8 tips to create a successful customer survey for your business

7 minute read
8 tips to create a successful customer survey for your business

Customer satisfaction can make or break your business, so a customer survey can help you understand how your customers are feeling and where you could potentially improve.

Customer surveys are simply a method of soliciting customer feedback (using various tools) so you can measure your customer satisfaction, understand their expectations and conduct market research. (The principles of a successful customer survey can also be applied to employees.)

About 81 percent of companies that deliver customer experience excellence outperform their competitors, and 86 percent of consumers are willing to pay up to 25 percent more for a better customer experience.

When it comes to customer surveys, response rates can reach past 85 percent when respondents are motivated and the survey is well-executed.

The following are eight tips to create a successful customer survey that delivers actionable insights for your business.

Brainstorm the purpose of your customer survey

Of course, the first step to executing a successful customer survey involves identifying a clear purpose. Resist the temptation to dump every possible question and objective into a single customer survey. You’ll just overwhelm your respondents.

Instead, define your overall objectives, what you expect to get out of the customer survey and what you plan to do with the information you receive.

Some common goals include:

  • Getting feedback on your product or service.
  • Benchmarking customer experience metrics.
  • Improving your sales or customer support experience.
  • Testing your branding decisions.
  • Understanding customer satisfaction as it relates to customer retention.
  • Measuring interest in new types of products or services.

If you have multiple goals or objectives, prioritize them and decide which one you’d like to start with in a specific customer survey. You can always address other, lower-priority objectives in future surveys.

Check out our nine brainstorming techniques to help you generate clear, better ideas.

Choose your customer survey type

Once you know your objective, you need to choose the type of customer survey you want to create. This will also determine who you’ll want to survey.

The following are some of the types of customer surveys you can use:

  • Customer satisfaction surveys, where you can better understand and monitor how your audience feels about your products, services and brand itself. This includes New Promoter Score (NPS) surveys, Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) surveys and Customer Effort Score (CES) surveys. Remember that each customer is at a different stage in the customer experience lifecycle, so there’s not a single type that will effectively offer the insight you’re looking for.
  • Branding surveys, where you can get a sense of how to move forward with branding decisions, especially if you’re rethinking the overall look and feel of your business brand. The insights you get can help you develop your marketing strategy and confirm whether your product or service experience is actually aligned with your brand values. 
  • Employee engagement surveys, where you can gauge the buy-in of your employees. Your employees are just as important as your customers, so their engagement is critical to your business results. This type includes Employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS) surveys, pulse surveys and 360-degree surveys.

Keep in mind that soliciting feedback in a customer survey (or even an employee survey) can feel unexpected or out of the blue for respondents, so regardless of the type of survey you choose, you’ll want to explain why you’re conducting the survey and offer clear instructions if necessary.

Keep your customer survey short and simple

The type of feedback you can generate through customer surveys is limitless, but this is not a one-shot deal. You don’t have to gather as much data as possible right away.

Think of customer surveys as a conversation, just like social media. Asking a ton of questions upfront will only overwhelm your audience. They’ll then lose interest and bounce. Then, you won’t get any of the feedback you’re looking for. 

Consider survey “fatigue.” You don’t want yours to take longer than five minutes to complete, with no more than about 10 targeted questions.

You can always follow up with future surveys. How often you survey can depend on your industry, but be wary of surveying too frequently as well. Fatigue can happen through surveys that are both too long and/or too frequent.

Keep everything short, simple and only as needed. No fluff.

Embrace questionnaire best practices

When it comes to the questions themselves, there are general best practices you’ll want to pay attention to so that you can solicit true responses that can be positive and negative. These include:

  • Starting any customer experience surveys with a question that asks for an overall rating of the interaction that’s being addressed. You can then follow up with an open-ended question.
  • Avoid any biased questions that can influence your respondents to answer in a certain way or make it difficult to respond honestly.
  • Vary the types of survey questions you use. Mix open-ended questions with multiple choice, scale questions and anything else so that feedback can be well-rounded and help get at the “why” behind it.
  • Only ask one question at a time. Simplify your question as much as possible so that you’re not inadvertently asking multiple questions within a single question. For example, “Was your experience fun and helpful?” You’d do better asking those two questions separately so that respondents can better express whether it was fun and then whether it was helpful.
  • Keep most of the questions optional.
  • Avoid complicated sentences or any jargon in your questions.
  • Do not ask overly personal questions. Consumers are increasingly more security- and privacy-conscious. Confirm that you’re not asking needless demographic questions or anything that could be considered offensive or embarrassing. Your questions can be perceived very differently across multiple demographics and culturally diverse backgrounds.
  • Check every question for spelling and grammar errors. You want everything to look as professional as possible.

Pick your customer survey distribution channels

How you distribute your customer survey matters. In general, you should aim for the channel or channels that your respondents use the most. This could be email or SMS text messages, but don’t be afraid to be creative.

For example, you could have a scannable QR code printed on your receipts or a sign in your physical store location that links to your customer survey.

The goal or intention of your survey could also impact your delivery method. For example, you would likely email an employee engagement survey directly to your employees. It wouldn’t be linked publicly. 

Of course, if you’re missing responses from a specific demographic, consider reaching out one-on-one in different ways, which can make a huge difference in your response rate. An incentive (like a discount or gift) can also help.

Test your customer survey with colleagues first

Before you send out your customer survey, you must test it yourself and by sending it to colleagues who can give you honest feedback. Select colleagues from various backgrounds to get the most perspectives possible. Encourage them to dig deep and challenge you on everything they experience in your survey.

You’ll want to confirm that every question reads as intentioned, that it takes no more than five minutes to complete and that the customer survey renders well across multiple devices. It also helps to read the survey questions out loud. 

You can never test too much because once you send your customer survey, it’s out there, and any issues will impact the quality (and quantity) of feedback you receive.

Prepare for feedback analysis

For a successful customer survey, you should consider how you’ll segment your feedback data and what comparisons you’ll want to make. 

Thinking about the analysis process while you’re drafting questions can help you get the most out of your survey. 

Some segmentations and comparisons you can consider include:

  • Customer segments, where there could be a difference in responses based on how much a customer has spent with you, what they’ve purchased and how long they’ve been with you.
  • Geography-based segments, where there could be a difference in responses based on the city, state or country of your respondents.
  • Interaction channels, where there could be a difference in responses based on how this customer has interacted with your business, whether that’s online or in-person.

Some existing data could be automatically imported into the survey interface depending on the platform you use, but you could also ask for it. Just keep the survey as short as possible if you do have to ask some qualifying questions that will help you better analyze your results.

Always thank respondents and inspire action

A simple “thank you” can go a long way. So, thanking your respondents after they complete your customer survey is critical.

Of course, when you’re thanking respondents, you also have the opportunity to inspire action. That action can be reviewing your business on a third-party platform with a direct link to make it easy. You also could offer direct contact information for your customer service team in case there could be an issue your respondent might want to resolve.

In conclusion

When creating your customer survey, keep your target audience and goals in mind. Then with enough testing, you can feel confident that your survey will generate the type of feedback that you’re looking for and can cleanly analyze.

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