My first-ever job was doing telephone surveys for a company in Tampa. At the time, they paid 15-year-olds a premium to call a list of targeted zip codes and ask a list of questions.

So when I read about a company that offers free phone surveys, it got my attention. The company is called Free Phone Surveys. The firm provides a service that lets small businesses deploy automated telephone surveys to customers at no charge, and send text message rewards with special offers to survey participants.

Dorsey West, founder of Free Phone Surveys, offers five compelling reasons why every small business owner should make customer surveys an integral part of their immediate and long-term growth strategies. Let’s check out her reasoning:

1. Incentives for survey participation can attract repeat business.

Let’s face it. People are busy. If you want people to take your surveys, a little reward can go a very long way. What kind of incentive should you offer? Anything from a discount on a future purchase to a free drink or appetizer can be more than enough incentive for someone to take a few minutes and share their opinion. When customers come back to redeem your offer, there is a good chance they'll purchase additional products or services.

2. Surveys can help you capture valuable consumer marketing data.

Surveys provide a prime opportunity to collect important marketing demographic data that some customers may be hesitant to disclose, such as zip codes or telephone numbers, in a non-intrusive manner. Just ask for it at the beginning or end of your survey, and most people won't think twice about sharing this information with you.

3. Offering surveys can help you build better customer relationships.

When you or one of your employees personally asks a customer to take a survey in exchange for a special offer or discount, it becomes the perfect opportunity to initiate more in-depth conversations that can lead to lasting business relationships. Customers will feel like their opinion really matters to you and that you truly value their patronage.

4. Survey results can help you meet customer demand more effectively.

The primary objective for offering surveys is to learn what your customers like and don't like about your products or services. A careful analysis of survey results can show you what changes need to be made in your business to enhance what you're doing right and eliminate what your customers don't particularly enjoy.

5. Surveys can enhance your overall business image.

You can make your small business look like a major corporation just by the way you offer your surveys.

While I’m glad this service wasn’t around in the 1980s when I was taking home $6 an hour and enjoying long breaks with my friends, as a small business owner I am really glad that this free phone survey concept is around today. Between my experience as the survey company and the knowledge I gained writing Online Surveys For Dummies, I can tell you that surveys are indeed the best way to find out how customers feel about your products or services. And you can find out a whole lot more than that.

Not sure what questions to ask? Check out this video and get five tips for customer satisfaction questions: