Customer and employee surveys
Surveys, interviews, and other assessments are used for many reasons:
- To find and act on the issues which lead to innovation, employee or customer turnover, or other key outcomes.
- To motivate and guide change efforts and identify the most promising opportunities for improvement.
- To record a baseline from which progress can be measured.
- To create a consensus on priorities or issues to be dealt with.
- To provide a two-way communication with employees or customers.
(For more general information on surveys, focus groups, and interviews, see the links in the left-hand column.)
The survey process
The following diagram takes the survey process through each of the usual stages. Not every survey looks like this, but most do.
This is the point where the organization decides they actually need a survey.
Honing what the survey will cover, its goals, and the overall process; deciding whether to do a survey, interviews, focus groups, or to use other methods; and similar decisions.
Often, surveys are designed only after interviews with key individuals and focus groups. This step is not necessarily mandatory, but can be helpful.
This is where the survey is actually written, in a cooperative design process. Depending on the project, this could involve simply modifying an existing set of standard questions to fit the organization, and adding some to cover unique ground; or it could entail starting from scratch to cover unique topics. The design process can be led by the consultant, the client, or the "end users." Some clients, on a tight budget, lead the design process, but call in a survey expert to review the final product and make recommendations for changes. (Click here for more information on our survey development and review.)
Creating and analyzing surveys and interviews requires extensive training and experience. Unless special care is taken, the results may be ambiguous, biased, or simply not useful. In addition, when you collect information, you set up an expectation that it will be used, and that people will be able to see the findings. If you ask questions the wrong way, you may either send the wrong message to the respondents, or strongly influence the findings. Be careful!
Over the years, we have learned a great deal about surveys and interviews, and how to make them work while avoiding the pitfalls of bias, low response rates, invalidity, and plain unusability.
The survey should be reviewed not only by the consultant and client (and possibly a "backroom" expert), but also by a group representing the respondents. This latter phase may be called pilot testing, but it is essentially part of the review process.
The actual administration of the survey may be done in a variety of ways - inbound and outbound telephone, Web, e-mail, paper sent to individuals, paper given to groups - but someone has to handle the details, from printing (or programming) to data entry. Toolpack will be happy to take care of most of this process for you - or you can do it yourself. We do recommend having an outsider handle any individual surveys to assure privacy. (Click here for more details on our administration and reporting.)
Surveys can be conducted by phone, by mail, in person, or over the Internet. The methods are determined by the conditions and the goals of the survey.
Thanks to their incredible speed, Internet surveys can help us to answer specific questions before making important decisions, in as little as two weeks...at lower cost than a paper survey. This means that we can ask customers and employees for their views and perspectives on a wider range of issues, and use their input to focus change and avoid unwise decisions or initiatives.
There are two types of analysis: statistical and qualitative. Statistical analysis finds clusters of information, and looks for differences that cannot be easily dismissed as chance occurences. Qualitative analysis, which generally must be done by a human, looks for patterns and meaning in the data - what we call turning data into information.
Communicating the results.
The analyses and data must be converted to information and given to people in a way which inspires action. This is one of the trickiest parts of the survey business.
If the results are communicated well and there is a strong survey and action planning process, a relatively brief meeting can include feedback of the findings, prioritization of potential actions, and "signing up" (publicly taking responsibility) to carry out those actions. A meeting which ends up with people knowing what to do, but not knowing who will do it and not taking responsibility for action, is a failure.
Measuring the outcomes.
One way to assure action is to measure it - to either run a small sample survey later, or to find other ways to discover if action has been taken.
Communication to the organization as a whole.
The survey results and analysis must be distilled into a format which can be spread throughout the organization, cascading down like water from a mountain range. For best results, each group should prioritize its own actions and go through the responsibility-taking process. We can help you to set up this chain of events in your organization.
Use Toolpack Consulting's extensive survey experience to make your employee survey a serious productivity, retention, and strategy implementation tool.
We can help to make your survey actionable, whether it is tactical (focused on a particular, timely issue) or strategic (broader but linked to organizational goals). By actionable, we mean that people can and will take action based on the survey results.
Part of making a survey actionable is assuring that people at every level of the organization can understand and use the results. To help make this possible, we use clean, easy to read reports that are customized for every level of the organization, and provide feedback/action planning guides with each report. This makes it more likely that the data will be put to work, not put on a shelf.
Because major organizational change projects often fail due to lack of employee support or follow-through, we have developed two action-oriented, targeted surveys to support change:
Toolpack Consulting can work with you to develop a paper, Internet, or interview-based survey, gather the information you need, and, optionally, link it with your internal measures (employee and operations).
Our customer research consultants have decades of experience in customer surveys and interviews, including interviews, phone surveys, and paper and Internet surveys. They know what usually works - and they know what doesn't. Toolpack can provide information in highly readable form, at a cost which makes gathering customer data pay for itself.
We will work with you on the most important phase - actually putting the information to work within your organization. We are not in the business of creating "shelf fodder." We want to make your organization more effective.
Rather than viewing survey data in a vacuum, we can link employee results to customer information so the internal issues with the highest impact on customer retention can be isolated and improved. Likewise, we can link employee or customer survey information with other key outcomes - even if we did not help you with the survey.
White papers and products
- Using surveys as a change tool: how to get the most out of your employee survey, at all levels of the organization. Focuses on feedback and action planning.
- Electronic surveys. They offer new opportunities, but there are also risks. This article shows how to avoid some major issues, and how to use electronic surveys to improve change efforts and help solve tactical and strategic issues.
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