Mine Your Diamonds For The Answers

Mirror, mirror on the wall – which incentive plan is the most effective of all?

Granted, it’s not the most scientific method of determining your course of business this year, but in this age of rapidly changing technology, fickle customer loyalty and increasing distributor expectations, more and more companies are needing to pull out all the stops in order to keep expanding in the coming years. So if you don’t happen to have a magic mirror hanging around, where can you turn for the answers?

Let’s look at the options.

Past Performance- Certainly the person who coined the phrase “the best predictor of future performance is past performance” did not live in the age of technology, where change is the norm and predictability is out the window. Executives today need to think “future focus” not pine for the good old days.

Technology – After a decade of trial and error and billions of dollars invested, direct selling companies have emerged sharper, more efficient and realistic, recognizing that technology is a tool for growth, not the end-all answer to our prayers. Your strategic plan for this year must include advancements in the area of technology, but not rely solely upon it.

Consultants – When you find one who brings a combination of practical field experience in your particular market segment (party plan or network marketing), keen business savvy, a track record of success, and the ability to translate trends into solid strategies for growth, consultants can be very valuable. However, the investment of two precious resources, time and capital, demand that the results generated are both measurable and substantial.

So what is the answer, you ask? Well, at the risk of sounding a little like the keynote speaker you paid to grace your stage at Convention… the answer is in your own back yard! The story, “Acres of Diamonds” comes to mind, about the man who traveled the world searching for riches, only to return to his home and learn that the farm he once considered useless, was home to one of the largest diamond mines ever discovered. The diamond mine that houses your gems, the answer to your question of how to grow your business, is right in your own back yard as well – your distributors!

Want the perfect location for your next Convention that will attract record numbers of attendees? Are you searching for just the right incentive that will inspire even the most seasoned distributor? Is your product line in need of a sizzle item that will boost moral and increase sales? Want to know what would inspire more people to book in-home shows or hold more interviews?

The answers to these questions, and the others you’ve pondered can be answered honestly, accurately and cost-effectively through an ongoing, well thought out Customer Survey Program.

WHO Should You Survey?
A campaign that queries all the experts: distributors, customers and hostesses (if applicable) will result in the most comprehensive data. So don’t make the mistake of focusing on only one segment of your very broad market. Surveying all groups on a regular basis will result in a constant stream of feedback, suggestions and ideas, the likes of which would impress even the most experienced industry consultant.

If you want the truth and nothing but the truth… include in your target groups inactive distributors, one-time hostesses and customers you’ve not served in 18 months. If you are willing to get a little knocked around and can separate the real feedback from the mean-spirited feedback, this is where you will discover how you can truly transform your business.

WHAT Should You Ask?
Here in lies the secret to a good customer survey – the questions.

Some traits of an effective survey are:

• Objective – The tone or nature of the questions must not indicate a preferred answer.

• Non-leading – If asking participants to select from a list of answers, the options must represent a wide range of sentiments.

• Concise – Questions must be short and address only one topic.

• Simple – Keep vocabulary simple, saving the big, impressive words for your annual report.

• Brief – The ideal survey can be completed in 5 minutes.

• Anonymous – Allow participants to offer input without concerns of negative repercussions.

For those who do not have the luxury of a department or staff person who is trained in the area of writing and conducting customer surveys, engage the services of an expert who can provide guidance. For those “do it yourself-ers” who have the time to hone their skills, check out these two resources. „Guide to Customer Surveys: Sample Questionnaires and Detailed Guidelines for Creating Effective Surveys“ by Trevor M. Punt and „Talking With Your Customers: What They Will Tell You About Your Business When You Ask the Right Questions“ by Michael J. Wing.

WHERE and WHEN Should You Survey?
A thorough Customer Survey Program collects data not just from a broad range of target groups but also catches these groups at significant “moments of truth.”

For example, survey:

• Customers at the close of the product sales presentation.
• Potential distributors at the close of the opportunity presentation.
• Hostesses after the in-home show when the experience is fresh in their minds.
• Show guests who chose not to place an order.
• Customers when they receive their products.
• On-line guests who visit your business opportunity pages.
• And so on…

What Methods Should You Use?
There are primarily three methods of gathering information via customer surveys. They are paper, web-based and telephone surveys.

For the purposes of this article, in-person surveys are not listed because they do not provide participants‘ anonymity and therefore taint the resulting data.

Paper surveys This is perhaps the most popular survey method because it is user-friendly and enables you to reach a broad audience. For example, provide distributors with postage-paid survey cards that are given to customers once the sale transactions are concluded. Ask that the completed surveys be given to the hostess who drops them in the mail at no charge. To encourage distributor and customer participation, why not offer an incentive, discount or contest in exchange.

Web-based surveys: Although these surveys reach only tech-savvy customers, it is cost effective, convenient, reaches an international audience and the data is easily stored, retrieved and analyzed. If using this method, invest in the necessary technology that encrypts the resulting data in order to protect the privacy of the survey participants.

Telephone surveys: This method is best used with warm markets that have a vested interest in seeing that the survey is conducted. For example, distributors will be more receptive to a telephone survey as it demonstrates a sincere interest on the part of the company. Cold markets such as customers or inactive distributors often view telephone surveys as a violation of privacy, generating more ill-will than good.

Ten Steps To Mining Your Diamonds
Consider these ten steps when planning your Customer Survey Program:

1. Define the survey objectives and budget.

2. Select appropriate survey methods. (Can be one or a combination of the three.)

3. Design survey questions.

4. Conduct the survey.

5. Extensively analyze the results for core threats and opportunities.

6. Identify core discoveries as a result of the survey.

7. Select three core discoveries to focus on in an Executive Summary. (Use graphs, pie charts and bullet points to easily communicate findings.)

8. Establish recommendations and define strategies for implementation.

9. Implement strategies.

10. Continue to survey, assess and monitor progress toward defined objectives. While steering your direct selling company toward new horizons, it is vital that you allot the precious resources of time and money to areas that will pay the biggest dividends.

A Customer Survey Program just might be that project, resulting in greater needs awareness, smarter strategic decisions, wisely allocated capital, more effective promotions and greater customer and distributor satisfaction. Not bad when you consider that a Customer Survey Program may be the least expensive project on the list.