“Treat with utmost respect your power of forming opinions, for this power alone guards you against making assumptions that are contrary to nature and judgments that overthrow the rule of reason. “

~Marcus Aurelius

Asking your customers about your business is so important for each and every business. If you are selling a product or service, then both the trends in the markets and customers desires should be part and parcel of your decisions about your business especially those decisions in which you are considering a shift in orientation of your business.

While a customer satisfaction survey about the quality of your customer service is great information, there is so much more that you should be periodically asking your customers. We are dealing with a very neat entrepreneur who had an exercise/spa business. The spa was not doing well for numerous reasons including the difficulty of finding qualified nail and hair technicians and attracting new business. As she saw that the spa space was not being used effectively, she decided to use this space for a “wellness center.” In this “wellness center they planned on having a dietician and a formal weight loss program.

While this “wellness center” sounded so appealing to overcome the difficulties of running she was having with the spa. The owner decided to move in this direction, as it just seemed as if this was a national wide trend. However, she never asked her customers if they would support this change in orientation of her business. Once I asked her if she had asked her customers about this change, she quickly realized that she had missed this critical piece of information and needed to survey her customers before she proceeded with this change in her business.

If you are going to survey customers, you must ask the right questions to insure that you get valid information to base decisions on.  A student of mine was considering starting a business to sell custom made motorcycles. As part of this project, he had to do a survey to insure that there was a demand for this new business.  He went to a motorcycle event and proceeded to ask questions from as many motorcycle owners as he could get to fill out his questionnaire.

He decided that his planned business was going to be so successful because the response was so positive. He made this judgment on the fact that he got a 98% positive response to the question, “Would you consider to purchase a custom made motorcycle?” After he had some time to reflect on this survey and question, he realized that this question was not valid as he realized that most people would consider a custom motorcycle. He changed the question to, “Would you buy a custom motorcycle that was priced about $5,000 more than a standard motorcycle?” The positive response to this revised question was only 1% and he quickly abandoned this idea and he learned from this experience that asking a wrong question on a survey could possibly sink a new venture.

You need to continually and constantly be asking your customers how you can serve them better. Obviously, not only must you ask your customers about your business but also you must frame the questions in a way that extracts the information that you need.

You can do this!

Jerry Osteryoung
Jerry Osteryoung is a consultant to businesses—he has directly assisted over 3,000 firms. He is the Jim Moran Professor of Entrepreneurship (Emeritus) and Professor of Finance (Emeritus) at Florida State University. He was the founding Executive Director of the Jim Moran Institute and served in that position from 1995 through 2008. His latest book, coauthored with Tim O’Brien, “If You Have Employees, You Really Need This Book,” is a bestseller on Amazon. Email Jerry @ jerry.osteryoung@gmail.com