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A Quick Guide to a Basic Customer Survey

  • September 3, 2019
  • Written by Community Futures Meridian

What follows is an example of how you might handle a customer survey if you were planning to open a pet food store (specializing in dog and cat food) in your neighbourhood. If you live in a small town, the questions could be asked in person; you could stand on a downtown street corner for a few hours at different times of the day and literally ask passersby the questions. Alternatively, you could create an online survey using one of the many services such as SurveyMonkey.

Don’t get hung up on the fact that we’re talking pet food, the principles are the same for almost any retail product. The results will help you decide on how to move forward with your business concept, or maybe an expansion and decide whether it is viable.

Here are the questions; later will discuss them in greater detail.

  1. Do you own a pet? (Obviously if the answer is no then you need not carry on any further)

Yes         No                                                          

  1. Do you have a dog/cat/other?

                Dog         Cat         Other

  1. How many dogs/cats do you have?                                

                Dogs                        Cats

  1. What breeds?
  2. What do you feed you dog?

                Dry Food               Canned                  Raw (dried)           Raw (wet)             

  1. What do you feed your cat?

                Dry Food               Canned                  Raw (dried)           Raw (wet)

  1. What brands do you feed them?
  2. a) b)                            c)                             d)                         other
  3. How much on average do you spend on pet food monthly?

                $0-$30                   $30-40                   $40-50                   $50-60                   $60+      

  1. Where do you currently buy your pet food?
  2. a) b)                        c)                     d)                     e)
  3. 1 What do you like about your current supplier?
  4. a) b)                            c)                             d)                            e)
  5. What do you dislike about your current supplier?
  6. a) b)                            c)                             d)                            e)
  7. Where do you live?

Area 1                    Area 2                    Area 3                    Area 4                    Area 5

The information gathered from say 100 people, to the survey above would be invaluable.

Let’s take a closer look at the questions.

Question one is simply a qualifier. 

Question two allows you to make sure you are talking to someone who has a dog or cat, or both. This will give you the percentage of dog owners to cat owners in your sample. If you have to ask 150 people to find 100 that have a pet, that statistic is useful in that it shows that two out of three people have a pet in your sample. This same question will allow you to ascertain the breakdown of dog owners to cat owners, those with both, and those with neither but who own another type of pet. This is useful for assessing the ratio of dog food to cat food you should be stocking. To fine tune this you could also research pet owning statistics regionally and nationally to see whether these reflect your local findings.

You could ask an informal secondary question to discover what pets people own other than cats and dogs should you want to stock other types of food. This might provide you with an area for expansion.

Question three asks for numbers. This provides you with an idea of the average number of cats or dogs each owner has. This in turn will allow you to work out how many cats and dogs are owned per 100 people.

Question four gives you some background to the breed and size (and therefore appetite) of the animals. It may also provide an insight into the socioeconomic background of your sample.

Questions five and six are particularly valuable as they provide information as to the popularity of canned, dry, or raw food. This will help with ordering and inventory control.

Question seven. Knowing the most popular brands will help you know what you need to stock. If you are carrying out the survey in person, a good throwaway question is, “Do you remember how much you currently pay for that brand?” Of course, you can also discover this by visiting your competitors.

Question eight tries to establish the average monthly spend of each respondent. This will allow you to work out an average $ value per customer. Once again, very valuable information (e.g. how many customers do you need per week to breakeven).

Question nine identifies your competition. You may think you already know, but this question often brings surprises. Be sure to ask whether the person shops at more than one store, or at various locations.

Question ten directly asks what they like about where they currently shop (your competition). When you have completed the survey and have 100 answers, this list of likes shows you your competition’s strengths. In some cases, you might need to prompt people a little; perhaps they like the parking but not the service? Perhaps they like the selection but not the price? What are they really looking for in a pet food supplier?

Question eleven can be redundant as people often offer up this information when telling you what they like about where they shop, for instance, “I really like the selection they have but their prices are a little high.” If not, you can gently ask is there something they don’t like about where they currently shop. This will give you a list of your competition’s weaknesses.

Question twelve provides useful demographic information on your potential customer base. It might also show a higher level of pet ownership in a certain part of town which could be very useful if you are yet to choose a location for your store.

Surveys are always useful. Knowledge is power when it comes to growing a business and tackling a competitive marketplace.

More in this category: « Ten Questions to Increase Sales

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