The art of implementing customer surveys takes time to perfect. Not only do you have to motivate your audience to take the survey in the first place, but once the results are in, it's your job to analyze the data and make changes for the better. But once you get the hang of it, you'll find that regular surveys can be an invaluable tool for uncovering areas of improvement you may have overlooked.

Nine entrepreneurs from Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) share their top tips for maximizing ROI from customer survey results.

1. Keep them brief.

If your survey is too long, your customers are likely to skim them, provide inaccurate information, or ignore them entirely. Surveys should be as pointed and brief as possible. For example, if you do not require information regarding demographics, simply do not ask for age or gender. Brevity in a survey equates to more telling, useful feedback.--Andrew Schrage, Money Crashers Personal Finance

2. Make them unique.

A number of times, I've seen people just ask about the general level of satisfaction of the service. First of all, you need to understand why you're doing those surveys, and what decisions you're actually trying to make. Are you trying to prioritize resources between features? Ask about this. Do you want to drive engagement? Then ask about user behavior and how are they involved with your product.--Ivan Tsybaev, Trucker Path, Inc

3. Agree on what you'll do with the data.

Agree in advance on how you'll interpret and act on the feedback. It's incredibly easy to discount data after you get it if it isn't what you expected. Commit in advance to an improvement program based on the results.--John Rood, Next Step Test Preparation

4. Ask follow-up questions.

Customer feedback surveys are a goldmine of information when you know how to leverage them properly. The No. 1 way to get the maximum ROI on the surveys is to dig even deeper. You might think you have a good idea of what your customers want after looking at the results, but sometimes even they don't know what they want. You have to pick up on the subtleties and underlying messages.--Ismael Wrixen, FE International

5. Review results with senior management.

We run a monthly survey to measure customer loyalty. The results and comments are gathered in a shared Google Sheet, providing context for senior managers in marketing and IT. The results reveal what customers value and highlight the severity of current issues. Ultimately, customers should determine your priorities and their survey results often point you in the right direction.--David Ciccarelli, Voices.com

6. Leverage the results for content creation.

Customer surveys can be used to create powerful, unique content that only you have access to. Craft your questions with the end point in mind: gathering intelligence from your customers to be used to create content not available in your niche. Ask matrix and qualifying questions that will be a lead-in for follow-up interviews with customers or written pieces.--Marcela De Vivo, Brilliance

7. Incentivize the process.

The more incentives offered to take a customer feedback survey, the more responses we've received and the more informative the answers. People get excited when they know they are receiving some kind of monetary or physical reward for filling out a survey, so the quantity and quality of responses are better, helping us maximize our investment in this tool.--Angela Ruth, eCash

8. Run them on autopilot, and share results company-wide.

You can send out customer feedback requests on autopilot by using a transactional email tool like Klaviyo or Receiptful. Each time a customer orders, or each time a customer abandons their cart, you can send them an email asking why. You should also keep a repository of all the responses in an internal forum so everyone in the company can keep a pulse on customer feedback.--Fan Bi, Blank Label

9. Upsell or save follow-ups based on NPS scores.

The NPS score has become a universally adopted score for customer satisfaction, and most people just look at the top-level number and try to move it. You can make these surveys much more actionable by taking your Promoters (9 and 10 of 10) and following up for upsell opportunities and testimonials. And you can predict churn by focusing on your Detractors (1-6 of 10), so notify customer support.--Trevor Sumner, LocalVox

Published on: May 2, 2016