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5 Ways to Improve Your MSP Service Level Agreement (SLA)

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5 Ways to Improve Your MSP Service Level Agreements (SLAs)

SLAs are the foundation of your MSP business. They are essential to building strong client relationships and must be clear, reasonable and well-constructed.

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What's the Best Way to Reduce Client Churn? Survey Says...

Posted June 12, 2014by Dee Zepf

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Customer satisfaction is the number one way to ensure your continued success as a managed IT services provider (MSP) – and a customer satisfaction survey is one of the best ways to see how you’re performing. The data from a customer survey offers extremely valuable feedback, which you can funnel back in to your business to improve your service offering. However, writing an effective survey that people will actually fill out can be a real challenge. Here are a few tips for getting started.

Why Surveys Matter

Surveys are important not just for MSPs, but for their clients as well. When customers fill out a survey, they understand that their opinion matters to you and their comments are valued. At the same time, their answers help you improve your services, because you’ll receive objective metrics that help you better tailor your offerings.

As an example, if you were considering the benefits of outsourcing your help desk, you’d want to ask potential help desk providers a few questions first to establish their expertise and get a better idea of the big picture:

Just getting answers to these three questions give a good indication of your provider’s level of efficiency and effectiveness, both of which are related to your clients’ satisfaction.

 

Tips for Writing Your Own Surveys

Before writing your own survey questions, keep in mind that your metrics need to reflect both quality and quantity. An important metric you should be able to calculate from your survey is Net Promoter Score (NPS). This tells you how likely a client is to recommend your services to a colleague or friend, and how loyal your clients are to your services.

Keep in mind, this is a very difficult scale to rank well on! Ultimately, this tracks how likely people are to actively promote you to their peers (hence, the name).

To calculate NPS, ask your clients how likely they are to recommend your services to a friend, and give them a scale of 0 to 10 (0 being not likely at all, and 10 being extremely likely). Then, you break your responses into 3 categories:

  • Promoters – those who gave you 9 or 10.
  • Passives – scored you at 7-8.
  • Detractors – scored you 0-6.

To calculate your score:

NPS = [% of Promoters] – [% of Detractors]

Clearly, it’s very hard to score well on this scale, given that you need a higher percentage of 9’s and 10’s than 0-6. However, if you can score positively, it shows that you have a loyal customer base that will help promote and grow your business.

For more info on NPS and what it means, click here.

NPS isn’t the end-all, be-all of metrics. While it is useful, there are a number of other important metrics you can learn from a customer survey. Start by mapping out exactly what you want to learn, and ask appropriate questions to find those answers.

  • Are your clients happy with your service offering?
  • How do they feel about a specific service?
  • How do they feel about your prices? Do they think they’re fair?
  • What do they think of their account rep or service technician? Do they think they’re a capable employee?
  • What areas of your business can you improve? Where are you falling short?

These can all be answered using qualitative or quantitative metrics (or both). Ask your clients to rate your services on a scale, or describe how they feel.

 

Other Question Considerations

Here are some other considerations you should keep in mind when designing surveys to ensure that you get the most out of them:

  • Keep survey length in mind. I’m sure there’s A TON you want to know from your clients, but remember that the longer the survey is, the less likely someone is to fill it out. Make sure you only ask the most important questions and be efficient in how you ask them.

If your survey drags on, your client is likely to just stopping taking it.Remember, there’s always the option of a follow-up survey to flesh out details further if needed.

  • Save demographic questions for the end. On the note of keeping surveys shorter, it’s best to keep demographic information at the end. These are easy questions for the participant to answer and they can quickly knock these out at the end of the survey. If you start the survey with demographic questions, you’re using up their already short “survey-attention-span”, and may cause users to drop-off before answering any real questions.
  • Include an “I don’t know” or write-in response area for multiple choice questions. This allows for a greater level of individuality and customization in customers’ answers. Remember not all answers will apply to all clients, and your survey needs to allow for those variances.
  • Only ask for one answer per question. This avoids confusion and promotes greater focus on the issue at hand. Otherwise, answers may end up compromised or muddled as participants try to find a more neutral answer that addresses both parts of a question.

For example, don’t ask “Are you happy with our services and did the technician solve your problem?” What if the person is satisfied, but didn’t get a specific problem solved? It’s difficult for them to answer and may skew your data.

  • Minimize high-maintenance questions. While some flexibility is good, asking for a high level of involvement by including too many questions that require a written response (rather than multiple choice answers) leads to higher rates of abandonment. It’s usually easier to answer 5 multiple choice questions than 1 open-ended question.

Only ask an open-ended question if you’re intentionally looking for qualitative feedback. And again, don’t ask too many of these.

  • Avoid leading questions. A survey that asks things like, “On a scale of 1-10, how awesome are our services?” isn’t really going to deliver the unbiased data you need to improve your customer satisfaction. In order to be fair, you need to be neutral.
  • Avoid hypotheticals. Try not to stray into “what if” scenarios. Instead, ask questions about the realities of your services and your existing offerings. The point of the survey is to improve the current state of affairs, not wander off into unexplored territory.
  • Stay on topic. Your customers are doing you a favor by taking this survey. The least you can do is show you respect their time by wording questions succinctly and keeping on task.

If you’re asking them about their favorite Game of Thrones character, you’ve probably gone too far off course.

  • Remember to ask how. While “yes” and “no” questions have their uses, don’t forget to include a few “hows” and “whys” in there. How can we make things better? Why do you feel this way? Again, keep these less frequent for the sake of efficiency, but do include opportunities for clients to be more expressive about ideas that could make your offerings better.
  • Include space and visual considerations. Sometimes, the look of a survey can make the all difference in whether a potential participant takes it or just leaves. If you cram too much text together or make the survey look overwhelming, the user just won’t even bother taking the time. Make sure there’s lots of white space and answers are clear and short. This makes the survey seem more manageable.

It’s better to have 20 questions take up 4 pages, than to put 20 questions on 1 page.

  • Frequency. Don’t send out surveys to your clients every week. Think about doing them on a quarterly or semi-annual basis.

If you get stuck, SurveyMonkey offers this terrific list of great (and not so great) customer service questions to consider including.

 

Conclusion

As a MSP, you’re in the business of product services. In order to measure how you’re doing, you need to conduct customer surveys.  Surveys help you evolve as a business and a provider, leading to higher satisfaction rates that in turn allow for more profitable growth. I you’re not already incorporating surveys into your customer relations, there’s never a better time to start than right now.

Dee Zepf joined Continuum Managed IT Services as a founding member of the executive team in 2011, bringing over 20 years of software and product management experience. As Vice President of Partner Success, she provides a broad organizational focus on partner satisfaction, engagement, growth and retention. She is responsible for ensuring that Continuum partners get the absolute most out of the company’s platform.

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