And the Survey Says…

Sharon Koehler

Artistic Stone Design

Example surveyRecently, I took a little bit of time off and went to a beach town in my state. Yes, it was the off-season, but we were having a very warm winter, so I decided to go. The days were sunny and in the 70s. The nights were cool and clear (except for that one hail storm). Anyway, I went horseback riding while I was there. A small group of us were taken on a nice leisurely ride down the beach at sunset. The guides were great. The weather was perfect. My horse and I got along fine. The low tide waves were breaking on my horse’s pasterns as the sun sank lower into the horizon. Bliss. Harmony. Tranquility.

When the ride was over, I petted my horse on the neck and thanked him for a nice time. I told the guides how nice they were, thanked them for a very nice experience, and waved goodbye. What they didn’t know was that I had a secret.

I had made my reservations online the day before. They had called me after I made the reservations and discussed my desired experience with me. They told me about the paperwork they were going to send me and that I needed to fill out and bring to the beach paddock when I arrived. They also let me know that I needed to arrive 30 minutes prior to the ride. They gave me the address that was listed on their website. It was all very thorough and complete.  What could go wrong?

I arrived at the beach block address they had given me at the appointed time and there was NO ONE there! No guides, no horses, no paddock, no nothing. I grabbed my cell phone and called the office and was told that the meeting place had changed overnight and they were seven blocks down the boardwalk.  Now, that doesn’t sound like a lot, but folks, as a 62-year-old, gray-haired grandmother with several joint replacements, seven blocks is monumental, and the clock was ticking. I decided it would take too much time to get back to my car in the parking deck, drive it down six or seven blocks and find another place to park. So, I decided to go on foot. I made it in the nick of time. 

Now I, like most humans, don’t like confrontations, so I didn’t say anything on the beach. It wasn’t their fault. They did what they were told. I intended to call the office the next day and settle it with them. 

But lo, and behold! The next morning I had a performance survey in my inbox. The guides and horses got high marks. The ride and experience got high marks. The office got VERY low marks (they actually called and apologized).

So what’s the big deal? If the company listened strictly to their guides, they never would have known there was a problem. I didn’t want to make a scene on the beach, so how would anyone know? Simply put — they wouldn’t. 

But, the survey took away the possible phone confrontation I was planning to have to have, but wasn’t looking forward to. It made it safe to say what was on my mind without any fear of an angry, awkward confrontation or misunderstanding. Responding to a written survey was perfect, I could speak my piece in peace. 

How many times have your field workers, sales people or superintendents come back from a job and said, “Yeah, everything was great. No problems. We have happy customers,” only to find out later that there was a problem? Not good!

Online surveys are becoming more and more popular. We are noticing more and more of them in our inboxes, from different sources. The thing is, they can be easy to make and rather inexpensive. After looking online for a bit and exploring SO MANY companies online, we finally settled on Survey Monkey.  There are countless companies that offer this service. Survey Monkey is just one of them. We also explored Surveyplanet, Survey Maker, Survey Gizmo and Zoho Survey, just to name a few. 

When we started this process we didn’t exactly know what we were looking for, so there was a learning experience involved. After some trial and error, we think we hit on the right formula… short, sweet and to the point.
Something that would not take much time to answer, so it wasn’t inconvenient, but still got us the answers we wanted in a non-confrontational, free expression kind of way.

The various survey companies out there offer different types of plans. We use Survey Monkey’s free plan. There are limits and restrictions on the free plans, so as you search for a survey provider, know that all free plans are not created equal. Also, the bigger your company, the more surveys you want to send out, and the less likely you are to fit in a free plan. However, even if you need a paid plan, look around; they can be quite reasonable. 

Look for ease of set up. We tried to create a survey with one company, and they made it so complicated that we finally gave up.  We wanted a star rating on our survey, and not every company offers that. We also wanted a space for comments, so the customers could express themselves, good or bad, about our service. Not every company offers that, either. 

We wanted to be notified when someone sent back the completed survey and we wanted a one-time reminder to the customer if they neglected to fill it out. We know that not every customer will fill one out, but we have had a 75 percent completion rate  – which is way above average. We read every survey and discuss the results. That is the point of this whole thing, after all. 

Our survey ended up looking like the sample below. Since we use the free program, it looks pretty basic. The paid programs offer more frills like logos and pictures but this gets the job done. 

We rolled this program out small, using it just in our Repair Division so we could work out any kinks, quirks or snafus, and it’s been successful. We have a much better understanding of what our customers want and how they feel.

Try it. You might be surprised. The question here is - How well do you know your company? 

Please send your thoughts on this article to Sharon Koehler at