10 questions to ask your customers

Sep 27 2010 by Andy Hanselman Print This Article

Lots of organisations invest a lot of time, money and effort in getting customer feedback. But much of this time and money is wasted. Why? Because they either ask the wrong questions, or they ask lots of questions but don't actually listen to the answers, or worse, they listen to the answers and then do nothing about what they hear.

I'm all for getting customer feedback. It's a great source of ideas, opportunities, improvements, and it demonstrates to your customers you care - provided of course you do listen and then take action.

But too many organisations simply go through the motions, and ask questions that don't make them too uncomfortable. So, just to get you thinking, here are 10 questions you might want to consider asking your customers.

These are not the traditional customer feedback questions that typically get asked, and I'm not suggesting that you ask them all to all of your customers. They are a bit different. Their aim is to get conversations going, challenge the status quo and possibly improve your performance, attitude and relationships.

What attracted you to us originally? This helps get a view of how you are seen in the market place and what are the things that appeal to your customers.

What would you do if we weren't here? This may give an insight into the value they place on you as a supplier. Would they actually notice?

Can you name one particular individual who has impressed you in our organisation? This highlights your customer champions, and maybe some of your 'unsung heroes'. If they can't name anyone, what does that say about the way your people interact with your customers?

What one thing could we do better? Just one thing – it may highlight their priorities and key issues.

Why do you buy from us? This highlights your strengths – some of which, you may not be aware of. (Be careful how you phrase this one! You might sound as if you're doubting yourselves if you say it wrong.)

If Carlsberg ran our business, what would it look like? You know the adverts – this one stretches the imagination, and even though you may not be able to deliver exactly what they say, it may give you a few ideas about what they see as important!

Name one thing that we do or don't do that irritates or annoys you . This one speaks for itself. The key is doing something about it.

Who can we learn from? This helps you identify who your customers see as role models and might just point something out that's not happening in your industry you could learn from.

What would you say to someone else who asked you about us? Their initial response to this is often a revealing one.

What is the one thing we should never stop doing? This one tells you what they really value about you.

You may feel you can't ask these questions to your customers. That's not a problem, but why not find some questions that you can ask?

Finally, if you don't ask any of the above and you only ask one question, I'd try this one:

Bonus Question: Are you completely happy with us?

It can only be answered 'yes' or 'no'. It's a brave question, but it stops us rationalising away when people score us a 7 or 8 when we ask them to rate us out of 10. The obvious follow up question is: Why - or Why not?

So, go on, ask some questions, listen to the responses and do something as a result. What have you got to lose?

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About The Author

Andy Hanselman
Andy Hanselman

Andy Hanselman helps businesses and their people think in 3D. That means being Dramatically and Demonstrably Different. An expert on business competitiveness, he has spent well over 20 years researching, working with, and learning from, successful fast growth businesses. His latest book, The 7 Characteristics of 3D Businesses, reveals how businesses can get ahead, and stay ahead of their competitors.