Using Surveys to Improve Your Property Management Business
Have you ever played a game of 20 Questions? Player One thinks of an object. Player Two is allowed to ask up to 20 questions that reveal attributes of the object in Player One’s mind. Player Two, based on the answers to those questions, must guess the object correctly to win.
Creating and administering a survey is kind of like playing a strategic game of 20 Questions. It is a process of asking questions that lead to understanding the thoughts of another, usually a prospect, a client, or an employee.
A survey, in and of itself, is not a marketing tool. It is a research tool. Surveys measure characteristics, perspectives, inclinations, and behavior trends. However, when done right, a survey can generate insights that help you improve your services, internal processes, communication, and brand image.
Surveys used to be costly to administer and interpret, but with current technology the surveying process has become faster, easier, and more accessible to all kinds of businesses, including property management. Here are some tips that will help you develop a more effective survey.
Establish the Why
A survey is only effective if the results are used to positively impact your property management business. Before you start writing a survey, identify a single focus. What do you really want to find out? Then determine how you will use the responses to implement change or improvement. Are you willing to listen to honest feedback and invest time & money into necessary changes? Making a commitment up front will keep the survey from becoming a useless exercise.
Here are some potential survey goals:
- Identify or Solve a Problem
For example, you may notice a growing trend among your clientele. Instead of making assumptions, you can use a survey to gain insight into the reason this trend is occurring then make changes that prevent negative trends or enhance positive ones. Identifying & solving problems is important to maintaining a high level of client satisfaction and earning their referrals.
It can be costly to launch a new service or solution. There is time (and sometimes money) involved in creating, marketing, and administering it. And failure of a new offering may impact your business reputation. A survey can minimize risk and ensure you are on the right track BEFORE you invest. It can unearth new ideas, identify real needs, and surface revenue opportunities you might otherwise miss.
- Collect Client Data
Surveys are also used to collect information about clientele that provides business intelligence. In a previous article, I talked about the value of identifying your perfect client in creating a lifecycle marketing strategy. Data about existing clients will help you focus more effectively. This kind of data can be used to segment clients and send more targeted marketing communication (e.g. information about potential investment properties to those looking to expand their portfolio).
- Educate & Engage
Content marketing (blog posts, newsletter articles, e-books, whitepapers, etc.) relies heavily on providing valuable, relevant information / education. A survey can be used to identify topics of interest or areas where existing clients can benefit from your wealth of knowledge. It can also initiate a two-way conversation about a specific topic.
Choose the Who
Select an appropriate group to survey. Your response rates will be better if you narrow down the survey group. Choose the people who are most impacted by the focus. For instance, to improve your new client onboarding process, only survey the clients who experienced it within the last year (and the ones who complete it going forward). The survey will make sense to those clients and their memory of the experience will be more accurate.
You don’t necessarily need to survey a large group of people to get useful responses, but you need do need a good percentage of responses from the right group of people.
Pick the When
Timing is everything. Good marketing means sending the right message to the right people at the right time. Although surveys are not a marketing tool (remember, they are a research tool), this same principle applies.
- Choose a good time of year – Avoid holidays and vacation times if you can. Surveys can easily get lost in the shuffle and ignored when your target survey group is busy with fun life events.
- Choose a good time of day – This is harder to identify, but you may have a good feel for when clients typically check / respond to messages from you based on the call / email volume patterns in your office.
- Consider time limits – Setting a time limit on the survey is important because, at some point, you will want to analyze the results. A week is generally a good time window that will give people a chance to respond at their convenience. Send a reminder halfway through the time frame to those who have not responded yet.
Select the How
Today’s technologies make it easier than ever to administer a survey quickly & efficiently. Online survey tools are most convenient. Here are some options:
- A stand-alone survey tool – These tools allow you to create surveys, capture responses, and often provide great analytical tools. However, out of the box, they do not provide CRM / contact database functionality so it is more difficult to cross reference responses with existing client / prospect data. Some do integrate with other marketing software (e.g. Hubspot, MailChimp) . Examples: Survey Monkey, Survey Gizmo, Question Pro, Fluid Surveys
- Integrated survey tool – These tools provide survey functionality that allow creation of basic surveys. Results are fed into an existing database so that responses can be used to segment contacts into various groups and send targeted follow up marketing. Examples: Constant Contact, Infusionsoft
- Google Forms – Google provides a free tool that you can use to capture data. Results are stored in Google Drive.
Identify the What
After you lay the foundation for a successful survey, it’s time to actually create the format. Take time to organize the survey and write questions that align with your primary focus. This ensures the survey stays on track and provides you with the information you really need. Here are some guidelines to follow:
- Provide an introduction / instructions. Include information about how long you expect the survey to take.
- Limit the number of questions. A short survey (2 to 10 minutes) will get more responses. Make sure each question relates to the survey focus.
- Organize questions by category so there is a logical progression and clear context.
- Think about the order of the questions.
o Easier questions first
o Move from general to specific
o Think about how one question might impact the response to following questions
- Eliminate redundancy. Take out questions that ask the same thing in different ways.
- Stick with essentials. Take out “nice to know” kind of questions that don’t align with the focus or provide real value.
- Consider the analytics. Closed-ended questions (e.g. on a scale of 1 to 10, yes / no, select one) are easier to analyze, graph, and use for evaluation of future changes. But don’t forget to include some open-ended questions that allow respondents to be more descriptive and reveal their unique thoughts and ideas.
- Review verbiage.
o Are questions clear and concise? If a question is ambiguous respondents may interpret it in different ways, muddying your results.
o Is the wording easy to understand? Use common language. If you must use an industry-specific word, provide a definition.
o Does each question have a single focus? Don’t ask two (or more) questions in one. This is confusing and can make the responses less reliable.
o Are there any emotionally charged words that might sway responses? Take out words that have the potential to influence responses or lead people to respond in a specific way.
o Is the survey consistent? For instance, if you use a rating scale, make sure you always use the same one (e.g. 1 to 5 with one being least likely / worst and 5 being most likely / best). People go into autopilot mode and consistency leads to more reliable responses.
- Test the survey before you send it to your target group. This will help you catch and correct issues before you administer the survey.
Analyze & Use Results
Reviewing individual survey responses is useful, but make sure you don’t stop there. Take time to group and analyze all responses. Look for commonalities and trends that will validate existing ideas/processes or present opportunities for change. Make sure you look at the results objectively, don’t allow your opinions to add bias to your evaluation.
Lastly, share the results – with the survey group, with your clients, with your team. Let them know that you take their input seriously and tell them how the results will lead to better service. When you show gratitude for responses and use them take positive action, people feel valued and are more likely to respond in the future. It can also fortify relationships in a way that retains more clients and prompts them to send you referrals.
Story by: Dee Allomong