By Suzanne Short

The goal of Customer Relationship Surveys is to gain a clear understanding of how customers perceive relationships, be it with their vendor, supplier, or service provider.

But are they really necessary?

At one time, Terry Curtin would have said “no.” Terry, who leads the Business Alliance Account Organization for a Xerox business group, was confident in his team’s ability to capture and act upon customer feedback through their established practices. The complex and competitive nature of his accounts necessitates close customer contact. Implementing a survey seemed redundant.

“Surveys give customers the opportunity to respond to questions the field may not be asking. It’s like taking the covers off.” – Terry Curtin, vice president and general manager of the Business Alliance Account Organization for Xerox

“Surveys give customers the opportunity to respond to questions the field may not be asking. It’s like taking the covers off.” – Terry Curtin, vice president and general manager of the Business Alliance Account Organization for Xerox

Today, Terry is a customer relationship survey convert. He’s learned that surveys not only clarify customer perceptions, they change a team’s perspective and improve performance.

At a time when competition has never been so fierce and resources never so tight, these are crucial lessons for any business.

A good customer relationship survey is sent to the decision makers and influencers at your customer’s company. Their responses to a standard set of questions offer unique insights into what they think about your company, why they are willing (or not) to recommend you; and why they may (or may not) choose to repurchase your products or services. Armed with this feedback, you are able to address and resolve specific issues and remove barriers to brand loyalty.

“Implementing a survey gives customers the opportunity to respond to questions the field may not be asking. It’s like taking the covers off,” explains Terry. “The feedback gained is candid and accurate.”

How candid? How accurate?

A high-level contact, whose company signed a three-year sole vendor agreement, perceived Xerox to be “inflexible.” Although he was satisfied enough to sign a multi-year contract, he was not a promoter.

“We were already aware of and working through an issue. But armed with this specific feedback, we were able to address his concerns in such a way that he could once again view us in a very favorable light,” Terry recalls. “The value of the survey really hit home when he subsequently took his restored opinion to another account.”

Now Terry stresses the importance of survey participation, and challenges his team to achieve a survey response rate of over 20 percent. His people understand why this metric is important, why he pushes for it.

“I want us to lead the charge. We are customer-centric,” Terry says. “We place tremendous value on personal contact, and on increasing our survey contacts.”

While his strategic account general managers own the survey process, Terry makes sure to recognize their success in his team updates.

For Terry, admitting that his reservations about customer relationship surveys were wrong means his team is doing right by their customers.  And that’s feedback worth sharing.