If you, director/commercial manager, take the questions yourself, you generally have good conversations and can quickly vary your questions. You pick up a mountain of information and, if lucky, some hooks to make more sales. It is good to do this on a regular basis.
Yet there is a drawback to this method of interviewing. The answers you get are inconsistent and difficult to incorporate into a plan to improve your company’s performance. That has something to do with the relationship you have with the customer and the need to be nice to each other.
The professional interviewer
If you want validated outcomes, it is better to outsource the interviewing to an outside party. Who, after your briefing, has enough knowledge to have a good conversation and does not deviate from the line of questioning. The nice thing about this method is that the interviewer not only follows the questions, but can deepen them qualitatively. This provides a wealth of information.
A good interviewer speaks at the same level as the contact person. By speaking to someone equally, you get better quality outcomes.
Example: I have been employed by two large companies in the same industry (fortunately not as a market researcher). There they did regular customer satisfaction surveys. At both companies, the outcome of that survey was, “Good company, nice people, wide range and a little expensive.”
In retrospect, I know that is because too few in-depth questions were asked.
The online survey
This is the cheapest way to measure customer satisfaction. It can also be the most quantitative. You approach a large group of people and although the response rate is usually disappointing, you can get a nice insight into the needs of the people who fill out the survey. Therein lies the immediate problem: You know nothing about the people who don’t fill it out, so you also don’t know what valuable info is in that group.
Online surveys are poorly completed. Close your eyes for a moment and try to remember the last time you took an online survey yourself. And, if you already have, how long (or how short) you thought about the right answer.
An online survey requires preparation time. Not only do you need to know what information you want to retrieve and how to ask for it, but you also need to think carefully about how you entice the participant to fill it out. If you can offer a direct benefit, people are more willing to cooperate. This can be something as simple as a gift, a discount or a voucher. I also see creative variations, such as tickets to a soccer game, theater performance or an event.
Equal eyes compel
The same goes for customer satisfaction. Because your people have a relationship with the customer, they will hold back and not always give all the feedback you are looking for. After all, we all feel the need to be nice to each other. We see the quality of responses increase when the interviewer does not know the interviewee personally, but does conduct the conversation at the appropriate level.