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Chris Davies: The power of surveys

How to get under the bonnet of what really matters to clients

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Bill Gates once said: “your most unhappy clients are the greatest source of learning”. The financial services industry is very good at talking but the importance of listening to employees and customers, and placing them at the heart of strategy or service propositions, tends to be a tad underused and undervalued.

Surveys are one of the best ways to listen to stakeholders, including customers. If structured correctly, they can gather all the behavioural and soft facts you will need to understand their collective perceptions, propensities and sensitivities to your firm’s strategies. In essence, surveys can get under the bonnet of what matters to clients, as well as letting them know your company really does value their opinions.

So let’s take a look at five ways you can create a meaningful survey that will facilitate strong relationships and better business practice with those you wish to gain information from.

1. Define your objectives: What do you want to your survey to achieve? This is crucial to the value of your survey and for those taking part.In essence, you are asking individuals to take time out of their day to answer something you may use for the betterment of your business. This means you need to avoid a self-serving structure and ensure real value is provided.

2. Work backwards: By determining the data you want to derive, you will then be able to work out the best survey strategy. For instance, if it is a satisfaction based survey, then a cross sectional strategy maybe the best. However, if it is to gauge deeper engagement issues, such as loyalty or trust in your brand, then a longitudinal survey would suit. Longitudinal surveys differ from cross sectional in that they are defined by a repeated survey using similar variables over time.

3. Check for biases: By ensuring you are asking relevant questions that meet your responder’s needs (i.e. not asking leading questions) you can ensure impartiality which is key to the validity of the data.

4. Test drive: Once structured, send the survey to colleagues or friends. Do not just send straight to your end user. This will ensure you can tweak any questions to make sure they are easily understandable and that the survey logic works.

5. Analyse and re-analyse the data: This is where the fun really starts. The data is gold dust in ensuring your business is on track to meeting customer, employee or stakeholder needs. It will help you decide when to launch your next product, when to raise money to fund a campaign or conference, or what to do to ensure customer trust and loyalty in your proposition.

Once done, it is always good practice to create an effective final report. This will showcase the fact your company values those who responded, is responsive to the feedback (both good and bad) and will educate the reader in the issues at play. Surveys should also be viewed as a crucial part of boardroom strategy, in order to collate all the relevant management information and showcase good corporate governance.

Chris Davies is managing director at Engage Insight 

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