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We're all familiar with customer satisfaction surveys. "Did we meet your needs? What is your perception of our service? Rate us 1 to 5"...blah blah blah.

Surveys like this can provide helpful information about what customers think, but they're usually too general to be very effective.

Continual improvement of products and services can be an effective approach to maintaining existing customers and winning new ones, especially if your goal is to create strong word of mouth. Strong word of mouth tends to create customer evangelists, those passionate advocates who tell others about your products and services.

To truly understand what your current evangelists think about you, say about you, and do about you, you must dig deeper than the typical satisfaction survey.

To understand what lives in the minds of your customers, you should seek out the following:

  • What do current customers say that they LOVE about you?
  • What specifically do they say you should improve?
  • When was the last time you disappointed them?
  • What do they value the most about your company?
  • Which specific customers recommend you the most?
  • What do they say specifically--in their own words--when they recommend you to others?

Our term for seeking the answers to these questions is "Customer Plus-Delta:" The plus signifies what's working well; the delta is all about specific improvement.

Here are six ways to gather this valuable customer knowledge that goes directly to the heart of creating customer evangelists:

1. Take At Least One Customer To Breakfast Or Lunch Every Week
Ask them as many questions as you can think of. Let them do all the talking. Sounds easy enough, right? Funny how fast our schedules fill up with internal meetings. Your customers are more important than anything else that could possibly be going on inside your company.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba are the authors of Creating Customer Evangelists: How Loyal Customers Become a Volunteer Sales Force.