First Person: How to Design a Customer Feedback Form

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As a small business consultant on the road for 43 months, I frequently consulted with restaurant clients around the US and Canada. I created a critique form as an example of how to design a feedback form to get customer input for my clients. These concepts apply to any small business.

Regardless of how simple or how detailed the form is that you want to use, you will want a combination of numeric ratings and space for comments and opinions. Today most customer surveys offer space for opinions. It is frustrating to have no space to explain an answer or make a recommendation.

Example of Restaurant Evaluation Categories

My form for customers to rate a restaurant covered the following for each item on the menu:

- Appearance of the food

- Flavor

- Temperature

- Service

- Price/Value

Today I would use a scale of 1 to 5 for the numerical part. I included space for comments to give depth to why I scored the dishes and service as I did.

As a restaurant examiner for Examiner.com, I rate a restaurant on three main areas in my reviews: atmosphere/appearance/comfort of the restaurant itself, the food, and the service.

While you can always hire an MBA or consulting company to design a detailed and professional customer feedback form, you can start by designing your own feedback form to get closer to your customers.

What Is the Purpose of Your Survey?

- Build a community and customer loyalty by getting customers engaged

- Obtain quality control information

- Do market research for new products and services

- Test customer satisfaction with new items, new products, new services

What Do You Want to Learn from Your Customers?

- Why did your customers come in or buy? (coupon, ad, recommendation, review, walked past, positive previous experience)

- What did they buy?

- How was the service they received?

- How was the value they received for the price?

- What would they most like to see in the way of new products or services?

- Did they have a problem? If so was it resolved?

- For business-to-business products and services, you might also ask if they have a problems they want help with - if so, be sure to get their contact information so you can get back to them.

How Much Detail Do You Want?

With customers, you are asking for their time so be considerate of that fact. Many customers will voluntarily answer really short questionnaires. For more detail, include a discount for an incentive to complete. For the greatest detail, use mystery shoppers.

How Do You Want To Conduct The Survey?

You have a range of survey options:

- Simple postcard customer feedback form

- Simple survey form on your website

- An email form to customers who have registered with you

- Automated phone line

- Physically call them and ask

What Compensation, If Any, Do The Participants Get?

For very simple forms, many customers will gladly fill it out while in your business or mail it back. However, for a lengthy survey, you need some kind of incentive to encourage participation.

Incentives to Encourage Response

- A simple thank you note or email

- Paid mystery shopper

- Drawing for cash reward (Jack-in-the-Box)

- Discount on next purchase (Panda Express, Starbucks)

For any small business wanting to develop a long term relationship with loyal customers, a customer feedback form is a powerful tool for understanding your customer's degree of satisfaction. While you can hire consultants or market research firms, you can get started easily by using the tips above to design your own survey. However you do it, be sure to ask.

*Note: This was written by a Yahoo! contributor. Do you have a story that you'd like to share? Sign up with the Yahoo! Contributor Network to start publishing your own finance articles.

More from this contributor :

First Person: The Value of Customer Satisfaction Interviews

First Person: Using Metrics and Your Ideal Customer Profile to Increase Sales

To Get Sales, Focus on Problems Customers Know They Have

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