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The Survey Says – Make Your Business Stronger

May 9, 2018

How do your customers truly feel about you? Are you their “go to” source for books? Should you be restyling your store, or offering more products? I am sure these questions and countless others are always top-of-mind for all booksellers, but formalizing the process may get pushed aside in the hectic daily running of your business. One way to truly know how you are perceived – surveying your customer base. At Book Depot we query our constituents for each of our lines of business on an annual basis. We use this data to reflect on where we’ve been and as an important tool for planning our future. Some of the benefits of taking the time to properly plan and execute a surveying initiative include:


  1. Customer appreciation. People inherently love to feel valued and that they have a voice that is heard. They will be impressed that you respect their opinion enough to ask them how you are doing.
  2. Customer retention. Customer acquisition is tough and extremely expensive. Satisfying your customer’s needs will keep them coming back – increasing their lifetime value and providing a revenue stream that will be easier to forecast.
  3. Free information. Utilizing your own client base for information comes at no cost (other than time) and will be completely pertinent to your business as all the questions are about your business.
  4. Improve problem areas. We all like to think that each aspect of our business is running smoothly. Sometimes it takes an outside perspective to recognize the areas that need to be addressed.
  5. Recognize trends. Are you carrying the right mix of categories and keeping your finger on the pulse of the industry? Can you expand your product lines by carrying higher margin products? Asking product based questions will reduce your fiscal risk by identifying fact-based gaps in your selection. (It is impossible for one person to know everything there is to know about the publishing world.)
  6. Establishing a baseline. Performing surveys consistently over a length of time will provide you an opportunity to gauge yourself against yourself. Track all the changes you made and monitor how they are received.


I know what you must be thinking, theoretically I see the value – but I don’t have the time or know where to even begin. Let me assure you that it has never been easier than it is today. To make the process manageable, we have broken it down into three basic steps to help ensure your initiative will have success:


Scripting the Survey

  1. Pinpoint exactly what you want to know (i.e. should we expand our bargain book section?).
  2. Use basic language. Stay away from industry lingo that could confuse your customer.
  3. Keep the questions as short as possible and never exceed a total of 10. Only ask the questions that will not have the biggest impact on success.
  4. Utilize the Net Promoter Score (NPS). Book Depot ends every survey by asking, “How likely is it that you would recommend us to a friend, or colleague”. We feel this is the most powerful way to gauge the overall health of your business. Willingness to recommend your store to a friend, is extremely powerful.


Administering the Survey

  1. Choose a web-based survey provider. We use Survey Monkey for all of ours. It is extremely user friendly, offers great examples & step-by-step tutorials and provides the data in a manageable format.
  2. Define who you want to query. Are you looking to poll your entire list or are you really looking for information from a specific subset of customers in your database?
  3. Decide if you want to provide an incentive. Often times we will offer a predefined discount off the customer’s next purchase if they complete the survey.
  4. Design the survey. Most provide an extremely user-friendly template, so all you need to do is cut-and-paste your questions.


Analyzing the Results

  1. Calculate the response rate (divide the number of completed surveys by the total number of surveys sent). The higher the response rate, the more representative and trustworthy the data will be. Aim for over 10%.
  2. Be open minded. Listen to what the data is really telling you, not what you want it to tell you… this can be harder than you would think.
  3. Categorize the data. “Bucketing” your responses by area of your business will make it easier to focus on the specific needs of each.
  4. Look at your results on both a micro and macro and level. You will glean key “nuggets” by looking at both.
  5. Thank your respondents. Let them know how much you appreciate their time and how you plan to utilize the responses to better serve their book buying needs in the future.


As David Penn succinctly stated, “Measuring engagement and engaging consumers are two sides of the same coin.” At Book Depot this is one of our mantras. We know that not only have our customers made us who we are today, but make us who we will be in the future. If we want that future to be successful, we must keep our finger on their collective pulse.


Making customer surveys a key part of your annual planning will pay off with making your store stronger and more profitable, while keeping your customers loyal!


Greg Sizelove

Business Development Manager

Book Depot


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