Gathering information from clients helps your business continue to meet market demands and ensures you can respond effectively to clients’ issues or problems. You can gather information in a direct way by holding meetings, conducting interviews or issuing surveys, and indirectly by reviewing sales records and customer service reports or monitoring social media sites.
Before choosing your approach, list the type of information you want to gather. For example, you might want to find out if clients are satisfied with your service and products. Or, to help your product development team, you may want to find out the type of changes that would encourage clients to buy more from you. If there have been quality or delivery problems, you might need clients to provide input on the types of problems so you can correct them.
Meeting clients face to face lets you gather information on clients’ attitudes to your products and company, resolve problems or find out about their future purchasing plans. These meetings can be informal, such as over lunch. Or they can be part of a regular review process where you meet in a more formal setting, such as a conference room. In either case, meeting face to face gives you the opportunity to discuss issues in depth and judge clients’ reactions to your inquiries and proposals. Since face-to-face meetings with busy clients can be difficult to arrange, keep meetings short and only discuss essential issues.
By contacting clients after a sale, you can gather information on their experiences. Follow up by phone or email and make it easy for clients to respond by asking a small number of questions about ease of ordering, speed of delivery, product quality and satisfaction with the purchase. The advantage of follow-up calls is that they give you quick feedback that you can use to address any issues that come up. The disadvantages are that they may be intrusive, or it may be too early for clients to have definite opinions.
Satisfaction surveys let you measure how well your company has performed in the eyes of your clients. According to research firm B2B International, these surveys typically cover a client's satisfaction with your products, delivery, staff and service, price and company Ask clients to rate their satisfaction using values or a numerical scale. Examples of questions include, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how likely are you to do xyz?” Or, “On a scale of very dissatisfied to extremely satisfied, how satisfied are you with xyz?”
Reviewing sales contact reports and purchasing or customer service records can provide valuable client information. Purchasing records can give you an insight into trends and highlight any changes in buying patterns that may have underlying causes. Customer service records provide information on problems clients have experienced with products, delivery or levels of service. Sales contact reports may reveal information on clients’ purchasing plans or product preferences. While these records contain valuable historical information, they are written from a company perspective and do not reflect clients’ opinions. To make best use of the various reports, keep them in a central client management system, rather than separate departmental files.
Reading reviews and comments on social media and comparison websites can provide a useful supplement to surveys and records. Clients’ comments on social media may provide opinions that are more honest and informative than responses to surveys. While social media can provide useful insight, monitoring comments can be time consuming.