Customer Surveys for Manufacturers | How Does it Work?

All companies should have a formal process to listen to customer feedback. This is especially true with manufacturers who often deal with multiple levels of customers: distributors, purchasers, end-users, etc. Each of these audiences may choose your product or brand for very different reasons.

For example, your distributor customers may choose your company because you can ship stock quickly with minimal turn-around time. This in turn, helps them keep their inventory at capacity to fulfill orders. Purchasers or buyers may purchase your product solely on price. They could be looking for the most cost-effective solution or one where a company can offer a volume discount. Finally, the end-users of your product may choose your company for other reasons such as quality or ease of installation.

These are 3 separate customer audiences are likely choose your product for very different reasons. Understanding these motivators is key and how you compare to your competitors. This can be accomplished through a simple customer survey conducted for manufacturers.

The data you receive ensures your strategy and marketing principles are aligned with customer needs. The customer survey analysis breaks down responses by customer type (e.g. distributor vs. purchaser vs. end-user) to help you understand how to market to each and with what messages.

A customer survey is vital for manufacturers for these reasons. Using a third-party expert adds credibility to the process to make sure responses are trustworthy and honest. Sometimes it is difficult to tell your salesperson who you have worked with for 40 years that the last order he or she sent was awful.

Never conducted a survey or wondering about how the customer survey process works for manufacturers? Read more about a theoretical case study of how Drive Research can work with your organization on a global scale to collect customer feedback.

Understanding your customer and distributor needs is a vital part of business strategy and growth for a manufacturer. It can change an empty warehouse to a busy one.

The following information details the steps involved in a global customer survey project for a manufacturer. This walks you through objectives to the report.


Manufacturing companies often hire Drive Research to conduct Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) market research. The core objectives of the market research typically include understanding customer satisfaction with major functions of a manufacturing business (ordering, supply and delivery, product, pricing/value, personnel, and competition). However, secondary objectives are explored such as customer perceptions, needs, and wants. The survey results can be placed into a scorecard for the manufacturers to track year-over-year. The survey will be sent to customers in many countries and translated in over 100 languages using our in-house survey software.


To address the objectives at-hand for our manufacturers, Drive Research typically recommends using online surveys sent via email to customers. Online surveys offer the best bang (responses) for your buck (budget) over dated methodologies like phone surveys and mail surveys.

Our process we employ with manufacturers goes through many steps: (1) proposal development, (2) kickoff, (3) workplan, (4) survey design, (5) survey programming and testing, (6) fieldwork, (7) analysis and reporting, and (8) debriefing.

Step 1: Proposal Development

After our team has several discussions over phone and email with your team, we design a custom proposal to address your needs. These often reflect your objectives of the market research and what questions you need answers for. This proposal development process is typically completed within 24 hours to 1 week depending on the depth and complexity of your needs.

Step 2: Kickoff (Your Road Map)

If your manufacturing company would like to move forward with our customer survey company, our team will then schedule a telephone conference call kickoff. An agenda for the meeting is sent the day prior to highlight what will be covered: recap of objectives, survey questions, timeline, and next steps.

At the kickoff meeting, our team will also discuss a list of customer emails and how this can be received for the project. This is exchanged through a secure passcode protected link and file. In addition to customer emails and full names, our manufacturing customer survey firm typically requests additional fields. This often includes customer items like company name, language, region (country), vertical, and customer group (i.e. Tier A or customers comprising top 50% of revenue and Tier B or customers comprising of 51-85% of revenue).

These fields can be appended to the customer survey feedback to create additional variables for analysis. By appending these data points to the file, it saves our customer survey firm from having to ask the question in the script.

For more information on seeding customer information, go here.

Step 3: Workplan (Your Driver's Manual)

The following day after the kickoff meeting, Drive Research will prepare a living project workplan which details what will be done, who is responsible for it, and deadlines of when the items need to be completed. This is periodically updated throughout the project and includes a dashboard dial to let you know how far along the project is to completion (e.g. 20%, 50%, 80%).

Step 4: Survey Design

Drive Research will recommend questions, wording, and benchmarks to utilize in the customer survey. Our team will also listen to the client’s unique objectives and needs from the market research to create custom questions. If the manufacturer has a prior survey draft they have used in the past for customer surveys, our team will review the script and offer suggested improvements.

The survey questions are the most important part of the manufacturing customer survey process. They aim to answer your objectives and create actionable next steps after the project is completed.

Step 5: Survey Programming

Once the online survey document is finalized, it will be programmed into our enterprise online survey software and tested. The customer surveys for manufacturers are PC, mobile, and tablet-friendly. This allows customers to participate wherever they may be (on the road, in an airport, at their office, at their home).

Our recommendation for survey length is 5 to 7 minutes. This is about 20 to 25 questions maximum. Drive Research will work with the client team to condense questions and find new ways to ask engaging questions to reduce the time commitment from the customer. This includes engaging question types like slider scales, star ratings, and imagery.

Once the script is final and sign-off upon, the survey can be translated in a multitude of languages including English, German, Russian, Japanese, and Mandarin. Our survey software offers over 100 languages for your customers.

Step 6: Fieldwork

Drive Research will soft-launch and test drive the survey before opening up fieldwork to a full launch with the manufacturing customers. The response rate for a customer survey with manufacturers is highly dependent on the relationship the company has with customers. If we only survey top customers who have placed an order in the past 3 months, the response rate would be higher than sending the survey to all customers from the past 30 years.

Our market research team recommends sending an introductory email announcing the manufacturing third-party research company as the firm managing the survey. This pre-email lets the team know to expect an invite. The email should also discuss the what and why behind the request for feedback from your manufacturing company.

After the initial survey invitations are sent several reminders are scheduled (typically at least two). If response rates fall below expectations, Drive Research can use Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing (CATI) staff to place phone calls. The additional cost of this is dependent on the number of languages and number of contacts required.

Step 7: Analysis and Reporting

The market research report will be compiled into a PowerPoint document and delivered in a PDF. This report will include detailed sections from each step of the market research. Our manufacturing customer survey reports include an executive summary of key themes, recommendations and action items, an infographic, customer persona(s), and an appendix of question-by-question results.

Your company will receive a full Excel CSV file of all survey responses with open ended comments from each language. Responses can be translated if requested.

Step 8: Debrief

Our manufacturing customer survey team will debrief with the client at the conclusion of the market research through a scheduled conference call. These calls provide additional context behind the data and step outside of just the findings listed in the report. It is an excellent way to ask questions to the market research team at the end of the process. The report with any final edits along with supporting files will be emailed to the client at the conclusion of the project.


Although timelines vary depending on the complexity of the customer survey, the market research project typically takes approximately 6 to 8 weeks. This includes time for the kickoff, survey set up, and translations takes approximately 2 to 3 weeks, fieldwork lasts approximately 2 to 3 weeks, and reporting is completed in 2 weeks after fieldwork is closed. This timeline can be accelerated if feedback and sign-off is received quickly on Drive Research deliverables.

Contact Drive Research

Drive Research is a market research company who specializes in B2B market research with manufacturers. Our team focuses its attention on insights and actions recommended by our findings and data. Our customer surveys ensure each step you take is guided by facts and evidence collected through customer feedback.

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