If you’re looking to improve website conversion and grow revenues, your existing customers are the single best source of information to mine for ways to meet your goals. After all, they’re the ones that have already purchased from you, they can tell you what worked, and what didn’t, about their buying experience. And until you understand your customer mindset and the decisions they made in the buying process you are flying blind. You can’t meet your customer needs without knowing what they are.

You can gain insight into your existing customer base in two main ways: you can ask them or you can watch them. Both are valuable in creating and refining products and experiences to better meet your customer’s needs. In this post we’ll show you how to use surveys and interviews to gain insights that will help you increase your conversion and revenues by more effectively marketing to future site visitors.

Survey customers

Survey Says!

Surveys are a powerful way to get direct feedback from a large number of your customers and site visitors. You can collect all sorts of information, everything from demographic data to qualitative feedback, all important stuff that you won’t find anywhere in your Google Analytics dashboard.

Here are a few tips to help make surveys work for your business. For more, checkout this invaluable PDF by the folks at SurveyMonkey, who expand on these ideas and more.

ask good questions

  1. Have a clear goal. What information are you trying to collect? Know what you want to learn before you start asking questions.
  2. Be considerate of your users. Don’t ask your users to spend 30 minutes taking a survey. They’ll resent you for it. Determine the critical data points for your business and seek to understand those first.
  3. Establish flow. Help your users recall their experience by ordering questions so that they follow the flow of their initial experience.
  4. Ask good questions. Good questions are relevant, clear, brief and specific.
  5. Use the appropriate question type. Make questions a breeze to answer. Limit your use of open ended questions as they take a lot of time to complete and are often skipped.
  6. Test your survey. Before deploying it to customers send it to friends or family members and ask for honest feedback and for any potential ambiguity with questions and formats.
  7. Provide a small incentive. Time is money for your busy users. Get better participation by offering a small coupon or other incentive for completing the survey.
  8. Survey regularly. Survey’s are just a snapshot in time. To get real value from them it’s important to survey your database regularly to see if changes you made to previous feedback is working.

Get the Interview

Interviewing customers is a great way to learn first hand what they like and don’t like about your site, product or service. It provides an opportunity for a detailed, in-depth look at how your customer perceives your product and how it fits in their world. Interviews are great because you can see your customer in their natural environment and see the challenges they face and the solutions they use to be successful.

Interview Customers

Interviewing even just a few customers is better than nothing. Here are a few tips to help you get the most out of your customer interviews.

  1. Distance yourself from the product. Don’t introduce yourself as the product owner or CEO. People don’t like to hurt other’s feelings. If you establish ownership you may get polite answers, but little real feedback.
  2. Get into the field. Do the interviews in your customer or potential customer’s environment to get a real sense for how they live or work.
  3. Talk to customers, potential customers and visitors who didn’t buy from you.If you can talk to people from all three groups you’ll get a better sense of your current strengths and weaknesses, and where you need to go.For customers ask questions like:

1.  What they like and don’t like about your site and product.
2.  What they found easy to use and what they had trouble with.
3.  Why they bought and what consideration process they went through before making their purchase.
4.  What was the key thing that made them buy from you and not anyone else.
5.  How likely they are to refer other people to you.

For potential customers ask questions that help you determine ideal product fit and ascertain what your product would need to do in order to meet their needs. Ask questions that:

1.  Uncover their needs
2.  Help you understand their current solutions
3.  Provide insight into your product as a potential solution
4.  Elicit feedback on your site, product or service from an untrained eye
5.  Help identify areas of improvement or future features that could meet their needs and win their business

For customers who didn’t buy ask questions like:

1.  Did they buy a competitive product or not buy at all?
2.  If they didn’t buy, why did they pass?
3.  If they bought with someone else, what were the features or benefits that led them to not buy with you?
4.  What was missing from your offering that kept them from buying with you?

  1. Talk to at least a few people. Even talking to a handful of people can give you dramatic insights that you couldn’t get anywhere else. Don’t worry about statistical sample size, try to collect as much data from interviews as possible.
  2. Record your interview. Use a digital recorder or camera. Trying to take notes will disrupt the flow of the meeting and is a sure fire way to miss body language, pauses and other cues that may lead to insights from your interviewee.

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Get into Your Customer’s Head

Survey and interviews are powerful tools to help you understand your customers and where you can improve to boost your business. By surveying both existing, potential and non-customers you can get a clear picture of the strengths and weaknesses of your business. In-depth interviews in the field will give you firsthand insight into the challenges your customer faces and the challenges your product faces for their attention, use and advocacy. Interviews are so critical that even just a few are better than none at all. For more information on interviewing, read Don’t Make Me Think and Rocket Surgery Made Easy by Steve Krug. For more information on best practices for creating surveys, read this PDF by SurveyMonkey. If you’re looking for a great, free surveying tool check out Kissinsights for some great survey software. Asking for feedback is one great way to learn what users want, watching their interactions with your product and site is another. Check out how to get started “spying” on your customers with our post on analytics.