NOTE: SEE THE FULL ARTICLE – How to Increase Survey Response Rates


Tip 1

The following tip can be applied to whatever method you use to gather feedback – whether you survey your customers using free on-line surveys; employ an agency to telephone them; or use InfoQuest and the box survey technique.  There are no apologies for how basic they are (and none of us win friends by pointing out the obvious), but here goes.

This first tip is to do something with the feedback.

As in any relationship, not listening to feedback, especially when you’ve asked for the feedback, is at best rude and at worst insulting.

In InfoQuest’s full-day’s post-survey workshops we work with the clients’ senior people, helping them come up with action plans, based on the survey report, to achieve the raison d’etre for doing the survey in the first place – that is “To increase profitable sales”.

However you do it, you need to do the same.  My advice is to take a balanced approach when examining the responses.  I’ll use the example customer survey report to help you.  In sections 1 and 3 you’ll find top-level aggregated figures (and in section 3 you’ll also find benchmark scores comparing your results with the hundreds of thousands of other responses we’ve had since 1989).  The top-level results are good for strategic aims – the helicopter view, if you like – to set corporate goals and check progress.

In sections 5 and 6 of your report you will find the detailed, granular results, showing how each person answered every question.  (Many agencies belong to the Market Research Society [MRS] or the European equivalent, ESOMAR.  Both the MRS and ESOMAR have a code of conduct that doesn’t allow its members to report how individual people respond to surveys.  This makes absolute sense in political opinion polling and B2C surveys, but in business-to-business customer satisfaction surveys, where people buy from people, it makes no sense whatsoever.  InfoQuest’s staff don’t – and cannot – belong to the MRS and ESOMAR because we believe that it is so important that you are told exactly who said what.  And we don’t hide the fact that we do this – in fact it’s on the home page of our website.  I’m telling you this because, if you are using an agency, you may not have any granular results.)  In sections 5 and 6 you will find out what different individuals need from you to facilitate a better business relationship.  Each customer will be different, and this level of detail allows you to develop your 1 to 1 working relationship.

Continuing the balanced approach theme, most people at this stage are looking for issues to address.  They are the natural “problem solvers” (they’ve probably got something about problem solving on their C.V.’s).  To get the most from your customer satisfaction survey you need to looking at those customers who love you as well (recently I’ve had a lot of clients who have been in the position where most of their customers love them).

To maximise the opportunities, where you and your team, usually over a long period of time, have worked hard and grown a loyal and positive group of clients, you need to be collecting references and referrals, getting more work, a bigger share of wallet, case studies for white papers and industry publications.  And better margins.  At a workshop I ran in the summer heat in Chicago, the client’s team decided on a three-pronged approach to increase margins – a straight-forward price increase where customers recognised the value of the relationship over and above the piece-part prices of the equipment they were buying; a reduction in terms that were being offered; and a change in policy which would allow them to split up large orders, so that they could manufacture in batches and, most importantly, invoice in batches rather than have to wait for the entire order to be made.

Customer Survey Timeline

Your ideas need to be prioritised and then implemented.  We use the Brainstorm Scorer to prioritise the ideas.  But it’s up to you to implement them.


And this is where increased responses come from.  If your key accounts, business partners and clients see that you are acting on their feedback, then the next time that you ask for their input they won’t be so sceptical and will be much more forthcoming.  As you know, InfoQuest has an average response rate of just over 70% from worldwide, hard-to-reach customers.  It’s one of our key value propositions – particularly when compared with the 5% to 15% response rates that web-surveys achieve.  And we are always delighted when our clients have acted on the feedback because it makes repeat surveys not only easier to validate (customers say “yes” to the survey much more readily) but also the response for the next rate is nearly always significantly higher.


Read all the Tips for Increasing Survey Response Rates


Best Practice in B2B Customer Satisfaction Surveys

A Practical Guide

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