REMINDER: Time to submit an entry for Practical Accountant’s Practice Innovation Award is running out. For application information, see the June issue of Practical Accountant.  I don’t know about you, but I am getting tired of surveys. Especially those that promise you that filling it out will only take “a couple of minutes.” The last one that I filled out was for a major hotel chain conducted by a very, well-known company that conducts surveys nationwide.

First, that survey was abominably long, and some questions even had more than twenty boxes from which to select from. What I found so fascinating was the survey didn’t distinguish between guests on vacation and those on business and differentiate the questions.

This survey, which resembled many others I have recently taken, was the last straw. So in the future if you want me to take a survey you will have to pay me at a consultant’s rate. There is one exception. I will answer a two-question survey for free.

The survey would ask me to fill out basic contact info and identify the service or product I utilized and then ask the following two questions
1. “What did we do well?”
2. “What could we do better?”

Please ask me those two questions right after the delivery of the product or service, as you will get the best response that way. That’s similar to what a firm does in Ohio. SS&G Financial Services includes a simple, prepaid postcard sent out with completed work to a client. There are only a few questions and it has a high-response rate (See “Marketing Magic: Most Likely, It Is in the Mail” in the March, 2007 issue of Practical Accountant).

Surveys are a wonderful vehicle to get client and customer feedback. Unfortunately, some companies and firms are trying to find out too much as the surveys get longer and longer, don’t relate well to the client or customer’s experience, and, just as important, become a completely separate, remote and disconnected exercise as they are initiated well after the service or product is delivered.

The reason I like these two questions is you can easily tell if the respondent would recommend the product or service to someone else. If they really didn’t like something, it could easily be seen if that can be rectified in the future. That is the key to me in a survey: Can and will you fix it?  Everyone makes mistakes, but with no response to my feedback, I will expect it to happen again. Forget that service or product provider.

And in the age of the Internet with online reviews and social networking as well as e-mail and text messaging, I am sure those with a similar bad experiences will also be sharing their ill-will with many, rather than filling out those long surveys.

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