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Pet Parent Satisfaction: How to Conduct a Customer Survey That Gets Results

By Amy Castro//July 1, 2023//

Pet Parent Satisfaction: How to Conduct a Customer Survey That Gets Results

By: Amy Castro//July 1, 2023//

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When it comes to customer feedback, we generally only hear it when we get that rare compliment or the not-so-rare customer complaint. Unfortunately, basing your beliefs about the success of your business on those occasional comments doesn’t give you a clear or complete picture of how your customers feel about you, your employees, your products and your services. If you’re serious about growing your business, standing out from the competition, and building a loyal customer base, you need the input of as many customers as possible, which is why you should conduct customer surveys.

The first step in getting into the heads and hearts of your customers is to identify your goal, so you’ll know what kind of customer survey you want to conduct. If you’re trying to create your customer avatars — as I suggested in my April 2023 column in Pet Age — then you need to conduct a customer segmentation survey. If you’re trying to see how happy customers are with your products or services, you’ll release a customer satisfaction survey.

Suppose you want to know whether customers recommend your business to others, what competitors they frequent and how you compare. In that case, you’re looking at a customer loyalty survey. If you want to know why they’ve stopped doing business with you or would stop, then a customer churn survey would give you those answers. It would be easy to include all of your goals in one survey, but when you consider that most customers won’t answer a survey of more than 10 questions or so, you’re going to be limited in how much information you can try to get from them at one time. It’s crucial to decide on what your primary goal is going to be and stick as closely to that as possible.

Once you have a goal set, it’s time to start writing questions. As we’re trying to keep a survey to no more than 10 questions, you need to ask the right questions and make every one count. First, your questions must be clear and concise, and your customers need to understand precisely what you’re asking. You’ll also want to avoid technical terms or jargon that your customers won’t understand, such as churn, POS, cash wrap or cross-merchandising. Additionally, there are two main benefits to asking closed-ended questions, like multiple-choice questions, rather than open-ended ones that allow customers to write their own answers. The first benefit is that customers are more likely to answer a 10-question survey that only requires them to click a few boxes to respond rather than having to think about and write an answer. Second, closed-ended questions allow you to track the trends better and act on the data.

For example, if you want to find out why your customers do business with you and you ask the question with a box to type a response, you will get 100 different answers from 100 different surveys. If you give them possible reasons — such as value, service, prices, location, etc. — you’ll end up with percentages for each response, allowing you to better analyze the data you’re getting.

However, the downside of closed questions is that they limit your customers to the choices you give them, so if you forget to make “location” an answer option in the question above, you’ll never know if one of the main reasons your customers do business with you is because your store is near their home or office. Therefore, consider when it might be appropriate to add “other” as an option with a text box to some questions to give customers a chance to provide a more personal response.

Other types of questions to avoid would be asking two questions in one field, such as, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rank our product quality and customer service?” If the customer loves one and is less-than-satisfied with the other, they won’t know how to respond, so split these double questions into two separate questions. Leading questions should also be avoided in customer surveys, as customers are more likely to respond as you want them to rather than how they really feel. For example, “Our customer service is excellent, right?”

Once you have your survey ready, don’t send it out to your customers until you’ve tested it. A great place to start is to give the survey to your employees. If your employees don’t understand a question, then it’s likely your customers won’t either. Your employees will also be able to tell you if you’re missing any key questions or answer responses you might want to include. Once the survey has passed the employee test, an interim step before sending it to your entire database is to give it to a few friends, or customers who are practically friends, to see if there are other issues with the survey. Once it’s passed these tests, you’re probably ready to send out the survey to your database. Even then, it might be worth it to send the survey to a particular segment first to ensure you’re getting data you can use.

When distributing your survey, there are many tools available for you to use, and in some instances, depending on your customer base, you might need to use more than one.

There are many electronic tools available for conducting customer surveys. The first place to look would be your own POS system. If it doesn’t include a survey option, online survey tools are available in both free and paid versions. Free versions usually limit you to a certain number of surveys sent, surveys conducted and questions you can ask, so be sure to explore your options entirely before committing to one. It may also help to offer customers a paper survey while they are in the store. The bottom line is that a customer will only complete a survey for two main reasons: one, it’s quick and easy, and number two, there’s something in it for them to complete it. That’s where incentives come in.

If you want to get the most possible surveys back from your customers, it’s best to be sure you’ve met that criteria. We’ve already talked about how to make your survey quick and easy, but you should also offer your customers some incentive for taking the time to complete your survey. Studies have shown that providing an incentive for completing a survey can increase the response rate by as much as 30 percent. The type of incentive that you offer affects the response rate as well. Monetary incentives like gift cards or cash tend to have the highest response rate. Non-monetary incentives, such as a free product or service, are also effective but tend to have a lower response rate. Also, remember that there doesn’t necessarily have to be an incentive for every survey completion. Offering a monetary incentive for every survey completed will likely require you to make the incentive relatively minor, like a $5 coupon. Still, it could also result in a significant cash outlay if many of your customers return the survey. When I conducted my customer segmentation survey earlier in the year, I offered my customers the chance to be entered into a drawing to win one of three $100 coupons.

Creating an excellent survey that gets results requires some upfront work and time. Still, when you do it right, it can provide the information you need to truly understand your customer and propel your business to success and achieve your goals.


Amy Castro is a business and leadership expert who speaks, trains and consults with pet businesses that want to build best-in-show teams that deliver a Five-Star Customer Experience. She’s also the host of the Starlight Pet Talk podcast, where she interviews pet industry experts and others to give advice and information for pet parents to help their pets live long, happy lives.