5 Questions You Should Ask Every Customer

Constantly seeking feedback from your customers is a great way to learn how to market your business more effectively. If you’ve never done this before, do it immediately as it is one of the best ways to discover what you do that actually differentiates you from your competition.

questionsI can’t tell you how many times I’ve worked with a small business that had no idea what its competitive advantage was until we heard it right from the mouths of happy customers. Seeking feedback is also a great way to get better and plug gaps. I can tell you that if you’re not receiving a large amount of your business by way of referral or word of mouth, you’ve probably got some gaps in your processes.

Below are five questions I like to pose to customers as they can provide a great discussion base for getting at what’s truly important to you and your customers. Create a form and get in the habit of surveying a handful of customers every month. I think you’ll be rewarded with tremendous insight and you’ll also find that your customers enjoy being asked what they think. One word of caution, don’t accept vague answers like “you provide good service.” While that may be true and good to hear, you can’t work with that. Push a bit and ask what good service looks like and maybe even if they can tell you about a specific instance in which they felt they got good service.

1. What made you decide to hire us/buy from us in the first place?

This is a good baseline question for your marketing. It can get at how effective your advertising, message and lead conversion processes are working. I’ve also heard customers talk about the personal connection or culture that felt right in this question.

2. What’s one thing we do better than others you do business with?

In this question you are trying to discover something that you can work with as a true differentiator. This is probably the question you’ll need to work hardest at getting specifics. You want to look for words and phrases and actual experiences that keep coming up over and over again, no matter how insignificant they may seem to you. If your customers are explaining what they value about what you do, you may want to consider making that the core marketing message for your business.

3. What’s one thing we could do to create a better experience for you?

On the surface this question could be looked at as a customer service improvement question, and it may be, but the true gold in this question is when your customers can identify an innovation. Sometimes we go along doing what we’ve always done and then out of the blue a customer says something like, “I sure wish it came like this,” and all of a sudden it’s painfully clear how you can create a meaningful innovation to your products, services and processes. Push your customers to describe the perfect experience buying what you sell.

4. Do you refer us to other, and if so, why?

This is the ultimate question of satisfaction because a truthful answer means your customer likes the product and likes the experience of getting the product. (You can substitute service here of course.) There’s an entire consulting industry cropping up around helping people discover what Fred Reichheld called the Net Promoter Score in his book The Ultimate Question.

Small businesses can take this a step deeper and start understanding specifically why they get referrals and perhaps the exact words and phrases a customer might use when describing to a friend why your company is the best.

5. What would you Google to find a business like ours?

This is the new lead generation question, but understanding what it implies is very important. If you want to get very, very good at being found online, around the world or around the town, you have to know everything you can about the actual terms and phrases your customers use when they go looking for companies like yours.

Far too often businesses optimize their web sites around industry jargon and technical terms when people really search for “stuff to make my life better.”

Bonus: I’m a big fan of building strategic partnerships and networks. Another question I would suggest you get in the habit of asking your customer is – “What other companies do you love to refer?” If you can start building a list of “best of class” companies, based on your customer’s say so, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve got a list of folks you should be building strategic relationships with.

Image credit: Karen Elliot

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  • http://www.dbadesigns.com/ Daniel

    Good insight… I also try to ask those who don't do business with us the same questions to try and learn.

  • uscsb

    Asking these types of questions to both those who do and do not do business with you is a great combination (Thanks Daniel). You will be surprised how often a “do not do” business with you can turn into “do” from simply showing that you want to improve how you do business. Also, don't forget to actually use all this great data you get from the feedback.

  • http://twitter.com/elee821 Erica M Lee

    these are great tips for small business owners….i think the last one is really important to understand how consumers think

  • http://www.nzeldes.com/ Nathan Zeldes

    Well said! I derived a core marketing message for my business from the answer a customer gave me to Question 1.

    It's a good idea to try and answer these questions to yourself first, then comparing to the answers you get from the customers… you may be surprised!

  • rahulbaliga

    Thanks for the list. It is important to be constantly aware of customer's perception of your business as it provides great insights. We are a small startup and the customer connect program helps us a lot in positioning ourselves, understanding our differentiators and quite obviously our strengths and weaknesses.
    Rahul Baliga

  • http://www.ducttapemarketing.com/blog ducttape

    Tell me more about the customer connect program you mentioned

  • http://www.ducttapemarketing.com/blog ducttape

    Mind sharing what that core message is? I think many folks dismiss the comments from customers as not sounding important enough or marketing savvy sounding, but the real deal is usually something simple and real

  • http://www.ducttapemarketing.com/blog ducttape

    Yes it's pretty amazing sometimes to learn the actual words and phrases people use and how they differ from we might use in our industry.

  • http://www.ducttapemarketing.com/blog ducttape

    YOu and Daniel are both right, it can be a bit tougher to get input from those that do not buy, but you're right. I posted information about a web tool called 4Q that asks people questions when they leave your site. Getting that kind of “why it didn't work out” info can really help you change some little things that you didn't even consider.

  • willamtarker

    Well I am new in the corporate world and I think your post really gonna help me out to grow in this field. Thanks for this share..
    IFA Marketing services

  • http://www.nzeldes.com/ Nathan Zeldes

    Sure – it was the fact that my career is all around the place where technology meets behavior; the customer said he saw that on my CV and that made up his mind to hire my services. I used this as the basis for my tagline, “Three decades of thought leadership at the intersection of technology and human behavior”, which is up on my web site, my business card etc, and very well received.

  • http://www.nzeldes.com/ Nathan Zeldes

    Sure – it was the fact that my career is all around the place where technology meets behavior; the customer said he saw that on my CV and that made up his mind to hire my services. I used this as the basis for my tagline, “Three decades of thought leadership at the intersection of technology and human behavior”, which is up on my web site, my business card etc, and very well received.

  • http://www.ducttapemarketing.com/blog ducttape

    Perfect – thanks – love it. Was it hard for you to start saying that or did it feel quite natural?

  • bkjrecruiter

    “5. What would you Google to find a business like ours?”
    BRILLIANT… Then use the terms for your PPC/CPA campaigns….
    Thanks for the help.. Brian-

  • randybarnes

    Unfortunately, even in this day and age, too many businesses do not want to hear what their customers have to say.

    “What’s one thing we could do to create a better experience for you?”

    Concise and good. Customers just don't appreciate a page of size 10 font asking 2 dozen questions.

  • michellequillin

    Something about asking a few of those questions strikes dread in my heart — performance anxiety? Haha! Great questions, though, John. They're the kind that can only serve to improve your business and its delivery. Thanks for these.

  • http://www.epictext.com/text-message-marketing.html Jeremy- Text Message Marketing

    This is great advice and also a great way to start asking for more referrals from your current clients! We started doing this recently and found great success.

  • http://www.ducttapemarketing.com/blog ducttape

    Jeremy – Absolutely a great way to start getting more referrals – even if it's only because you learn how to fix the things that make you more referable

  • http://www.davejackson.com/ Dave Jackson

    We need to get back to the basics and this nails it.

  • http://www.ducttapemarketing.com/blog ducttape

    you are so right about the basics – even with all these new fancy social media tools marketing fundamentals haven't changed.

  • http://www.nzeldes.com/ Nathan Zeldes

    A perceptive question, that… It was part of a process, where it slowly became more natural as I completed the personal transition from salaried employee to independent professional. The fact that it's true helped… but the process does take its time, as I've observed in many others who also made a similar transformation.

  • http://www.resultsrevolution.com/ Marianna Chapman

    Love the last question! That is often overlooked, yet such a critically important thing to ask… and to act upon.

  • http://netservices1.com/ mike

    I find that customers that are happy with your service will not mind giving help to bring in new business

  • http://www.eastonsweb.com jeaston

    John and community…

    Consider Every Networking Event Your focus Group!

    Another spin on this is to stealthfully throw out a question or two during networking events to uncover new business problems that match your expertise. This is a great way to do “horse's mouth” product/service research.

  • http://www.callboxinc.com/ way

    These are excellent questions especailly in measuring the effectiveness of the company's marketing efforts. Feedbacks from customers will bring a lot of advantages for the company, it will help determine if they are happy with product or services or if they have some recommendations for the improvement of such. In this way, the company can generate a lot of insights and ideas especially to the areas that need further improvement or corrections.