The age old question. A question that is asked about all types of market research, not only a customer survey. Organizations and companies always try to assess the cost of market research and customer surveys. The answer is not a simple one, but we will take some time to explain the variables which impact the cost of your customer survey.
The five factors which impact the cost of the customer survey most are: (1) methodology, (2) number of customers, (3) length of survey, (4) level of reporting, and (5) turn-around time. Each of these impact the cost in their own way.
We'll give you examples of each below with a description to help you discover ways to find a customer survey project that fits your budget. No matter how large or how small your budget.
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I am going to walk you through the cost of a customer survey using 5 variables that impact the bottom line.
Factor 1: Methodology
This is, by far, the factor which will most impact the cost of your customer survey. Why? Because the cost of an online or email survey varies significantly from a mail survey or phone survey. Least expensive? Always email. If you have emails for your customers we would highly recommend pursuing this methodology. No other choice is less expensive and more timely.
Your other options are mail and phone surveys if you have physical addresses or phone numbers. The increased costs with these methodologies is because they are not efficient. With an email survey you can click once to send 10,000 invites.
For a mail survey you need to print 10,000 pages of a survey, include a cover letter, pay for postage and envelopes, pay for return postage, and then worry about data entry. Cost efficient? No. Timely? No. A mail survey can take up to 8 to 10 weeks to complete.
For a phone survey the story is similar. Instead of one click, you'll have to pay for a market research company to hire a team to dial records one-by-one. It's a numbers game. They continue to dial through records on the list until they reach a goal of 400 completes or 1,000 completes.
Recommendation: Choose email surveys if you have these contacts in your database. The cost goes up if you use mail or phone. The cost goes down if you use an online methodology.
Factor 2: Number of Customers
Time for number two. The size of your customer base or contact database matters. Many survey platforms are set up with cost per complete model. Meaning if you collect 400 responses through email, this will increase your project cost by $400. However, if you collect 5,000 responses, that would be $5,000 added to your project cost.
A benefit of using our customer survey firm, is we do not charge per complete. We set up a goal number of responses and if we receive more than expected, there is no additional charge.
If you are looking to conserve costs, ask the market research firm for a recommendation on number of responses or completes. By virtue of this they can tell you in order to receive 400 responses they will need you to pull 4,000 random email addresses from your database. The other benefit here is you can survey another set of 4,000 random customers in the future to limit overlap.
Recommendation: Aim for 400 completes in your customer survey with a minimum of 100. This is dependent on the size of your list. Obviously if you have 115 customers, 100 responses is out of the question. 100 responses offers a +/- 10% margin of error while 400 responses a +/- 5% margin of error, largely consider to be best practice in the industry.
Factor 3: Length of Survey
Two down, three to go. Next on the list is the length of survey. This is driven by the number of questions you want to ask. You likely have several questions in mind already but working with a market research company will help you understand which questions to ask and why?
They can suggest key performance indicators (KPIs) such as net promoter score (NPS), customer satisfaction (CSAT), customer effort score (CES), likelihood to switch (LTS), and other factors. These are all excellent questions but the survey should reflect your key objectives. We recommend laying out an outline as a first step to help you understand what you want to cover.
Recommendation: Try to keep your survey to a maximum of 3 to 5 minutes. This is typically 15 questions. This will ensure your response rates remain high, the survey is quick, and the number of questions are not overbearing on your customer giving them a poor experience.
Factor 4: Level of Reporting
Conducting the customer survey is not enough. The real value lies in what you do with the data and the next steps. What insight can you draw? What recommendations can you make? How can you summarize the results so all can understand? What types of advanced analysis do you need?
All of those questions impact the level of reporting you will receive from a customer survey company. This may range from a high-level executive summary of a few pages to an export of charts and graphs with a data file. Some opt for the comprehensive market research report which includes a summary, infographic, personas, and an appendix of question-by-question results broken down by key demographics.
Recommendation: After you decide what you need with the first 3 factors, the report package can be customized to fit your budget. If you have plenty left in your budget we recommend choosing a full report package with debrief. However, if you have limited budget remaining, you may have to opt for something less.
Factor 5: Turn-around Time
The last factor we will discuss references turn-around time. This varies by the methodology a bit. This means if you conduct a mail survey you cannot ask for results and a report within 2 weeks. However, if you need to complete your project very quickly to meet a deadline you will likely have to pay a premium.
Online or email surveys can be completed within a few days up to 4 to 5 weeks. Phone surveys typically last about 6 to 8 weeks. Mail surveys last about 8 to 10 weeks on average. If you need your customer survey project fast-tracked (quicker than the timelines listed above), it may cost you extra. The other factor to consider is to ask for a lower-level report if timeframe is a concern.
Recommendation: Plan ahead. Don't wait until last minute to engage a customer survey firm. Although many firms will do everything they can to meet your deadline, if it's a particularly fast timeline, you may not have enough time to complete.
Contact Our Customer Survey Firm
Drive Research is a market research company in Upstate, NY. We work with companies and organizations across the country to assist with their market research needs.
Questions about an upcoming customer survey project? We can help. Here is a list of our market research services we offer.
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