Client relations can sometimes feel like a game of telephone.
Salespeople, account managers, product team members, executives, technical representatives, and customer service representatives are all speaking to a client at various points in their customer journey.
Everybody on the team has a slightly different understanding of how a product or service works, and as a result, customers get disjointed messages.
When there are big gaps in communication, it can lead to frustration, lower client confidence, or worse, broken contracts and a badly damaged reputation.
You need to keep everyone on roughly the same page, and meetings are sometimes the best tool for that task.
Other times, however, it’s not enough to discuss that messaging through endless meetings and emails. You need objective feedback to answer the hard questions.
Common Problems with Meetings
Sometimes a team just needs to get in a conference room and hash everything out on the whiteboard. But what about when your audience is too large to fit in a room?
What about when it’s the end of the day, and no one can seem to focus? You only have to attend one or two unproductive meetings to know just how ineffective they can be.
Surveys of Microsoft employees famously showed that workers averaged about 5.5 hours a week in meetings, and a whopping 71 percent of those employees felt meetings weren’t very effective.
Decision fatigue may be one likely culprit for that lack of faith, but another issue lies in groupthink. There’s pressure not to rock the boat in a meeting, and especially not to contradict higher-ups that may be in the room.
Insights that might otherwise lie dormant can be tapped using an alternative method of reaching consensus: an internal survey.
When Internal Surveys Can Help
Your own situation will undoubtedly signal unique opportunities for internal surveys to step in and replace meetings. At Modernize, our product team identifies opportunities for surveys organically as they arise.
The following conditions make a subject ripe for surveying.
When the Answer is Complex
As mentioned before, the issue of how to position Modernize’s services when addressing contractors was a very abstract, broad subject.
Our team wanted to give people the chance to approach this topic on their own time, to roll the questions over in their minds before answering.
They especially wanted to let participants respond in long form.
When Different Teams Have Different Perspectives
When the product team started gathering answers from different departments, it was easy to see that a survey was called for because there was no consistent response.
The goal for this survey was to capture the specialized information obtained by team members communicating directly with our clients. These team members know our clients’ needs and issues intimately, since they work with them on a daily basis.
When Objectivity is Necessary
Unified positioning with contractors is such an important part of Modernize’s business that we didn’t have room for failure.
That meant we needed the best, most objective information that professionals would respond to.
That meant we needed a survey.
Strategies for Running Effective Surveys
Like everything else in business, your team’s surveys are only as effective as you make them.
The best survey makers are thoughtful about the process—from start to finish—in order to capture the most relevant and reliable data.
Ideally, the surveys they produce have the following characteristics:
Are Up-front About Their Purpose
Trust is an important part of the survey process, and you earn it by being absolutely clear about your purpose. Eliminate any shadowy or gray territory that makes participants feel uneasy.
In an internal survey, all employees should understand the reason for the survey, especially since this will make them more likely to complete it in a timely manner.
Particularly, survey takers will be able to spot a sales pitch from a mile away. Keep the text of each question simple and objective.
Are Easy for Respondents to Take
Guaranteed, no one in your office has time to sit through a 20-question survey with page after page of exhausting questions.
Respect your participants’ time by keeping it short, with the minimum number of questions necessary to achieve your survey goals. You can always follow up if you need additional answers.
Allow Users to Share Their Honest Opinions:
You want more information, not less.
While you may want a simple “yes” or “no” for some subjects (although scale questions are generally a better option), you should always give your participants the opportunity to add more if they have something to expound on.
Can Adapt to Changing Circumstances
Capturing reliable and useful data isn’t a set formula. The best survey makers are flexible and allow themselves room to grow as they increasingly hone in on exactly what needs to be answered.
If you’re new to surveys, give yourself room to experiment. Review your responses and improve your survey every time you run one.
How to Use Surveys to Take Action
While some organizations may be eager to hear results and make changes based on survey data, others may not be as welcoming as you’d think. This can be particularly true if the responses are challenging.
Help your team by developing an actionable plan to implement survey results into your work, and establish a clear timeframe for each action item.
As departments work to integrate data into their workflows, offer yourself as a continual resource whose insights can be called upon at any time in the process.
It’s easy to forget results when they’re not fresh from the survey, so make sure you’re available for a refresher any time your team needs one.
Particularly for an internal survey, you can remind team members that these plans are based on their responses, and they are making adjustments possible with their information and expertise.
Change is always hard, but when employees understand that they are having a real effect on the business’s policy and positioning, it goes over a lot more smoothly.
Erin Vaughan is a blogger, gardener and aspiring homeowner. She currently resides in Austin, TX where she writes full time for Modernize.com, with the goal of empowering homeowners with the expert guidance and educational tools they need to take on big home projects with confidence.