bail.

Follow up with responders. Every individual who responds to your company survey deserves a thank-you, but an automated and immediate "thanks a lot" doesn't exactly create that warm, fuzzy feeling of appreciation that customers want.

Instead, follow up with an email reads something like: "Hey Jane, we received your feedback and we agree, problem X IS inconvenient. We'll work on getting that fixed right away. What do you think about solution ABC?"

Maintain an orientation of customer service. Make it very clear the survey is intended to improve service to individual customers. If it appears for an instant that your survey is nothing more than a self-important attempt to puff your firm up, it will not get results.

Select the right questions. Why are you interested in composing a survey? What do you want to know from customers? You might come up with 50 really useful questions that could all move your business forward.

But industry-specific B2B clients will typically answer up to 20, and consumers are usually interested in no more than 10. The lesson here? Make each question count.

Send timely surveys. There is nothing less interesting than receiving a survey about a service you received or product you bought eight months ago and have nearly forgotten about. Surveys are best when they follow up soon after a service or product is purchased.

This is not to say the survey questions have to tie in to that specific purchase, but merely that you want customers to be able to recall the interactions they had with your company with enough accuracy that they'll be able to give you information you can use.

Customer surveys can be an excellent way to change the nature of company products, services, or policies by offering literal data, not presumptive guesses, for use in projections. Employ the above seven strategies in your customer surveys and reap the rewards of substantive feedback.