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Five Steps to Combat a Fear Economy:
Surveys That Work
By David J. Morris & Lon L. LaFlamme

It’s time to get real. It doesn’t take a seasoned economist to recognize that specialty coffee sales are threatened with a continued meltdown through at least 2009. Now, more than ever, it is critical to provide products, services and a coffee house atmosphere your customers crave every day.

One key to surviving, even thriving, during this near unprecedented fear-driven economy is to know your customers better than the competition.

It is more critical than ever that you understand exactly who they are: their interests, goals, priorities and desires. This will allow you to create highly targeted decisions that assure an immediate return on investment. By offering laser-focused in-store promotions, they will reward you with continued customer loyalty, as well as build your business through the best kind of marketing - word of mouth.

We know, you already know your customers and what they crave. Wrong. You come up with gift card purchase incentives, food and beverage additions and a myriad of other customer loyalty offerings, probably without even asking one customer if the offering is incentifying. You can be rest assured; you are not alone. Most major corporations and small businesses fail to gain adequate intended customer opinion before financially investing in products and marketing.

You can no longer afford to run your business blindly. In this economy you must partner with your customers to craft the ultimate coffee house experience.

The easiest and fastest way to look inside their heads is with a survey. You can create an effective and decision-guiding survey that will dramatically help you connect with your customers, and continue to profit during the current financial crisis in five easy steps.

Here are a few tips to help you design a better survey which we sculpted, in part, from national survey consultant Derek Gehl, CEO of the Internet Marketing Center.

Step #1

Design and Write Your Survey
As with everything else you do with your business, you’ll have the greatest success with your survey if you carefully plan. Start by writing down your goals. You may be surprised that your list can be lengthy, so narrow it down so that you conduct an effective survey.

Here are some examples:

  • Are you trying to learn more about the products you offer or could offer, i.e. gelato or loose leaf tea?
  • Looking for ways to give more customers a highly personal experience?
  • Thinking about adding local live music?
  • What recorded music is most favored by the majority of your customers?
  • What about adding wine and micro beers to vitalize the late afternoon and evening hours? Try to gather more targeted demographic information so you can segment your customers for tailored offers.
Be crystal clear about what you are hoping to accomplish with the survey, and it will be easy to create.

Step #2

Choose Your Weapon

  • Web-Based Survey There are a number of FREE web-based services (Survey Monkey / Survey Pro) that will host your survey. Just design the survey using their simple point-and-click interface, enter the text for the questions and then email a link to your customers and subscribers. Of course, this assumes you have already run promotions to gain customer email addresses. This is a must-do in today’s guerilla marketing. Many of these free services also offer a reasonable number of reporting features, making it easy to interpret results.

  • In-Store Survey You will need to sample at least 100 customers in each location. This will ensure your customer feedback is more than a handful of varying opinions that, at best, can only make a small contribution to investment and service decisions.

    Don’t be shy about offering your customers a “bribe” to take the survey.

    Whichever survey format you use, it is well worth a $5.00 cash card credit to gain this incredibly valuable information. By using a cash card you have a dual opportunity to introduce the value of the card to more customers. Once the card is used, train your team to encourage a cash reload for future purchases.

Step #3

Design and Write the Survey

  • Start off with simple questions.
  • Avoid asking too many questions. Test the survey so it takes no longer than five to ten minutes.
  • Give your survey an introduction and ending.
  • Respect people’s privacy.
  • Avoid leading questions.
  • Avoid questions that require people to rate more than one thing at a time. Don’t say, “How fast and accurate did you find our service? Service and accuracy are two different questions that warrant separate answers.
  • Focus on asking close-ended questions. In a survey, a close-ended question is one that can be answered with a simple yes or no, or a selection from multiple choices. Make it fast and easy to complete.
  • Be consistent with your question format. If you are using a number scale, use it each time.
  • Carefully review and test the survey. Make sure it has a logical flow and makes sense. Ask a handful of customers, staff and friends to take the survey ahead of time, and watch them while they do it.
Step #4

Administer the Survey Yourself
Be sure the owner/manager of the coffee house is the only one to introduce the survey. Your staff and customers will instantly recognize that the survey is extremely important to you.

Tell every customer what is in it for them, as well as your sincere interest in providing the perfect coffee house experience. If your goal is to improve your menu, tell them that their input will help fine-tune the menu to make it even better.

Make sure you build some urgency into your web-based survey. If you don’t tell them to act on it immediately, it will be delayed and often not acted upon.

Step #5

Interpret Your Results
As you review the results, remember that you are looking for trends. Did the majority of the respondents answer specific questions the same way? Are they often expressing the same frustrations?

Do it right, and the survey is guaranteed to give you some surprising answers and insights into your customers that you had no idea were true.

This is a perfect opportunity to find out exactly who your customer is, as well as what they like and dislike. When money is so tight, you will be able to prioritize your investments in building a solid and loyal customer base.

Tea & Coffee - January, 2009

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