Small Business organizations often ask how they can gather customer insights without spending a fortune with consultants or research firms. Here are some methods and tools to help small business owners:
1. Ask your front line staff what they are hearing from customers.
Front line staff, in sales or customer service, know what the customer problems are but they may not know who to tell or they may think you already know. Or they may not how to count up the customer reactions in order to bring forward the important ones. Spend some time with front line personnel. In sales, in service, in billing, etc. They hear the customer’s voice. They can provide you insights.
2. Check who is paying you and who is not.
Customers who are not happy won’t pay you. It is a leading indicator. As suggested in other responses, go talk to these customers,. They have raised their hands telling you about dissatisfaction. Listen carefully to what they are unhappy about.
3. After each transaction, ask the customer if they would be a reference for you
And if they will not, ask why not. If so, why. Ask what you might improve. Ask what you should keep doing. Ask your front line people to help you gather references. These will have other benefits within your organization.
4. Listen to Social Media and Blogs.
Use Google Alerts. Set up alerts for your organization, your products, to see what the public is saying about you. Google Alerts will sent an email to you when it finds a reference to you on the web. Google yourself. Check Twitter, and Youtube as well. Customers may be talking about you. Keep an open ear. Twitter can be set up to alert you if someone retweets your posts.
5. Try a mini survey.
Survey Monkey is a tool that allows you to create short surveys for up to 10 questions and up to 100 responders for free. Not everyone you send the survey to will respond so even if you have more than 100 customers you can still use Survey Monkey to get the first 100 responses.
6. Spend time with your customers.
One of the advantage of being in a small business is that the owner or owners talk directly to their customers. With a direct conversation, the owner can ask questions, seek clarification and have a better understanding of the customer needs and how they use your products. They will give you ideas for new ways to serve them.