In the modern world of business, a brand's customers are both its greatest and most challenging asset. Customers today are savvier, more connected - and more demanding. While trying to figure out what your customers are thinking can be a daunting task, there's no better way to find out about your customers' experiences than to go to the source.

In order to serve your customers better, you have to know them better, making the best strategies customer-centric. Conducting surveys and questionnaires give your brand access to information needed to connect effectively with customers. Gathering the right information can help you analyze your sales process, restructure your business model, create more effective product design and shape more effective marketing campaigns.

Do More Listening
Because it's easier (and less costly) to keep a customer than it is to win a new one, improving customer loyalty helps protect profitability. It's crucial to monitor customer satisfaction, get feedback and make improvements that matter the most to your customers. Not only can you navigate current and existing customer concerns, you can proactively avoid future missteps through surveys and questionnaires.

Satisfaction surveys provide a platform for customers to express themselves. Everyone loves to give their opinion to anyone who will listen, and giving customers a place to do so also makes them feel heard and empowered.

This is important at a time when customers are going to social networking sites if no official platform exists. This is your way of controlling the feedback that could otherwise be left in public spaces. While these sites can be valuable for conducting brief polls, they can become a place for unhappy customers to rant. For this reason, it is crucial, not only that you have a dedicated place for customer feedback, but that it is easily searchable and accessible.

Methods to the Madness
Email: Email is effective in two ways.

1) You can get direct customer feedback through a contact form on your website.

2) Email also a great way to conduct trackable online surveys on a local or global scale.

When receiving feedback from an email contact form, reassure your customers that they'll get a speedy response. Showing customers that you care about their experiences will help build relationships that give customers a reason to stay. When sending surveys through email, always personalize the thank you and show appreciation for participation so you continue to get responses for requests in the future.

Autoresponders: You can also create autoresponders at different touch points throughout an e-commerce site asking for feedback. Because an autoresponder is not public and is more personal than a survey, customers are more likely to leave a response.

Customer feedback is especially important when a customer discontinues service to determine why customers no longer are buying. The goal of this survey then becomes a way to find out if there are any areas you can improve upon to win the customer back. Show you are listening and acting on the feedback they give you.

Surveys: You can easily create surveys through tools like Typeform, Qualaroo and Survey Monkey. Decide who your target audience should be. Focus on the people who matter to your research and will help you gather the most relevant and valuable data. Ask yourself what problem you are trying to solve and how you will use the data to create solutions.

Keep the survey questions to a minimum, asking only questions that meet your end goal and avoid leading or loaded questions. Make sure you send it at a point that makes sense, and that you are not flooding them with survey requests. Finally, reassure your customers that improvements will be made based on their responses to create value in the survey.

Polls: Social listening is a great way to collect feedback. Social networking sites make it easy to conduct short polls for questions that don't require an entire survey campaign. One-question multiple choice questions are the best candidates for social networking sites. Polls also increase social engagement. Customers want to give feedback if they think you care.

What Now?

Collecting data from your customer base can help you create a better customer experience that is unique and engaging. It can also help you decide where to go next. The better you know your audience, the more effectively you can create marketing campaigns that are appealing and effective, make decisions about future positioning and placement and help promote your products or services efficiently.

This leads to more sophisticated keyword analysis, SEO campaigns and content marketing will perform at a higher rate of return. Strategic market research leads to more informed decisions on adjusting strategy and product development.

Continue collecting data. By conducting a number of surveys over a period of time, you can measure the results of any adjustments you've made to strategy. Continued surveys will show when and where to shift focus as you grow.

Now that you're armed with the numbers, go forth and prosper.