Dear Reader,

  This is a reissued newsletter with correct hyperlinks in the main article.

October 2012    


It’s getting close to Election Day, and it seems that for the last couple of months it has been all politics, all the time. We promise not to talk politics in this edition of the newsletter, but our featured article covers a topic that is important to politicians and business leaders alike — conducting good surveys.

In politics, well-constructed surveys can help candidates understand what’s on the mind of the electorate and help them tailor their messages to achieve favorable outcomes. In business, conducting surveys helps executives understand their customers and make adjustments to products and policies in order to retain customers and increase sales.

Kevin Beane’s article offers easy-to-apply tips on how to create a good survey, determine the correct sample size and evaluate the results. We hope you find it helpful.

While Kevin prepared his article, we have been preparing a survey of our own, so we can find out what you think of our work. Look for the survey in your inbox in a couple of weeks, and please help us by filling it out.

And, when Nov. 6 rolls around, be sure to take part in the biggest survey of all. Get out and vote!

Tom Beane, President CMC CIRA


Tip Sheet

Keep surveys short, simple and focused.

Make your sample size large enough to obtain accuracy to within plus or minus 5 percent.

Use a 1 to 5 scale for easy scoring.

Start with general questions, then move to specifics.

Include a couple of open-ended questions.

Review responses carefully.

Act on the results.


By Kevin Beane

Successful executives know that it’s much less expensive to retain existing customers than to find new ones. And they know that keeping established clients happy is a proven route to increasing sales, and the bottom line.

Increasing customer retention by 5 percent can result in increased profits of 25 to 95 percent, according to Bain & Company.

Knowing what your customers want, and knowing what they think of your products and services, is essential to keeping them happy and to increasing the business they do with you, not to mention generating more referrals. Conducting regular surveys is one of the best ways to increase your understanding of your customers.

The survey doesn’t have to be complicated. Short and focused is best. Ask basic questions at regular intervals and use a consistent rating system. Then carefully analyze the results.

There are two types of surveys, transactional and relationship. The transactional survey solicits feedback immediately after an encounter; businesses frequently invite participation by printing an online link to a survey site at the bottom of a sales receipt. Relationship surveys solicit input from decision-makers who have an ongoing relationship with the company; they are usually taken at regular intervals (often quarterly) throughout the year.

Setting up the survey

Three key factors in conducting a successful survey are distributing it efficiently, reaching a large enough sample to secure reliable results and using an effective satisfaction scale.

While an in-person or telephone interview is sometimes appropriate, the internet has become the preferred medium for conducting surveys. Using the internet is faster, less expensive and eliminates the filtering that occurs when an interviewer is recording the responses. If a portion of your customer base still does not use computers, you may have to include some offline sampling — by phone or mail — to ensure that your sample reflects your entire customer population.

For reliable results, most experts recommend that you sample enough customers to secure accuracy of plus or minus 5 percent. The formulas to determine the required sample size are complex, but there is an easy solution. Just type in "sample size calculator"; on your preferred web browser and choose the calculator you would like to use. Look at the tables provided, find the number of customers your business has and you'll see how many surveys you will need to complete to get an accurate sample.

The most commonly used satisfaction scale is the 5-point model, with 1 standing for very dissatisfied and 5 for very satisfied. Depending on the wording of the question, the wording of the response can also be modified. For example, in some situations, 1 might stand for "fails to meet expectations" while 5 would mean "greatly exceeds expectations." READ MORE

To view additional articles, please go to:



Situation: A smaller regional bank desired an expert opinion on the financial status and outlook of a proportionally large credit with whom the lender had significant exposure. The borrower was a contractor whose vulnerability was exposed by the slowdown in commercial real estate.

Result: Upon meeting with the bank, we immediately developed a plan of attack to assess the borrower. Our findings revealed multiple companies and numerous start-ups were commonplace with the owner. This drained working capital from the primary business, leaving it exposed in any industry downturn. We determined that not only were future debt service payments in question, business viability was of real concern.


Situation: A small private elementary school was in default of its loan documents and faced the signing of a forbearance agreement.

Result: Beane Associates, Inc. was retained by the secured creditor to provide an overview of the school and to build a 13-week cash work flow which would be used by the secured creditor to create a forbearance agreement. Using our cash flow as a guide, the school was able to sign a forbearance agreement.


Situation: A large children’s museum with annual revenue of $1 million was preparing to close.

Result: The secured creditor retained Beane Associates, Inc. to conduct a thorough analysis of the collateral and to interview remaining personnel. The secured creditor was able to determine the value of the collateral and proceeded to wind down the museum to their benefit.

FREIGHT COMPANY: Advisory/Fraud Investigation

Situation: A large multi-state freight hauler had been accused of kiting checks.

Result: The secured creditor retained Beane Associates, Inc. to determine whether the management team had committed fraud by kiting checks. After consulting closely with the FBI and the secured creditor, Beane Associates was on site within 24 business hours to conduct a complete overview of company records. Thorough analysis allowed the secured creditor to take the steps needed to ensure similar incidents would not occur again. The credit was eventually moved to another financial institution.

About Beane Associates, Inc.

Founded in 1984, Beane Associates, Inc. continues to build an impressive track record in helping private and publicly owned companies improve operational effectiveness and profitability during a time of financial challenge. The company has offices in Wilmington, DE, and Atlanta, GA.

22 The Commons, 3518 Silverside Road, Wilmington, DE 19810-4907
Phone: 302.479.5438 Fax: 302.479.5434