I just had a (fun) little debate with my “partner” about surveying our first time customers that haven’t returned. So right to the question… how would you go about asking your first time customers why they haven’t come back a second time and BE TRUTHFUL? You’d probably give them some incentive. But if they actually do it give their time and attention, what are the chances of them telling the honest truth?

If I walked into a brand new pizza place in town that just opened, had an experience (whether good or bad), and got a pizza to eat at home, then have to survey XX amount days later on why I haven’t returned - all for a free pizza… Im not sure how truthful I would be… I don’t think I would say "cause the owner was this, or the person in the back was giving looks, or the front counter girl wasn’t very nice, or the front decor was weird/lacking, or the front was just boring, or the pizza was gross, or even that I’m just plain old used to my normal pizza shop that I’ve been going to for 5 years. It might just be out of site out of mind. Could they have just plain forgotten about us already? Its not that I’m scared of the truth, I just don’t think they’ll tell the truth.

Yes I want to know why, but why not focus the very next communication with them to give them hand written thanks for their one chance with us? And let them know about our incentive/loyalty programs with our new specials/deals etc?

Or should I just mail out letters with surveys like he wants me to? Or do a phone interview and hope they tell me EXACTLY why they haven’t returned so I can correct it?

Any input? I’d love to hear it.


I would think that to get customers to respond to a follow up call/survey you need to make it easy for them. The easiest questions are yes on no answers then rate from 1 to 5 and lastly open response type questions. for example

Did the person on the phone help you decide what to order?

Rate how helpful the person on the phone was when you were placing your order 1 2 3 4 5

What was your impression of the person on the phone?

Each of these questions are looking for the same type of information but the easiest one to answer is the first.

Now as to how to get the customers to participate. I would offer them something free with no strings attached. Like a free 3 topping pizza when they have a completed the survey. I would also make sure that I did not take much of their time. I know that I would not want to spend any more than 5 minutes on a survey.

I understand how to write surveys and ask questions, but how do you know that those are the true honest reasons why they aren’t coming back? If they answer all your questions accordingly and nothing seems wrong, how do you really know why they haven’t come back?

If you forget the survey, personally thank them for their one order, introduce them to your new specials, deals, and loyalty programs then they come back, wouldn’t that be ALL the answers to your surveys? The fact that they just needed to be reminded of you and that you’re reaching out to them to make some kind of personal connection?

Like I mentioned before, if you give them an incentive like a free pizza to complete the survey, who knows if they’re really telling the number one truthful reason (whether tiny or huge) why they haven’t returned. It could be the tiniest thing in the world that they’re not going to share, no matter the number of free pizzas.

I see your point. You are aware some people will take a free pizza just because it is a free pizza and you will not see them again until there is another free pizza. I had a few people that came to get the free pizza that I offered for fire prevention week, but they did not read on the coupon that it was a BOGO offer, so they walked out because they only wanted it if they could get something for nothing.

I have some customers that will only come to the store on the rare occasion when I do have a BOGO offer out. These customer will never be loyal customers. They will go where they can get the most for the least.

So how to get the real reason why a customer has not returned will not be so easy, I guess.

You could better off surveying your loyal / regular customers. They have a vested interest in making you more successful so they will be more forthcoming with the facts.

Instead of doing a survey, why not turn them into your mystery shoppers? Send them a letter asking them to place and order and pay for it, and then fill out and send you a report, and you’ll reimburse them for up to, say, $20.

You can spend a lot of $$'s and sweat trying to figure out why some people won’t buy from you again and both are better invested in your regular customers.

That’s a pretty cool idea to have some regulars mystery shop your store. Making them feel like VIPs can go a long way.

As for first time customers, maybe it’s just a matter of inviting them back. You can send them a Thank You Card and inside you can hand write “Dear Mr. Doe, Thank you for trying us out the other night. I hope you had a pleasant experience with us. Please bring this card in on your next visit and I’ll give you a XXXX for being a very special customer to us.” Then when the customer comes in to redeem his card, you can probe him in person. They’re likely to give you much more honest feedback than on a survey.