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Six Ways to Create an Effective Customer Survey

Six ways to create an effective customer survey

Facility operators already know it can be more difficult to retain members than recruit them. But the payoff potential is huge. Maintaining an extra 5 percent of members could improve the bottom line at a recreation center or health club by as much as 95 percent, according to Leslie Nolen, chief executive officer of The Radial Group, a Dallas-based consulting firm serving the wellness industry.

One way to determine if members are happy (or unhappy) is simply to ask them. Here are Nolen's tips for creating an effective customer survey.

1. Determine your survey's goal. Useful surveys are effective because they accomplish a specific goal. Do you want to find out about members' experiences with your personal training staff, or are you more interested in whether families enjoy your children's programming and child-care options? To find the right questions, ask yourself this one: Would you know what course of action to take based on either a favorable or unfavorable survey response?

2. Decide what factors to measure. Only ask questions about topics over which you have control, such as facility hours, membership policies, programming variety, pricing, staff, and parking and building accommodations.

3. Be smart. Survey specific membership groups, such as those individuals who had a billing adjustment during the past six months, new members who joined specifically for the summer or people who participated in a new program or service. Limit your survey to no more than 10 questions to avoid high abandonment rates. Keep your questions objective, and don't ask demographic questions ("What is your household income?") unless you plan to actually use that data. Also, avoid unfamiliar jargon, confusing either/or questions and general questions like "Do you think this facility is a good choice?" "Good" is a subjective term that means different things to different people.

4. Choose a scoring method. Most respondents will be familiar with the Likert scale, which asks them to specify their level of agreement to each survey statement or question using a numerical ranking. The lowest number means "unsatisfactory" or "strongly disagree," while the highest number means "excellent" or "strongly agree." It's also a good idea to include "not applicable" as a response option.

5. Decide how to administer your survey. The days of paper-and-pencil surveys are numbered; they require manual compilation and analysis of results, which Nolen says employees at many smaller facilities simply don't have time to do. She prefers web-based survey tools (such as SurveyMonkey or Zoomerang), which automatically compile and analyze results. Direct members to web-based surveys by e-mailing them a link, including a link on your facility's web site or allowing them to use a public computer set up near the registration desk.

6. Provide incentives. Let customers know early and often that you'd like them to participate in a survey. For example, if you want feedback on a specific class, announce the survey when people register and again at each session. To ensure their participation, offer to share with them the survey results and provide a small gift in exchange for completing the survey. An extra class session, a complimentary item from the juice bar or an invitation to a special program should do the trick.

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