It is easy as small business owners to get tunnel vision or a jaded perspective on what our guests want, what is working well, and where we need to improve. It is also easy to get complacent in areas that are not our passions or areas of expertise and since they are working “well enough” they don’t get the attention they sometimes need. A fresh perspective from our guests can help us to see any blind spots that need our attention.
The best way to do this is through a survey. Today we are going to talk about the different ways to conduct surveys and what questions we should ask.
What should the survey include?
Keep it short with no more than 10 questions. The shorter it is; the better chance you have of getting the survey completed.
Ask them to rate on a scale of 1 – 10 rather than asking for them to write specific feedback for every question. This is less overwhelming for them and again gives you a better chance of getting a completed survey.
Always allow for (but not require) text input for any question they want to elaborate on. The more details you can gather; the better decisions you can make. You can include one or two questions where they are asked specific questions that require a text response but use these sparingly.
Please rate the following on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being outstanding:
Customer service including friendliness and responsiveness of our staff
Cleanliness of our facility
Check-in process when you arrived
Safety of the children’s play area
Please tell us:
Your favorite part of your visit to our farm
An area you feel we could improve on
Be sure your survey includes a place they can leave optional comments if they are rating on a scale.
In my opinion, the survey should always include an incentive. A free donut, 15% off from the store, BOGO coupon for the fall, entered into a drawing for a free birthday party or something else that has enough value that they feel like they are being appreciated for their input.
How to conduct the survey
Always make it anonymous, when possible, as you will get the most honest feedback (sometimes too honest).
My favorite way to conduct a survey and the way I feel is the most effective is on the day your guests visit your site. Place your friendliest staff member near the check-out line with a table full of fresh, hot apple cider donuts, pieces of fudge, or other bribe items.
Have a paper survey form they can fill out or use touch screens where they can fill out their survey electronically. All completed surveys are immediately rewarded with that warm donut. This also works as a great promotion for your baked goods or farm store.
You can add an additional incentive where they have the option to include their name and email address on the survey and receive a BOGO coupon for the following season along with your other promotions. This can be a great way to build your mailing list.
You can use your mailing list that you are hopefully building to conduct a survey by emailing them your survey questions directly. You will lose the anonymity through their response so this doesn’t always provide the best results, but will provide enough results to definitely make it worth the time.
If you want to take it to the next level, use a service such as SurveyMonkey. This will allow your guests to keep their anonymity and provides them a very professional and easy to use interface for the survey. For a small list, they offer a free option, but for those with larger lists, there are other affordable options as well. All the data is tabulated and presented to you in an easy to understand report. If you are going to adopt surveying as a regular part of your business, I would highly recommend a service like this. You can also provide incentives to those that complete the survey with this system.
The end goal is to get open and honest feedback about what you are doing well and what areas need improvement. Don’t forget to have your staff complete a similar survey at the end of your season. You can make that one as long as you want. J They are a great source of information as they are on the front lines and hear more of your guest’s frustrations, as well as see what things they respond well to. You can also include staff specific questions on how you can make things better for them as staff members. Make it anonymous for best results.
For all the surveys, be sure to look for common themes. There will be certain pet peeves that may impact one person, but don’t get hung up on those. Look for things that get mentioned repeatedly. List your top 3 areas in need of improvement and get to working on correcting those for the coming season. List your top 3 successes and analyze why they are working and how you can create more of that in other areas of your business.
Don’t operate your business with blinders on. Be teachable and look for ways to get that feedback from those who have invested their time and resources into coming to your farm as we want to be sure they come back year after year.