Dunvegan Blog

10 Tips for Successful Employee Surveys

With the increasing focus on employee engagement, employee satisfaction, and employee retention, companies are conducting more employee surveys in hopes of gaining helpful insights. There are numerous survey tools that allow companies to undertake employee surveys internally without investing in expert consulting support.

While my bias is towards engaging an expert to support your company in designing the questionnaire, collecting answers from your employees, analyzing the responses and providing priority actions to help your company succeed in attracting, engaging and retaining a high performing workforce, I offer the following tips regardless of which path you choose.

1. Identify a senior leader as the sponsor of the survey—ideally, the president/CEO or business owner. The sponsor must have credibility with the employee community and engender trust that the results will be taken seriously and acted upon.

2. Make the survey objectives clearly communicated. When employees have a clear understanding of what is to be accomplished, they will be more likely to participate. Use every channel available to convey to employees the purpose of the survey and the anticipated outcomes.

3. Include everyone—all employees who will be affected by the outcome.

4. Guarantee anonymity—ideally, work with an external firm to ensure that answers are completely confidential and there is no opportunity for employee responses to lead to reprisal or hard feelings. If you choose to undertake the survey in-house, be sure that the answers do not get linked to the responding employee. If there is a breach of confidentiality, you will not get honest contributions.

5. Provide paid time to complete the questionnaire/survey. This is a work-related assignment and should be covered during the regular workday.

6. Make the survey concise. Focus on your objectives rather than asking every imaginable question; it shouldn’t take longer than 15 minutes to complete.

7. Ask objective questions. Avoid biasing the responses, and ensure that employees always have the option to answer: “don’t know/uncertain,” “not applicable” or “prefer not to answer.”

8. Prioritize the objective analysis of results, and ensure that analyses are aligned with the stated objectives.

9. Be prepared to share the survey results with everyone in the company who was asked to participate. Be clear about the actions to be taken, including when, where and by whom. Use every channel available to convey to employees the results of the survey and the actions to be taken.

10. Fulfill your promises to take action based on the survey results. Repeat the survey to measure the impact of the actions/changes that arose from the survey.

The Dunvegan Group works with B2B companies to improve employee retention using The Platinum Rule®, "Treat other people the way they want to be treated." Learn more about our solution.


Anne Miner founded The Dunvegan Group in 1987 as a full -service marketing research consulting firm. Under her leadership, the company has adapted to changes in the markets, advances in technology, and economic ups and downs. The firm developed its own processes, metrics, and software to support the services it delivers to Business-to-Business corporations, as well as smaller companies, including start-ups. The company serves clients across North America and around the world as they thrive and grow through serving their own customers according to the insights customers provide.

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5 Customer Research Myths ~ Debunked

In discussing Customer Care and Retention Research with potential clients, I am hearing comments reflecting 5 specific beliefs about customer research. These beliefs have evolved based on the technologies available and the media coverage of various studies which make it appear easy (and therefore cheap) to either avoid customer research all together, allocate a very limited budget to this work and/or expect their internal team to be experts at customer research.

Read on to understand the 5 beliefs and why they are myths …

Myth #1: We don’t need customer research, we know our customers.

Do you really KNOW your customers? What they value about their relationship with your company? What they wish you would change? Where they experience problems or annoyances with your company? Where they experience ‘pain’ that you could help them with … even if this is not something you currently offer?

Customers are unwilling to provide candid feedback to their sales representative for a variety of reasons:

  • they want to avoid hurt feelings
  • they don’t want to compromise their negotiating position
  • they have already decided to leave, and don’t want the bother.
  • they have not been asked (especially true of positive feedback)

Customer research will help you to keep up with changing customer needs and wants and anticipate opportunities to improve and expand your products and services.

Myth #2: If we do need customer research, we can do it ourselves.

You certainly CAN do your own customer research. There are tools (e.g., apps) available to help you collect the information and tabulate the results. Some of the tools are even available free.

And, just as anyone with a tool box can do their own mechanic work, or plumbing or carpentry, that does NOT make them experts.

Marketing research is both an art and a science. And, researchers are skilled professionals who know how to word and how to present questions to minimize biasing the customer’s answer. The interpretation of data is a science which researchers have mastered. And, your customers are more likely to speak freely to an unbiased researcher than they are to speak freely with members of your team.

Myth #3: A researcher could never understand our business - it's too complicated.

The researcher brings knowledge and experience of capturing customer insights across a range of businesses and industries.

While they will need your help understanding the jargon (and acronyms) of your business, and an overall understanding of your business, it is more important for the researcher to fully understand your research goals, your market, and your customers.

Remember, the objective outside perspective from a skilled researcher is of great value in providing you with a deeper understanding of your customers. An understanding that is free of bias or agenda!

Myth #4: It’s easy to design a survey questionnaire.

As mentioned above, there are many tools that make it appear easy to design a survey. But, if the information gathered is to provide useful insights, you must think about how you will analyze it and design accordingly.

You will also want to be sure that the order and wording of the questions minimizes the bias introduced to the dialogue (e.g., that you don’t provide the answer to a later question or lead the customer to give a specific answer).

You will be surprised at the intricacies of questionnaire design and data capture; it is not as easy as it looks!

Myth #5: Anyone can conduct a focus group.

As with questionnaire design, moderating focus groups requires specialized skills and abilities.

Not only will the moderator ask the questions in a specific order, and an objective manner, they will ensure that participation is inclusive and that all points of view are explored.

Moderators often use projective techniques and specialized tools (e.g., usage diaries, experience journals, ethnography, and observation) to support the discussion and develop a clear picture of customer behaviour.

Next time you are tempted to attempt a do-it-yourself solution or disregard the value of customer research all together, please consider these 5 myths and how a researcher can bring great value to your organization.

Anne Miner founded The Dunvegan Group in 1987 as a full -service marketing research consulting firm. Under her leadership, the company has adapted to changes in the markets, advances in technology, and economic ups and downs. The firm developed its own processes, metrics, and software to support the services it delivers to Business-to-Business corporations, as well as smaller companies, including start-ups. The company serves clients across North America and around the world as they thrive and grow through serving their own customers according to the insights customers provide.

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Simulation in the B2B Sales Process

In the B2B world where complex solutions are pervasive, sales teams are challenged to identify the customer’s “pain point”, position their product or service as the optimum solution and persuade the customer to make a purchase.

A product demonstration is a critical component of the sales presentation offering customers the opportunity to test the product’s performance before deciding.

In a world of disruption and exponential change, there is risk that tomorrow, or at least before the product has been delivered and installed, there will be something better available.

Companies often guarantee upgrades and product enhancements to mitigate the risk of rapid obsolescence and ensure that the customer always benefits from innovation.

But, when it comes to services, particularly consulting services, the sales person may present flow diagrams, testimonials, and case studies but how often do they simulate the process and let the customers experience the outcomes they can expect?

It seems to me that simulating the experience is more likely to create trust and confidence in B2B customers/clients. Having experienced the process/solution, leaders will be better able to evaluate the anticipated outcomes and articulate the rationale for engaging the chosen consultant.

At The Dunvegan Group, we have incorporated simulations into our sales process; the first step is a no charge simulation using generic data. This leads to a small fee contract simulation using real data gathered from the client’s own customers and employees.

Simulations allow our clients to mitigate their risk by investing a small amount, to experience our process first-hand, before committing to a larger program.

Anne Miner founded The Dunvegan Group in 1987 as a full -service marketing research consulting firm. Under her leadership, the company has adapted to changes in the markets, advances in technology, and economic ups and downs. The firm developed its own processes, metrics, and software to support the services it delivers to Business-to-Business corporations, as well as smaller companies, including start-ups. The company serves clients across North America and around the world as they thrive and grow through serving their own customers according to the insights customers provide.

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Grow your B2B bottom line without adding new customers?

Is it possible to grow your bottom line without adding new customers?

Yes, in theory, it is possible for your B2B business to grow both revenues and bottom line profits without adding more customers. How? By retaining the customers you already have and growing revenues from those customers!

First, let's look at retaining existing customers. No one keeps 100% of customers. Some go out of business. Some move outside your catchment area (at least if you are not online). Some will switch to a relative who has started a business just like yours. Some change their business model and no longer need you.

Let's imagine that a reasonable turnover is 5% to cover the situations I just mentioned. That leaves you with a maximum potential of 95% customer retention. Of course, we know that keeping the customers is not sufficient - you must keep and grow the revenues from the customers you already serve.

When you keep 95% of your customers and grow the revenues from those customers by 10%, your top line revenues will increase by 4.5% without adding one new customer. And, we expect the impact on the bottom line will be even greater as the cost of servicing an existing customer is sure to be less than the cost of capturing and a new customer.

When customer retention results in both top and bottom line improvements, new sales will accelerate performance even further!

If you have ever questioned the value of investing in customer retention, I hope you see the potential impact now.

Anne Miner founded The Dunvegan Group in 1987 as a full -service marketing research consulting firm. Under her leadership, the company has adapted to changes in the markets, advances in technology, and economic ups and downs. The firm developed its own processes, metrics, and software to support the services it delivers to Business-to-Business corporations, as well as smaller companies, including start-ups. The company serves clients across North America and around the world as they thrive and grow through serving their own customers according to the insights customers provide.

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7 Ways to Differentiate Your Business

We are honored to be featured in TMW's Blog - posted Feb 15 2018.

How can you make your company stand out from the crowd?

This is a question that many business leaders have asked themselves for years.

Consider employing “Business Essentials,” a name for seven service aspects that are fundamental to building strong relationships in the transportation services industry whatever business you are in--including trucking or other transportation management entities.

Business Essential #1: Do what you say you will do

Keeping your promises is a fundamental element in building trust; trust is the foundation of all great relationships.

Service failures are a fact of business life; at some moment a customer will be let down. Whether it is a product defect, a late delivery, or a phone call that is not returned in a timely manner, you will want to make a graceful recovery. Often when we make a graceful recovery, we build a stronger relationship than if we had not had a problem in the first place!

Whether you promise to replace the product, refund the delivery charge, or return calls more promptly, it is essential that you follow through and do what you said you would do. 


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Is Your Voice of the Customer Program Being "Gamed"?

How often have you heard, “When you get the survey, be sure to give me a 10.”? Or, “If there is anything that would prevent you from giving me a 10, please tell me and I will fix it.”? When employees endeavor to boost their satisfaction or NPS® ratings by pressuring the customer, you will not get an accurate read on the strength of the bond between your company and your customers.

This is the risk you face when deploying Voice of the Customer programs that utilize 0-10 rating scales and single question measures. We have seen it happen in companies with the best of intentions and more frequently in companies that attach some portion of compensation to ratings or scores based on customer feedback.

To counteract the risk of inaccurate measures, The Dunvegan Group has adopted two practices:

  • Use of semantic scales (e.g., words) rather than numeric scales (e.g., 0-10), and
  • Use of a composite measure (e.g., multiple factors) to evaluate the likelihood of customer retention/defection.

Through rigorous research, across multiple B2B categories, The Dunvegan Group has identified three critical factors indicative of customer retention/defection, and a method to avoid the potential for internal personnel to game the system.

Service Excellence: Customers expect to experience a high level of service excellence when dealing with B2B Enterprise companies.

At the highest level, customers intend to continue to do business with your company AND they are willing to recommend your company when asked.

Providing your customers with service excellence in doing business with your company, and an experience worthy of recommending your company when asked, is first factor in retaining customers; however, it may not be sufficient to keep your customers coming back.

Pain Tolerance: Change occurs when the pain of the situation is greater than the pain of making a change.

Your customers will tolerate a degree of poor service as long as the pain of making a change exceeds the pain of putting up with the situation.

This is the second factor in retaining customers and the first hurdle for customers who are receiving less than excellent service. It gives your company an opportunity to remedy the situation and rescue the business before the customer defects.

Competitive Choices: Change occurs when there is something more appealing than the current situation.

This is the third factor in customer retention and the second hurdle for customers who are receiving less than excellent service. When customers perceive that there are no better options, despite experiencing poor service and a high degree of pain, they will not switch.

When your customers perceive that your competitors offer goods and service that are at least as good/better than what you deliver, customers may switch despite experiencing a high level of service excellence.

By measuring these three factors, using a non-gameable method, The Dunvegan Group’s programs identify the strength of the bond between your company and your customers. You will see which individual customer contacts are strongly bound to your company, which ones are at risk of defection and everything in between.

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How to radically improve problem-solving in your organization!

In the January 2017 issue of Harvard Business Review (HBR)[1], Thomas Wedell-Wedellsborg demonstrates the power of “reframing” problems to identify optimum solutions quickly, consistently, and effectively.

He begins with an example that illustrates the importance of framing the problem.

When tenants complained that the elevators were too slow, meaning they had to wait for the elevator longer than they could tolerate, the obvious solution was to replace the elevators ~ a costly solution that would exacerbate the problem during installation.

When the problem was reframed as, 'the tenants are bored while waiting for the elevator', a more cost effective and timely solution presented itself; give the tenants something to occupy their attention or entertain them during the wait.

Have you noticed that most elevator lobbies and elevators themselves have mirrored walls? It turns out that people are happy to look at themselves (their reflection) while waiting and this opportunity effectively reduces the perception of a long and boring wait for the elevator.

So, how do we go about “reframing” problems to ensure that we explore all potential solutions?

Wedell-Wedellsborg recommends methodically applying the following steps:

  1. Establish legitimacy for the idea: Demonstrate the power of reframing to your team. The elevator example is a clear and simple example, or you can present them with a copy of the HBR article.
  2. Bring outsiders into the discussion: Whether from other areas of your business or external consultants, an “outsider’s” fresh perspective can be very helpful. These people will help to illuminate the options but cannot be expected to develop the solution.
  3. Have the individual team members define the problem in writing: This is to be done before you commence the reframing exercise so you can see the range and variety of definitions and ensure that the team is prepared to take responsibility.
  4. Ask “what’s missing?from the problem definition: Be sure that you have considered the full scope of the problem.
  5. Consider multiple problem categories: Ask “what type of problem is this?” A production problem? An attitude problem? A perception problem? An incentive problem? Can the problem fit into multiple categories? This may present several alternative solutions.
  6. Analyze positive exceptions: Identify positive outcomes achieved in previous problem-solving efforts. Consider what was different or unique about those situations and how you may apply the learning to the current situation.
  7. Question the objectives: Identify competing objectives or objectives that are out of alignment; reframe the problem to encompass all the objectives.

Having reframed the problem in one or more ways, it is time to gather evidence to support the reframed definition. Test your hypothesis using recognized research approaches: observation, surveys, prototypes.

Continue to refine the problem definition and the solution until you are satisfied.

To learn more about how you can apply reframing techniques to problem-solving in your organization, please contact Anne Miner, President of The Dunvegan Group toll free at 1.888.281.3074 or anne.miner@dunvegangroup.com


[1] “Are you solving the right problems?” Thomas Wedell-Wedellsborg, HBR January- February 2017 page 76-83

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Meaningful Customer Feedback for Meaningful Action

At the Transportation Marketing and Sales Association's (TMSA) recent Leadership Conference, participants representing such well known companies as Fedex, Saddle Creek Logistics, Supply Chain Brain, ODW Logistics and the American Logistics Aid Network (ALAN) gathered over lunch to discuss their company's use of customer feedback for meaningful action. The conversation was facilitated by Anne Miner, President of The Dunvegan Group who encouraged all participants to share their experiences and best practices.

Receiving customer feedback did not appear to be a problem; the challenge lies in capturing the information from a wide array of channels and organizing it in a useful way. Some participants were compiling information from their inbound call centers, sales teams, accounts receivable, social media posts as well as incoming email and web inquiries. In some cases, text analytics were being used to identify themes within the feedback.

Some participants were reaching out to customers to capture feedback in an organized format which is much easier to tabulate and analyze; the information can be  stored in the company CRM so it is accessible to everyone who might "touch" the customer.

In either case, the biggest challenge arises in implementation of meaningful action based on the customer feedback. When customers are dissatisfied, the immediate reaction involves identification and resolution of the individual customer's problem/complaint. And, often the process stops there.

The time to ask for customer referrals and testimonials is when the customer is delighted; following up and actually requesting these referrals requires a process and practice, as well as tracking to ensure that it is being done and done in a timely and effective manner. All too often people get caught up in solving problems and neglect to capitalize on the opportunities for business development.

Another challenge is utilizing the content of the customer feedback to reveal topics/content of interest to the customer, opportunities for adding value to your products and services to better meet the customers' needs, opportunities to show customers how to extract full value from the products and services already available.

Customer feedback can provide a wealth of content for your content marketing efforts and help you build strong customer relationships in the process!

All participants received a complimentary copy of Miner's ebook "Measuring Up! A Guide to Success with Customer Feedback" available on Amazon.

To learn how your company can extract maximum value from customer feedback, please contact Anne Miner at anne.miner@dunvegangroup.com or toll free at 888-281-3074.

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Will 2016 be the Year of Customer?

Any time someone learns that my specialty is customer satisfaction and retention, they immediately rhyme off a list of companies that need my service, along with a litany of grievances about how those companies have treated them.

Despite the attention that customer service, satisfaction and retention has received over the past 30 plus years, it appears that customer care hasn't really improved. As someone who has devoted her career to helping companies create strong bonds with their customers, I am discouraged by the fact that so many companies are failing to meet their customers' expectations.

Companies recognize that positive customer experiences are of utmost importance. Customer feedback provides solid insight to what the customer is experiencing and how to make that experience positive. Virtually every company has some form of customer feedback system so, it cannot be that customers have no opportunities to be heard. And, with so many feedback systems in place, it cannot be that companies lack awareness of customer issues.

Why are we not making more progress in this area? Where is the point of failure?

I have observed that companies focusing on "scores" or "ratings" (e.g., NPS or CustomerSat), rather than on the insights customer feedback provides, are less successful at retaining their customers. Customers become cynical about spending time on customer satisfaction surveys when they see no improvement in the service they receive. This creates another issue as customers cease to provide feedback, and as the responding population shrinks, the measures become less and less representative of all customers.

I have observed that companies systematically measuring customer perceptions of service excellence, focusing on what the company is both willing and able to change, engaging their customers in identifying solutions and taking swift action to resolve customer issues, are better able to deliver positive customer experiences, meet customer expectations and create competitor-resistant relationships.

Where does your company focus its attention? Is this the year that you will decide to change your perspective on customer feedback? Will you listen to the customers who take time to provide feedback and focus on improving the customer experience rather than on "scores"? Will you implement processes to address customer concerns immediately and completely?

Need help? I am happy to invest 30 minutes on an Introductory call with you to explore how we can be of service. Click here to schedule a time to talk.

Wishing you and your customers a successful and positive experience in the year ahead!

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Competitor Resistant Relationships

In any business, you have two key assets: your customers and your employees.  Without either one, you will not have a business. Buildings, vehicles, inventory, cash, even good will … none of these assets make a business.

As the business owner, you will spend a great deal of time, energy and money finding customers and finding employees to serve those customers.  It is your responsibility to protect those assets by securing the relationships with hard won customers and the employees who serve them.

Why is this so critical?

  • It is much less costly to keep a great customer or a productive employee than it is to replace them.
  • When the time comes to sell your business/transition to new leadership, the company will have a much greater value if you can demonstrate that the customer and employee relationships are secure.
  • You will have a happier and more productive workplace when customers and employees enjoy working together.

How does your company address this challenge?

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