Two quick ways to find out what your clients want next

Mar 15, 2004

Client surveys are limited to the extent that they only provide information on past performance. How do you find out what new things your clients want next? Two fast, easy market research methods can help:

"Quick question" survey

To obtain a quick read on a situation, you can ask the "Quick Question." If you're thinking of switching to e-mail reminders, for instance, but you're not sure how your clients would feel about it, why not have your receptionist ask clients if they would be interested in receiving e-mail reminders? Make up a simple tally sheet for her to use. It should have three columns to record client responses. The column headings would be:

Yes, I'd be interested in receiving e-mail reminders.
No, I would not be interested in receiving e-mail reminders.
I'm not sure.

When clients are checking out, the receptionist would then ask them the "Quick Question." To keep track of the client responses, all she has to do is make a simple slash mark in the appropriate column each time a client replies. Once you have collected 60 to 100 responses, you will have sufficient data and you can stop. Summarize the responses and you will have a quick, reliable read on your clients' interest in the new service.

"Question is the answer" survey

What if you don't know what new service to ask about? You can still find out by listening and recording the questions clients are asking you. Clients tell us everyday what they want when they ask questions such as, "Can you recommend a good dog trainer?" What they are really saying is, "I would like to come here to have my dog trained, or if not that at least go to a place that you recommend."

To learn what new services clients are interested in, assign everyone, doctors, technicians and receptionists, the responsibility of jotting down the questions clients ask them. Once you have collected 60 to 100 questions, sort them into categories e.g., grooming, boarding, dog training, acupuncture, extended hours, and more. Using the data, make a decision about which one(s) you want to investigate further. If, for example, many of your clients indicate they are interested in dog training, you may want to consider using the "Quick Question" (see above) to investigate further. Would they, for instance, be interested in something you could do at the practice, like puppy classes? Or behavior counseling, if you provided that service?

Both of these techniques can help you identify new ideas and services that your clients will appreciate. And who better to tell you what they're interested in than the clients themselves?