John D. Mayfield, ABR, CRB, e-PRO, GRI, is a sales coach, author, and broker/owner of Mayfield Real Estate in Farmington, Mo. You can contact Mayfield through his Web site, www.BusinessTechGuy.com.
Survey Tactics: The Right Way to Ask for Feedback
If you’re not surveying clients after the transaction, you’re missing out on valuable information that could make or break your career.
June 1, 2007
If you’re like most real estate practitioners, surveying your customers isn’t at the top of your to-do list. After all, what’s the use of sending out a survey when only the unhappy clients respond?
Unfortunately, those preconceived notions will only hinder your success. If you don’t make an effort to measure your clients’ experience and satisfaction with your services, you’ll fail to gather key facts that can help your business grow.
Surveys can fuel ideas for new service offerings to help you improve your selling skills and fix problems that you didn’t even know existed. But in order to gain value from customer feedback, you have to know what to ask and how to ask it.
Danger of Unsatisfied Clients
Have you ever noticed that one unhappy customer will tell more people about their gripe than a satisfied customer will tell about their positive experiences? Just take a look at some powerful figures provided by the National Association of Retail Marketing Services:
- 10. The number of customers companies lose for every one that complains of poor service.
- 7. It costs seven times more to get a new client than to keep an existing one.
- 13. Percentage of people who will tell more than 20 people about their bad experience.
- 90. Percentage of unhappy clients who will not do business with the same company again.
- 95. Percentage of unhappy customers who will return if an issue is resolved quickly and efficiently.
As you can see, failing to recognize and correct bad experiences can lead to lost business and dwindling referral income.
3 Ways to Survey Clients
A brief survey is a convenient way for customers to tell you what they think about your services. There are several ways to implement a survey to customers and clients you have worked with.
- Do it yourself. If keeping costs down is your top priority — and you don’t mind taking time to manually tabulate the results — you can create and send out your own survey. If you’re sending the survey via mail, be sure to include a self-addressed stamped envelope. Respect your clients’ time by keeping the survey short. Fewer people will respond if it takes too long complete. For more information, read Tips for Writing Better Surveys.
- Use a Web-based survey provider. There are many such services that make it quick and easy for you to create surveys and send them to clients. Prices vary, but you'll find at least some affordable options. Some of the many vendors to explore: SurveyMonkey.com, Key Survey, and Ultimate Survey Professional from Prezza Technologies. These services allow you to create and e-mail surveys to customers. The survey software tabulates your results so you can view feedback in real time.
- Outsource it. Hire a company such as Direct Opinions or The Survey Co., which can build and deliver surveys customized to your clients. You may be able to track down a similar company near your hometown that can provide these same services at possibly a lower cost.
What to Ask, How to Ask It?
What to ask your clients — and how you allow them to answer the question — will determine whether the responses will be accurate and valuable to your business plan. Here is an example of one question to ask, in two different formats:
Were you satisfied with the agent’s service provided to you during your real estate transaction?
Yes / No
Please rate the agent’s service provided to you during your real estate transaction on a scale from 1 to 5, with 1 being poor and 5 being excellent.
Other question topics to consider should revolve around:
- Communication between client and agent
- Image and dress
- Professional conduct
- Marketing resources
- Advertising of listing
- Price and value for services rendered
- Would you recommend agent to others?
- Most liked about working relationship
- What needs improvement
Use open-ended questions to gain additional information form clients, rather than brief responses that come with yes or no questions. It’s OK to sometimes ask yes/no questions, just be sure to provide an “additional comments” field after each question.
Remember, the goal of your survey is to gain information that can help you improve your selling methods and incorporate new ideas into your business. The more information you obtain from your client, the more meaningful the results become.
If you’re building your own survey, ask colleagues or friends to read the questions and let you know if the wording is clear and the format is easy to understand. A fresh set of eyes can alert you to awkward phrases or ambiguous questions.
Timing is Crucial
When is the best time to send out your survey? Try to do it as soon as possible after closing, when the transaction is still fresh in your customers’ mind.
Let clients know before the closing that you’ll be sending them a survey, and consider offering some type of small incentive (enter a raffle, win a T-shirt, etc.) if they complete the survey promptly. Sometimes, if surveys don’t come back in a timely manner, it’s a good idea to send a reminder postcard, e-mail, or letter.
Once the survey results are returned, take time to review all of the responses and think about how you can improve the customer experience next time.
If you find that you’re getting lots of high marks from satisfied consumers, pat yourself on the back. The input shows that you’re doing a good job, and you can highlight this information during your presentations to potential clients.
Bad remarks are inevitable, so don’t take them too personally. It presents you with a chance to follow up with the unhappy clients and possibly remedy their situation. Such comments also help you think of ways to improve your business so your next client has a better experience.