April 2010
Copywriting Curiosities
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13 Questions You Can Ask Your Customers
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Dear Robyn,

As I was sitting at the vet's the other day with my sick cat, I was thinking, "Gee, I wish I could ask Dorian Gray what's wrong, have him tell me, and then we could work towards fixing it. If only I could speak his language."

And then it struck me (yes, right there amidst the barking dogs and paw print wallpaper) that we have the ability to ask our customers what's wrong, but most of the time we don't.

We're so busy trying to increase traffic to our websites and convert leads into sales that we often overlook the customers who are right in front of us. And we've all heard the statistic that it costs less to keep a current customer than it does to go out and get a new one.

So I thought I'd brainstorm a bunch of questions you should consider asking your customers. You don't need to ask these questions all at once. Choose the ones that make sense for your customer, for your business, for the situation you find yourself in right now, and ask. And listen. Really listen. The response won't be in kitty-ease, which means you can respond and act on whatever the customer has to say.

Enjoy the issue, and hit me back with your comments.

Robyn (The Copy Bitch)
13 Questions You Can Ask Your Customers 

Why do this? Simple. I guarantee that the way your customers view you and your company is different from the way you and your employees view your company. By asking questions, you'll learn a lot: what resonates most with customers, what confuses them, what works, what doesn't, where you can improve.

One caveat: avoid knee-jerk reactions to their responses. Just because one person is confused by your shopping cart or service page doesn't mean everyone is. Look for themes. If you start getting the same comments about your shopping cart or service page, that's the time to start thinking about your next steps.

At some point, I recommend conducting more formal client perception interviews. This would involve hiring a third party, like a marketing firm, to conduct these interviews for you since the questions are more involved. Need an idea on who to use? I recommend the folks at Precision Marketing Group. I've seen the results of some of their client perception interviews and they mine a ton of useful data (full disclosure: I do a lot of work for PMG, but they did not ask me to make this endorsement).

But let's get to the questions you can ask on your own:
  1. What did you like best about our last (insert service or product)?
  2. What did you like least about our last (insert service or product)?
  3. Would you be willing to give a testimonial about my company?
  4. Who is the person at my company that you like working with the most?
  5. Who is the person at my company that you like working with the least?
  6. When you think about my company's website, what are the first 2-3 things that pop into your mind?
  7. When you think about my company, what are the first 2-3 words that come into your mind?
  8. If you had to describe what my company does, what would you say?
  9. What do you think my company's top three products/services are?
  10. Would you be willing to be a reference?
  11. Tell me one area where you think my company could improve.
  12. If there's one thing you wouldn't want my company to change, what would it be?
  13. Do you like working with us? Be honest. (It's a tough question to ask, but trust me on this: if you just ask it, you'll be able to "hear" their true answer in how they respond (e.g. pauses, hesitation, fumbling for words), even if they choose to be polite.)
Give it a try. Choose a couple of the questions above (or come up with some of your own) and start asking every customer you come in contact with over the month of May. Let me know how it goes. I'd be happy to discuss the results of your informal data collection (free of charge!) and let you know some next steps to consider with your marketing.
Happy almost May. See you in a month.
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