The first, and probably the most important, principle of any business is customer service, and the second is customer retention. It follows logically then that customer surveys will form an integral part of quality management of most, if not all, organisations. The surveying of customers is an essential tool from which much can be learned.

For example: customer expectations, customer satisfaction, as well as areas for improvement. When implemented correctly, with appropriate follow-up, customer surveys can be one of a company's most effective tools for growing sales and turning once-only buyers into loyal, repeat customers.

More often than not a dissatisfied customer will 'vote with their feet' by simply walking away and not returning, and to make matters worse they are quite likely to tell friends and family about their negative experience. Therefore the need to gauge, from a customer's point-of-view, what actions can be taken to improve on product and service levels within an organisation.

The most effective way of implementing, managing, and analysing a comprehensive customer survey is by using a Database Management System (DBMS) such as Microsoft Access. A database is defined as a collection of information stored on a computer or on a network server in an organised way so that a user can easily access, manage, and update the contents of the database.

It will be of enormous benefit to anyone who will have operational access to the database to have received training so that they can make full use of the functionality of the programme. Microsoft Access is a 'relational model' database (as opposed to an hierarchical or network model), which in essence means that it is a database in table-form where information about a particular entity (in this case, customers) is represented in columns and rows, and one that groups data using common attributes found in the data set (for example, all customers who make use of a particular product or service).

Access provides the ability for simple tracking and reporting of information. As a DBMS its functions include the creation and editing of detailed reports that allows users to make sense of the data through the sorting, filtering, and displaying of that data, which allows for informed decision-making on how best to improve customer service and customer satisfaction. Making for ease of use, input for the database can be imported from external applications, such as Excel and Word.

A customer survey database should be created using two types of expertise. The perhaps novice survey designer within the company wanting to implement the survey, combined with the technical knowledge of a survey specialist. The intent and scope of the survey will first need to be clarified; this is easily achieved through collaboration between those with the business knowledge and those with the technical experience in survey construction.