I love working with Vistaprint – and they don’t pay me to say that. I’m the “loyal customer” we all wish we had. But I’m also a tiny flyspeck of a customer. I could be doing 10x the business I’m doing today. I would happily pay a premium on the business I’m doing… but they don’t know that. You may be overlooking similar opportunities with your customers too, and that’s costing you profit and growth that could be yours.

Each year I order custom Christmas cards from Vistaprint with one of my own winter scene photos on the front. On the inside, I include 12 small “year in review” photos with a caption for each month, in lieu of the boring old conventional Christmas letter. I get lots of compliments from friends on that – try it yourself, it’s much more fun! I hit “go” and presto, I get an instant confirmation, I usually receive notification that they’ve shipped the next day, and I’m all set.

But that’s only a fraction of my printing needs and Vistaprint doesn’t get the rest, even though they could.

Here’s where the breakdown occurs. They’re trying to do the right thing by inviting customers to complete an online survey right after placing their order. But they’re asking the wrong questions, both from a satisfaction perspective AND they’re missing out on opportunities to do more business. Let’s take a look at what they’re asking… and the small tweaks that would help them double their business or more:

Classic Business Survey Mistakes1. How would you rate your overall experience today (1-10). Great question – the one I always recommend my clients ask.

2. How likely are you to recommend Vistaprint to a friend or colleague? (1-10). So far, so good – another question that can be a powerful predictor of repeat business and financial success.

Great start. It falls apart when they start to drill down into minutiae rather than focusing on ways to serve their clients better. They’ve fallen into the amateur trap of meaningless multiple choice questions rather than true insights. Here’s a quick recap of what they’re asking and how they could turn this simple survey into a new-business generator.

3. For which of the following uses were you considering Vistaprint today – with a list of business, personal, non-profit etc. There’s some target-market data there, but they could easily get this as part of the ordering process. Never waste a customer’s time with data you can source another way. Instead, ask the “what else” types of questions.

4. Which of these best describes the primary purpose of your visit to Vistaprint’s website today – followed by 10 items ranging from browsing to getting status updates. A better approach would be to focus on what they didn’t find.

5. Were you shopping for holiday products today – Y/N. DUH. They could figure this out from the items ordered. It’s meaningless to ask this again.

6. Were you able to achieve the primary goal of your website visit today – Y/N Even if the answer is “no”, this delivers no useful insights.

7. Which of the following products were you interested in – with a list of 17 items ranging from calendars to banners. Again, this is all trackable directly from the website clicks, there’s no reason to waste a customer’s time with this trivia.

8. A comprehensive Agree/Disagree section, still completely focused on the website user experience, rather than deepening the conversation on customer needs. Example: “Vistaprint’s products are appealing to me” What exactly does that really deliver in the way of insights? Taking the time to discover the Drivers that bring customers to Vistaprint would be a more valuable approach.

9. A comprehensive Agree/Disagree section on the quality and value of their products, service, and delivery. Better, but somewhat redundant. Example: Vistaprint has professional quality products and services. Well, if the decision-makers in Vistaprint don’t already know that for a fact, this won’t really provide much new information. A better approach is to understand any dissatisfiers that are leaving opportunities for competitors to take business.

10. Yet another comprehensive Agree/Disagree section regarding ease of customization. This one has some value, as Vistaprint’s competitive advantage stems from helping users easily customize their products. I was able to score them highly on the Agree side, based on my simple little Christmas Card experience. However, the reason they don’t get the rest of my business is that I’ve never found it easy to customize my other products, and as such I’ve abandoned the ordering process in the past and never gotten to this survey! Good scores on this question are giving them a false sense of security.

11. My goodness, will this ever end? Now there’s a question on “my usual approach to designing products”. Once again, my answers in the context of my Christmas card project are not telling them what they need to know for my failed Vistaprint projects. A great tweak here would be to turn it around into a question that identifies latent needs for design support.

12. Back to another useless website question, asking me to compare my visit to their website this time with my last visit, and rank it. With a range of 6 items from better to worse, this is completely meaningless, especially for someone who goes to their website once a year and is unlikely to remember a prior visit.

13. Finally, they’d like to know how my visit to their website today has influenced the likelihood of buying from Vistaprint in the future. Phew! Done! A better approach would have been to ask questions that would uncover where else I’m buying custom-printed products and services, and why.

Business Surveys - Ask the right questions

Nothing in this survey made it easier or more desirable for me to do more business with them. Here are just a couple of examples of what they could have uncovered If they’d asked the right questions:

  • I’d love to put my year in review photos on the inside of the front cover, instead of where the “Merry Christmas” salutation goes. I would pay more in order to be able to print on both inside panels. I called their customer service line during this transaction to ask for that, and was simply told “no, we don’t do that”. I’m sure my request was not tracked as a result… but there was an up-sell they missed. I would have easily paid a premium of 20% or more for this functionality, just because it would be aesthetically more pleasing.
  • I use custom-printed business cards, letterhead, flyers, and more – my other printing business is easily worth 10x my tiny $25 Christmas card order. However, the last time I tried to do what I needed to do, I couldn’t do it easily on the Vistaprint site, so now I take the path of least resistance and use my local printer instead. It’s a more onerous process that I would happily trade in for Vistaprints quick and easy ordering options… if only I could.

I see these types of well-intentioned but meaningless surveys all the time. What I teach my clients to do instead is to ask 7 Value Creation questions that help them sell more products and services at higher prices by uncovering latent needs, willingness to pay, share of wallet, and more. Typically I recommend a face-to-face dialogue to get the best insights rather than a survey, but of course that approach wouldn’t make sense for Vistaprint, given their business model. In that case, its all about using the right kinds of questions in a well-structured survey.

A 20% pricing premium left lying on the table. 10x the business left lying on the table. What are YOU leaving lying on the table with your customers? If you’d like to learn all 7 questions and how you can use them in your business to sell more products and services to more customers, at higher prices and lower costs, access the free 3-part Get Insights video training series.