You know that getting to know your customer is important, but how do exactly do you do that? This is where what is known as an ‘exit survey’ or ‘comment card’ is invaluable. It stands to reason that if your customer is your most valuable asset, then speaking directly with him is a powerful tool. Not only will you gather information about who your customer is, but you will then be able to communicate with them, sending out promotions and information that will be invaluable for building a fruitful relationship. Don’t forget, it’s easier (and cheaper) to market to existing customers than to new ones, so this customer database will become invaluable. Keep adding to your database with EVERY customer and potential customer. No matter what business you are in, you can, and should, find a way to speak with your customer at the end of any interaction. Find out from your customer’s perspective what you are doing right and what you need to improve on.
Exit surveys are a surprisingly simple and effective marketing tool to do this. Essentially they are mini surveys given at the end of the customer’s time with you. Give them to a customer with an invoice, after a service rendered, or while they are waiting for their bill. Where possible, have staff hand the survey to clients in person and explain that you would like to hear their thoughts about their experience. You may incentivize it with a chance to win something, but to make it simpler you can just ask people sincerely to give their thoughts. Most people are delighted to give their opinion, especially the people who have enjoyed their experience with you (who are, after all, your best customers and the ones you are going to want to develop a relationship with) or unsatisfied customers (who you will want to appease in order to reduce negative word of mouth). Make sure that your staff understands what the survey is for (to better understand the customer and meet his needs).
Use the information at weekly staff meetings to gauge performance, praise staff and discuss problem points. Send unhappy customers an offer to come back and give you another try; it is amazing how powerful an unhappy customer that you have turned around can be for spreading great word of mouth.
Add this information to your customer database and use it to refine your knowledge and carry out marketing campaigns. Filter customers by different criteria and look for opportunities. Test follow-up campaigns to encourage repeat customers. Send an email or postcard, thanking the customer for their business with an offer for the next time they do business with you.