Customer Surveys Reveal Holes in the Dam

Written by  November 13, 2007

DamIn its simplest form, a dam can be seen a structural system that controls water.

It can stop water completely, or it can be opened up to allow water to flow through in a controlled manner.

Although simple in nature, the dam is made up of many different complex systems. All systems work together as a single unit to achieve one task — control the flow of water.

Periodically, as with all complex systems, the dam needs to be inspected for potential risks that may present problems down the road. If found, these “risk areas” should be addressed before they become a real problem.

For example, if not found and corrected, a single hole in the dam could very quickly turn into an out of control emergency.

E-Commerce Websites are a lot Like Dams

Your website can be thought of in much the same way as a dam. It is simple in concept, yet contains an array of complex system that work together as a single unit, controlling the flow of traffic through it to achieve a desired goal — generate sales. A hole in any one system can jeopardize the entire outcome.

Water is the Lifeline to Survival

Remember, a dam controls water. In a website, traffic is your “water”. Your traffic contains both visitors and customers (customers actually buy, visitors just look). Whereas a dam controls water, your website should control traffic. Properly controlling that traffic will become the lifeline to your ultimate success.

How to Find the Holes in Your Website

If you were managing a dam, you would probably send out inspectors to analyze, take notes, gather data, and report on the integrity and stability of the structure.

But you’re not. You’re managing and running an e-commerce website. So, who do you periodically send out to gather and report data back to you? You send out “Inspector Survey.”

Surveying your customers can provide great additional insight into what is working well, and more importantly, what needs improvement in your website.

Surveys can give you data on:

  • How visitors perceive the customer experience you provide to them with
  • How easy or difficult your visitors find it is to use your site
  • How effectively you run the online portion of your business (as seen through your customers eyes)
  • If the product(s) you offer satisfy the buyer need appropriately
  • and more …

Properly conducting periodic surveys of your customer base will help you uncover and fine tune potential risk areas of your business that could be come problems in the future if not corrected.

Where to Conduct Surveys

Depending on who you are surveying (buyers vs. non-buyers) and what you are trying to uncover by conducting the survey will determine where the most effective placement for conducting it.

If you are surveying customers (defined as those visitors that have actually bought from you), then you may want to consider conducting the survey using the following methods.

  • On the thank you page immediately following a sale. The thank you page of any website (that page which a visitor arrives at after completing an “action”) is one moment which you have their complete attention. Why? Because they want to know what the next steps are in receiving their package. It would be a good idea on this page to include a short survey asking them about their shopping experience with you.
  • Email follow-ups. If you want to find out what past customers thought about the buying experience at your store, you’ll need to send out an email to them with the survey included, or with a link to it. Again, make it short, and simple. Get their attention with a nice subject line so they actually want to open it. Things like “a survey for you”, or “please give us your feedback”, or “inquiry from …” more than likely won’t get you the best open rates. On the other hand, subject lines like “please accept our gift”, or “help us help you and get a free gift”, or “get xxx% off your next purchase when you help us” etc.. might see better open rates.

If you are looking to survey visitors that did not make a purchase, you have at least one viable option as well (without resorting to pop-ups).

  • Email follow-ups. Yes, you can follow up with visitors that did not purchase from you, but added items to their cart, via email. How? Using a “recover cart” system. Most of the major retailers have systems such as these in place, and any good cart should. Having the ability to potentially recover an otherwise abandoned cart and turn that into a sale is something any good system should provide.

    On the internet, you don’t have to be a big player with a big budget to get a cart with this capability. Zen Cart is a good open-source (that means it’s free) shopping cart that, with the help of a free third party contribution, provides this opportunity to anyone. No matter the budget.

What can you Learn by Surveying Abandoned Carts?

Remember, an abandoned cart means these people actually put products into their shopping cart and then left without completing the purchase. With products added to their cart, you could make an educated guess that they found at least one item they were interested in (or chances are it would never have ended up in their cart.)

Using the right mix of questions you can learn any of the following form surveying them.

  • Was it the product selection that caused them to leave?
  • Was it the price?
  • Was it the usability of the site?
  • Was it the shipping time or cost?
  • Was it the credibility of the store
  • and more…

You may even consider simply presenting one simple open ended question asking them to tell you why they decided not to complete the purchase.

No matter what you choose, the data you gather will become a tool you can use to improve your store for future visitors.

Where to get Good Survey Tools

In addition to being a super email newsletter and follow up system, Constant Contact also provides survey ability as well through their Listen Up! survey software. I have personally used it with great success on a number of e-commerce websites. It’s easy to use, and offers the flexibility needed to get exceptional results.

Get a 60 Day Free Trail of the Listen Up! Survey system here.

So get out there, find those holes, and plug them before they become a problem! You’ll turn more future visitors into customers for it, keep your current customers happy, and you’ll learn more about how to better control the traffic flow by enhancing the overall customer experience.

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