It's been a while since I've written about the uses of surveys for business development, but the awesome Seth Godin mentioned it today in a post, and it reminded me of something. Surveys are about talking, as well as listening ... as well as doing.
You can TEACH people with a survey, though, simply by asking them questions that help them notice things they never noticed before. "Do your prefer option A or option B," might just be a way of getting people to notice that you even have an option B.
The very act of asking a question may change the experience for the customer. One small firm I know shows prospects a book of testimonials. Then they say, "I hope that when we've completed our job for you, you'll be willing to write one too." That seed increases the likelihood that people are going to be looking for something good to say, which increases the likelihood that they'll enjoy the event.
And in a proposal I wrote for a Washington law firm for a client survey project, I said something very similar. Surveys are as much about talking as listening. I wrote:
First, simply by asking an important client to share his or her perceptions, the firm is sending a powerful message. It is explicitly demonstrating that client satisfaction, which many firms honor only in the breach, is something it views as essential. The firm sets itself apart simply by asking the question: “How are we doing?”
So, I guess I'm seeing Godin's analysis, and raising him one. The impact of a survey comes in three parts:
You talk, by asking people questions, which educates them and demonstrates that you are keenly interested in their perceptions of your firm.
You listen to their perceptions.
And finally, you show them your commitment, by doing something.