First published September 9, 2008
Taking the temperature of your customers or involving your customers in product development has never been easier. Large, expensive research surveys have their place but many research goals can be achieved by quick and easy online surveys.
There are a number of companies that provide this service and most give you an opportunity to test drive the software before making a commitment. Even if you decide to subscribe to their service, the cost is nominal. Survey Monkey, Zoomerang, QuestionPro, and Constant Contact are a few of the better known survey programs. Of course you need to have customer email addresses to send invitations to the online survey but emails are now an essential component of each customer record and you should be actively collecting those anyway. In K-12 education, classroom teachers often use their school email address as a dumping ground for companies and offers they don't want to respond to, so "What is your preferred email address?" is an important question.
The other important factor to keep in mind when developing online surveys is that shorter is better than longer. The shorter the survey, the higher the response rate. People are busy and if you promise a short, 5-minute survey and deliver on that promise they are more likely to accept your invitation again.
You can even make one of the survey questions, "How often would you be willing to respond to short 10 question surveys during the school year?" Educators are usually very happy to share their opinions but you have to make it fast, convenient and simple.
It is a minimal investment of time to test an online survey using one of the programs mentioned above. What questions have you been wanting to ask your customers?