It’s no mystery why it’s important to be keenly aware of your customers’ experiences. Happy customers are repeat customers, plus they can drive new business through referring friends and posting positive reviews online. Conversely, an unhappy customer rarely just takes their business elsewhere: they tell folks about it and the impact ripples through to your bottom line.

Knowing this, you seek ways to keep tabs on your customers’ experiences. Your sales and customer service staff is attuned to in-store experiences, but most customers shy away from providing much feedback in person. Post-sale surveys are a tried-and-true method of digging into the customer experience, but the response rate for B2C customer satisfaction surveys hovers around 33%. How do you convince customers to take the time to give their feedback?

1. Make it easy.

Unless a customer is overwhelmed with joy or really angry, they are not going to go out of their way to give you feedback, but you need more info than the two extremes. To get the middle 90% to engage, the most important thing you can do is make it easy for them. 

  • The survey should always be available in a digital form. Even if you choose to provide a review card at time of purchase or mail them a survey post-sale, it’s important to provide an online option as well. Overall, online surveys, especially those embedded in an online transaction, have a higher response rate.
  • Make the survey simple to complete. While you should provide text entry boxes where customers can provide commentary, checkboxes, multiple choice questions, and dropdowns will generate the most responses because they are easy to fill in. Also, with a few exceptions, making all questions optional will encourage customers to complete the survey because they can skip over questions that they feel don’t apply. It’s preferable to get a partial response to no response at all!
  • Provide ample opportunity to reply, and reminders that you want to hear what your customers have to say. Most interactions are forgotten once the transaction is over, so providing a survey at point of sale should be followed up with both electronic (email or SMS) and standard mail reminders. SMS surveys have some of the highest response rates!

2. Communicate

The ultimate objective of surveying your customers is to create and sustain a communication channel. This dynamic starts with clear communication about the survey itself.

  • Leverage every opportunity. Don’t just rely on the sending the survey post-sale. The salesperson completing the transaction is the first touchpoint. This person should verbally convey the importance of customer satisfaction, and conversationally ask some of the questions on the survey, while letting the customers know they will be receiving a digital survey post-sale. The brief one-on-one conversation might reveal some of the feedback you are looking for, but it also sets the stage for the incoming survey so that it’s less likely to be ignored. Most importantly, it sets the tone that you are deeply attuned to your customers’ feelings and experiences.
  • Explain why the survey is important. Tell them how you value the experiences they have in your store and view their happiness as the best indicator that your business practices are optimized–and that you are willing to change if their expectations aren’t being met.
  • Set expectations. Make sure customers know going into the survey approximately how many questions you will be asking about how much time they should expect to invest.

3. Respond Directly

In the end, the objective of initiating a customer survey is to better engage with your customers. If they take the time to offer their inputs, it is essential that you do more than just receive the feedback; you must personally engage with them. 

Thanking them for their time and valuable insights is the first step. If they have a complaint or a less-than-stellar experience, by providing feedback they are giving you a chance to rectify the situation and retain them as a customer, not to mention avoid a repeat with a future customer. In the case of a poor experience, your response should include an action plan as well as additional followup to ensure that the situation is remedied to the customer’s satisfaction.

Designing your surveys to capture the right information and be easy to complete, collecting and analyzing the data received, and tracking improvements are essential components to making your customer engagement program successful.

In the end, though, a customer survey program has to source from an authentic desire to understand your customers’ experiences and improve your own practices. With this as your foundation, your customer engagement program will tighten your bonds with customers and continue to drive increased sales at your dealership.