by Mike Chiricuzio Blue Moon Solutions, Inc. September 15, 2003 -- If I told you that there was a way to receive fast and accurate information about your clients' and prospects' perception of your company and its services, and that it would take very little time and cost you practically nothing, would you be interested? I think you might. And, if the distribution and reading of this survey also added the benefit of providing your clients and prospects with a better understanding of how you can provide solutions to their communication challenges, would you perhaps be even more interested? Again, I think you might… One of the easiest and most rewarding methods for determining how your products, services, prices and other aspects of your business are perceived and utilized by your clients, and prospects, is to survey them online. As simple and effective as this is, it is also a vastly underutilized process. I think there are several reasons for this lack of usage. First, surveying clients and prospects is not typically part of the normal business culture for most printing companies. The existing feedback loop typically consists of anecdotal information from sales representatives, customer services representatives or other employees of the company who may or may not relate what they hear from the customers to management. This feedback, whether positive or negative in nature, is valuable in forming procedures, policies and needed services to the company clientele. The random and intermittent nature of this feedback, however, pales by comparison to what a properly prepared survey can provide. For one, the very nature of the survey process tends to flush out the responses of the ‘middle ground' clients. What I mean by this is that typically, the anecdotal feedback that does somehow make its way to management from sources within the company tends to come from one of two types of clients or situations: When they are extremely happy about a particular performance, or the opposite, when they are very dissatisfied. This, for the most part, excludes the 80% - 90% of clients and situations from this feedback. And I think it is safe to say that you don't just want to know the opinions of the extreme ends of your client base. Another positive result of an organized survey is that you can find out information that you would not usually get from random feedback sources. By directing the questions into topics that are of interest to you, you gain insight into virtually any area that deserves consideration. Lastly, the very nature of the survey and the questions and information contained can be very useful in terms of providing information to your clients and prospects about your products and services. It is, in a fact, a form of advertising that informs, educates and sparks interest to your clients, while providing you with a forum for measuring the effectiveness of other methods of communication that are already in place. The measured and compiled information that you receive from this type of survey provides information that can be used to analyze and modify policies and procedures to better serve the needs and desires of your clientele. It also can be utilized to determine the acceptability of your pricing structure, how your products and services are perceived relative to your competition, who your competition is, what the obstacles are that prevent a client from using your company for specified services, etc. It is the analysis of the data provided and the steps that you take because of the data that can make online surveys a tool like no other in terms of meeting client expectation. So, how do you do it? How do you become an instant expert in surveying and analyzing your marketplace? Is it expensive? What software do you need? How many IT personnel are required? The good news is that it's easy to start and complete, it is very inexpensive, no software is needed other than your existing browser, and you can do it yourself without having to bog down IT or any other department. You can do it today. The service that I have used for some time is called Zoomerang,at www.zoomerang.com . This service is free, easy to use, and provides the feedback you need. They also have a premium service for a fee that does automated compilation, and allows a longer response time for your clientele than the typical 10-day service, but I have not found this to be needed in my case. I use this service frequently for my clients to help them determine whether or not they should invest in a new technology, or to find out the client's perceptions of their products, prices and services, or for any number of things. I have also used the online surveys for internal use, to determine how the Sales department feels about a new product, or to determine causes of morale issues within the company, etc. Response rates vary from as 5% to 30% in external usage, where an entire client database is surveyed, to 50% to 100% in internal situations where it is the actual employees targeted in the survey. The feedback received has always had a positive impact on the actions and decisions of the business owners involved. Even when they don't like some of the comments and results that come in, they are always glad to have the feedback to use in their management process. Knowing what your clients really think about your company is very powerful, indeed. There are many different purveyors of online survey services available, with differences in how they work and what they cost. A simple search at google.com or other Internet search engine with the phrase ‘free online survey' will turn up many alternatives to Zoomerang if you don't find their service adequate or would like to see what else is available. Below is the genericized basic content from a survey that I recently deployed for a client to help them determine their perception and status in their local marketplace. The results were significant, swift and well received, and were immediately used to make changes in the marketing of their company, as well as the policies and procedures that govern how they do business. I think that if you give this a try, you will find that it will become a normal part of how you more effectively run your business. If you are currently doing anything like this, or if you give it a try, I would welcome your feedback on how this works for you, and as always, am happy to answer any questions you have about this or any other topic that relates to your business. Online Survey: Acme Printing Wants Your Input! Acme Printing now provides digital printing services on its digital color press, typically printing quantities of one to several thousand pieces. This process allows for ultra-short to medium run lengths, very fast turnaround times, and version flexibility up to and including true variable information printing, where every part of every copy is varied to best communicate a message to the recipient. The purpose of this survey is to determine your level of awareness of Acme Printing products and services. Your response will be very valuable, and will help guide the direction for the growth of the company. Due to the survey management provided by Zoomerang, only the tabulated results will be seen, and the contents of your individual response will remain anonymous to everyone, including Acme Printing. 1. When did you first hear about Digital Printing at Acme Printing? Less than 1 month ago 1 to 2 months ago 3 months ago or longer When I was notified of this survey Other, Please Specify 2. How did you first hear about Digital Printing at Acme Printing? Sales Rep or other Acme Printing Employee Advertisement or Publication Direct Mail Campaign Telephone Communication Word-of-Mouth This Survey! Other, Please Specify 3. Prior to participating in this survey, were you aware of the digital printing services available from Acme Printing? Yes, I knew of their services No, I was not aware that Digital Color Printing was available at Acme Printing. Other, Please Specify 4. Do you ever have communication opportunities where digital color printing could be utilized? Yes No Not Sure I do, but I would probably use a different supplier Other, Please Specify 5. I have heard, or been told, that compared to other digital printing companies, the quality of the digital printing from Acme Printing is: Much better Somewhat better About the same Somewhat worse Much worse Have no opinion on this topic Other, Please Specify 6. I have heard, or been told, that compared to other digital printing companies, the consistency of accurate, on-time service of digital printing received from Acme Printing is: Much better Somewhat better About the same Somewhat worse Much worse Have no opinion on this topic Other, Please Specify 7. I have heard, or been told, that compared to other digital printing companies, the pricing of digital printing at Acme Printing is: Much better Somewhat better About the same Somewhat worse Much worse Have no opinion on this topic Other, Please Specify 8. Based on your knowledge of Acme Printing, is there a possibility that you might purchase digital printing services from them in the next 1-6 months? Absolutely Very likely Perhaps Unlikely No, I'm happy with my current digital printer Absolutely not Other, Please Specify 9. If you are not now using or considering using Acme Printing for your color digital printing, please rank the impact on issues of concern that would keep you from doing so: 1. Quality Major Impact Some Impact Little Impact Not a factor 2. Service Major Impact Some Impact Little Impact Not a factor 3. Price Major Impact Some Impact Little Impact Not a factor 4. Absence of existing business relationship Major Impact Some Impact Little Impact Not a factor 5. Outstanding relationship with another vendor Major Impact Some Impact Little Impact Not a factor 10. Do you currently purchase digital printing from other companies that utilize digital presses such as Indigo, NexPress, Xerox or Xeikon? Quite Often Occasionally Not Very Often Never 11. Who are your current suppliers of color digital printing? 1: _________________________________________ 2: _________________________________________ 3: _________________________________________ 4: _________________________________________ 5: _________________________________________ 12. Please rate your current level of satisfaction with the vendor you now utilize for color digital printing products and services: 1. Print Quality Extremely Unsatisfied Unsatisfied Satisfied Extremely Satisfied Never Use 2. Value for the Price Extremely Unsatisfied Unsatisfied Satisfied Extremely Satisfied Never Use 3. On-Time Delivery Extremely Unsatisfied Unsatisfied Satisfied Extremely Satisfied Never Use 4. Finishing Quality Extremely Unsatisfied Unsatisfied Satisfied Extremely Satisfied Never Use 5. Customer Service Satisfaction Extremely Unsatisfied Unsatisfied Satisfied Extremely Satisfied Never Use 13. Is there anything you would like to tell Acme Printing about its Products and Services that was not sufficiently covered in the survey? If so, or if you have any other comments, please respond below. Thank you for your feedback. Your answers will be treated with the utmost confidentiality, and the information will provide valuable input to Acme Printing in their effort to continually improve their products and services.