How To Find Out What Your Customers Are Really Thinking

Michael Stevens

Have you ever found yourself in a room full of people and thought, “I wonder what everyone here thinks of me? Do they think I’m funny? Do they like how I dress? Am I annoying them? Could I be doing more to get to know these people? Am I a perfect 10? Should I be talking to others instead of asking myself questions right now?”

elaine dancing seinfeld

“Am I a good dancer?”

I think it’s safe to assume that everyone has these thoughts, and probably fairly often! No matter your self-confidence, chances are you crave the opinions and hopeful acceptance of others. I’m not making this up, Maslow even put it right in the middle of his Hierarchy of Needs (love/belonging).

In a business setting, these opinions can be extremely beneficial, or extremely detrimental. Say you go to a store and have a really great experience: you’re greeted with a smile, they offer you products, they find you what you need, heck, they even give you a discount. Chances are, you’ve just formed a favourable impression and are likely to share this with peers, whether it be in conversation or online. However, what if that experience had gone the opposite? No one greets you, you can’t find what you need, and you’re overcharged. It’s likely that this negative experience will be broadcast as well, often times on a larger scale. You’ll want to make sure NO ONE goes to that store.

Realistically, most opinions we have of a business and their product or service will lie somewhere in between these extremes. There will be things we like and other things that we don’t. As providers of a product or service, it’s important to understand the opinions of our customers. By knowing the level of customer satisfaction, we’re able to adjust in order to better suit our customers’ needs, leading to better relationships and ultimately more sales.

Okay, so you get that opinions are important; that the level of satisfaction of a customer can make or break your business. Perfect. But how are you going to gather this information? Good question!

In a face to face conversation, asking a customer directly “Hey, what do you think of my product?” can be a bit awkward. They’re likely going to be polite in their response and not completely honest with you about any shortcomings. However, there are great methods online of gathering this valuable customer satisfaction data.


You can start by sending an email. With an email, while still extremely personal, it gives the customer a chance to think before they respond; they’re not put on the spot. Through an email, you can also personalize your wording and questions per customer. You know your customer better than most, so you can word your questions in a way that speaks to their level of knowledge on your product or service.

email marketing

For example, if you have a new customer that you do not yet have a history with, you can word an email in such a way that welcomes them, thanks them for their patronage, and simply asks “Throughout your experience working with us thus far, what has stuck out for you? Whether it be a pro or a con, we’d love to be able to know how to serve you best as we continue this relationship.” A question like that is straight to the point, shows you care, and gathers the necessary information.

If a customer has a bit more technical experience and has been around for a year, for example, you could word things a bit differently. You can personalize the email to speak to their experience, such as “Over the past few months, we’ve adjusted your budget to really target the back to school market. During this process, do you feel that your needs were being met through the new campaign?” This way, you’re singling in on an experience and having the customer speak to that, so you can learn for the future.

Online Surveys

Still feel like an email might be a bit too personal to ask such questions and lead to skewed answers from polite customers? An alternative is sending an online survey. Surveys are typically much more general and would go out to a wider audience, while still getting extremely valuable information back. In fact, with an online survey, you’ll have answers to the same questions on a much larger scale.

online survey

Within an online survey, there are a number of questions you could ask. In general, you’re looking to gauge customer satisfaction. For most questions, you can give set answers the respondent can choose from. For example, you can have them rank on a scale from 1-10, or select their response from pre-set choices (such as a satisfaction range from extremely dissatisfied to extremely satisfied). With questions like these, you’ll be able to gather quantitative results that you can compare across all surveys. You may also wish to include some open ended questions to gain deeper insight. A question within a survey like, “Describe a time where you thought your customer service experience could have improved upon with us” would lead to a very valuable, qualitative user experience story, similar to what you would find in an email response.

Some questions to consider:

  • On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your overall customer satisfaction with our company?
  • How satisfied are you with the attention you’ve received from your Account Manage?
  • How satisfied are you with the quality of the product/service you’re receiving?
  • What is an area that you would like to see some improvement on moving forward?
  • For other questions, you’re really open with what you can ask. Don’t probe for specific answers, and keep things fairly general. Ask questions that will allow you to learn moving forward.

Setting up an online survey is really easy. With your questions prepared, there are numerous services online that offer simple options for creating and sending out your survey. Some include Survey Monkey and Qualaroo. These both have easy user interfaces that guide your through the setup process. Once prepared, you can simply send out the survey to the desired customers.

Using The Data

Now that your survey is out, you’ll want to find ways of utilizing the response data collected. Online survey websites will gather the information for you and present the data in different ways. Depending on what the data shows, there will be numerous areas that you can act upon. Notice that customers feel like your products don’t vary enough? You may want to put some extra money on product research and development. Does the data show that there’s a disconnect between sales associates and customers? Perhaps additional sales training is necessary. Regardless of the data, the most important use from it is in improving your customer satisfaction.

Whether you’re asking in person, through email, with an online survey, or some sort of combination, gathering the opinions of customers and their level of satisfaction is more important than ever. Today, it’s so easy for someone to go online and leave a review for the world to see. As a business it’s important to actively make sure that customers are having favourable experiences.  By gathering the opinion data and acting upon it, you’ll be on track to making sure customers stay with you for years to come and refer you to their peers. Please feel free to reach out and let me know how satisfied you are with the information I’ve just provided. (See what I did there?)

But, seriously: if you want to know more about what you can do to get more customers (and keep them happy), let’s talk.

Michael Stevens

Michael, in addition to being an Account Coordinator at Spark, was the recipient of the Grade 8 Geography award and is a frequent eater of poutine.

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