A Distributor Asks: I’m considering sending out a customer satisfaction survey to get some metrics for my business, to make sure I know about any issues or problems clients have experienced, and to gather positive feedback for testimonials on my website. For those distributors who do these types of surveys, what kinds of questions do you ask and what service do you use for the survey?

First, don’t combine your request  for testimonials with a survey. Testimonials are typically used to market your company. They are obviously valuable; however, they won’t directly benefit your customers. For the most part, the purpose of a survey is to help you determine how you can improve your customers’ experience with your company.

The most effective surveys I have taken are also great brand builders. They are brief and only include questions that are intended to help you do a better job serving your customers. The time required to take the survey is typically included in the request. Remember, you are asking them for something you can’t give back—their time.  

If possible, craft and distribute your own survey. Cookie-cutter versions tend to be overly general, and they won’t reflect your company’s culture.
Brand Architect
PPAI 105182


I have written articles for other industry publications regarding doing surveys and getting benefit from them. The reality is that most surveys (not only in our industry) invite respondents to critique current situations. The results are generally critical. If surveys are forward-looking and give deference to the respondent, you get a positive result and the survey becomes a PR exercise for your business.

For example, rather than saying, “List three things you like and the three things you dislike about working with us,” ask “What three products or services would you like us to provide in the near future?” Notice this question does not ask, “How can we improve?” which suggests that something is sub par now.

Other questions that can help grow a business include: How far in advance of events (or use) do you discuss promotional advertising needs with us? When you contact us, do you ask for a specific person you like to work with? The goal, in addition to getting some useful information, is to make your customer feel important and not to introduce any negative reasons to complain. 
Vice President & Chief Marketing Officer Kaeser & Blair, Inc.
PPAI 103148


One of our customers, Ed McMasters, who is the director of marketing and communications at [distributor] Flottman Company, Inc., passed along this question to me. We’ve worked with Ed and Flottman for years and have helped them with the exact problem you describe. Based on our experiences, we recommend asking a few
(two or three) focused questions directed to sets of customers periodically.

The questions usually relate to satisfaction levels with your product quality and customer service levels. We also always suggest asking the question, “How likely are you to recommend us to a friend or colleague?” From this question you can calculate your Net Promoter Score, which is a single metric quantifying your company’s customer satisfaction level. One of the great things about NPS is many other companies and industries use this same measurement, meaning you can benchmark your company’s satisfaction level to others.

My company delivers a service call, CustomerPulse, that regularly surveys customers to gather feedback, testimonials for your website, and automatically encourages happy customers to post reviews on Google and other social sites. It also helps identify new business from loyal customers.

The key is keeping your questions brief (to increase your response rates), and to regularly (e.g. monthly) send surveys to sets of your customers so that you can see the trends in your business. Avoid falling into the trap of doing an annual survey of customer satisfaction. Most businesses have ongoing relationships with their customers and hence you should be monitoring satisfaction levels periodically so that you can put corrective action plans in place quickly. 
SurveyAdvantage LLC


I have done surveys in the past; some short three-question ones when we’re making a shift or launching a new initiative and others more in-depth. It’s always the same people who answer, and few of the customers who drive our business include themselves in those polls. If you are going to survey, ask questions that relate to the problems you solve. That way you’re identifying both the problems and who has them. Assuming the 80/20 rule applies in your business, perhaps you can book coffee dates with that 20 percent and ask the problem-solving questions in person. The discussions will be invaluable with those really driving your business.
Strategist, Speaker, Author, Mom
JAE Associates
PPAI 561178


Do You Have An Answer?
A Distributor Asks:
I’m new to the promotional products industry and am looking for ways to bring awareness about my new business to my local community. I have a connection with many local businesses in my area because of my former profession. How do I best make these contacts aware of my new business? Do I call them? If so, what is the best pitch? Do I put together a nice presentation folder with an introductory letter and a flyer showing some of the products and suggestions of how and when they should use the products? What steps have worked successfully for others?

What’s Your Answer? Email answers along with your name, title and company name by August 24 to Question@ppai.org for possible inclusion in an upcoming issue of PPB magazine.