I recently had some car battery trouble, which was taken care of by AAA. They did a good job, and after testing my battery and giving me a jump, the AAA service person gave me his card and told me that I may receive a customer survey. That survey hasn’t come in yet, but it’s a reminder that solar companies in all sectors need to send these out too.

Customer feedback surveys are important marketing maintenance for growing solar businesses and fixing potential disasters, such as a product glitch, bad service, or even better, revealing a great customer service idea.

While these are useful, the challenging part is gathering the data and analyzing it. With large companies with hundreds of solar Surveysemployees and multiple products, a marketing research firm or a dedicated in-house team is definitely the way to go.

However, if you’re a smaller solar company with limited resources, here are some suggestions for gathering data on your own.

Start with Survey Monkey. Survey Monkey (www.surveymonkey.com) is perhaps the best do-it-yourself survey service. The surveys are easy to design, and the online software also helps you to compose objective questions with either multiple-choice questions or a box for more in-depth answers.

Next, send the survey out through social media channels. Once you’ve got your survey composed, the program gives you a unique url that is tied to your survey. Send that link out through all of your social media channels. This is yet another reason for solar companies to be building strong social media communities. It’s not only good for referrals, but with an active community of brand supporters, you can send your surveys out through Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and an e-newsletter, and have a better chance of responses.

Few responses? Another way to go is to offer a gift to entice people, such as a $25 to $50 debit card or Starbucks card. For a solar PV or BOS manufacturer, you might offer a free product or a discount. This is akin to bribery, I know, so one wonders if these gift responders will carefully consider questions or just randomly pick answers in order to get their free goodies. For me, the best responses are voluntary, but this does take more effort and patience.

Timing is important. The best time to get a response is immediately after a customer sale or interaction. I work a lot with GoDaddy.com for my internet needs, and they are on it every time I’m on the phone with them with a question or problem. The rep almost always asks me if he can send a survey, and if I say yes, it will almost immediately arrive after I hang up. As a result, the survey and my experience are fresh in my mind and more accurate.

Solar companies can do the same: Assuming you already have the customer’s email address, politely ask them, “Do you mind if I send you a customer survey?” This is important reinforcement for getting a response. If they say yes, send the survey as soon as possible after the interaction.

Other customer survey tips:

  • Create a customer survey schedule. Just like a marketing calendar, regularly send out a new survey every six months. A lot can change in six months, including products, websites, and services.
  • Segment surveys. It’s so important to know that new customers are satisfied …or not. Design a survey specifically for new customers and make sure they’re as happy and as solid as your long-time brand-loyal customers. Send them out after the first sale. Send loyal customers a survey too, but with questions that may ask about new service changes or newly released products.
  • Keep surveys short and sweet. The longer the survey, the less likely people will respond. Their time is valuable, and they’re doing you a favor. 10 questions max, and try to make them quickie multiple choice/check box choice question, if possible.
  • Test survey with employees. If you’re making up your own survey questions with Survey Monkey or any other service, test your surveys internally before sending out to customers. This is will help reveal any confusing questions or typos.
  • Keep surveys anonymous. If you’re not giving away any prizes, don’t ask for any name or contact info. People are more likely to fill out the information when they know they can respond anonymously and without fearing that their info will be turned over to spammers.
  • Tell customers what you want to do with the information. People may be more willing to fill out your survey if you tell them the purpose of the survey; i.e., to improve customer care, or to improve your solar product, etc.

Speaking of improving service, I’ve just created my own survey for you, dear Solar Fred marketing blog reader. I receive about 15,000 page views a week for my various posts, so I hope I’ve been doing well, but I’m sure I can do better. My goal for this survey is to find out about your needs so that I can write more relevant and useful solar marketing blog posts. So, especially if you’re a solar installer, please take two minutes to fill out this survey. Thanks for your help.

Solar customer service surveys are one more tool … to UnThink Solar.

Tor Valenza a.k.a. “Solar Fred” advises solar companies on marketing, communications, and branding. Contact him through UnThink Solar or follow him on Twitter @SolarFred.