How to Conduct a Customer Satisfaction Survey: Overall Survey Design

Statistics show that only about 10% of surveys offered are completed, but following certain principles when designing your survey can increase your odds.

Offer an incentive: “Complete this survey to get a coupon”, “Everyone who completes the survey will be placed into a drawing for a new product”, etc. 

Start with “why”: Explain how they will benefit from filling out the survey: improving the customer experience, helping design better products, etc. If you’re offering an incentive, put that front and center as well. 

Keep it short: The most valuable customers are probably the busiest, so keep the survey as short as possible. If it takes longer than 5 minutes, people will lose interest and opt out. Be honest about how long it will take to finish it, and consider using a progress bar to show how close they are to the finish line.

Formatting the Questions 

There’s a science to setting up survey questions, but here are some of the basics:

Be specific: Instead of asking, “Did your waiter give good service?” ask, “Did your waiter take your order promptly?” Then you can follow up with other specific questions, such as, “Did your waiter tell you about the specials of the day?”

Avoid “and” questions: If you ask, “How satisfied were you with the price and quality of the product?” the respondent doesn’t have the opportunity to say that he liked the quality but not the price, or vice versa.

Start out slowly: It’s important to make customers feel comfortable, so start with easy yes/no questions at first, then move to multiple choice, and don’t ask open-ended questions until they’ve had a chance to get their feet wet.

Keep it simple: Avoid long questions with complex sentence structures, and don’t use industry jargon or abbreviations that an outsider might not understand.

Be neutral: In order to get honest answers, ask honest questions. Don’t risk getting skewed results by using the survey as a marketing tool with questions like, “We’re proud that we’ve been giving great customer service for 20 years. How would you rate our customer service?” 

Establish a consistent rating scale: You might start out by telling customers that 1 = Very Satisfied, and 5 = Very Dissatisfied. They will learn to identify the lower number as a sign of approval. If you then switch to 5 = Excellent and 1 = Very Poor, they’re likely to get confused and give you an answer opposite of what they intended.

Don’t forget the most important question: “Would you recommend our company/product to others?” This is the place for an open-ended follow-up question: “Why or why not?” 

Putting Results to Work

You’ve spent a lot of time and money on collecting customer data with your survey. Now what?

Thank everyone who completed the survey. Let them know that you appreciate their time and effort, and that you’ll use the survey results to improve your product or service. Don’t forget to follow through promptly with any incentives you offered.

  • Communicate internally. Circulate the survey results throughout the company to make sure all your employees know what customers are thinking and what changes they want. Ask for feedback from employees on ways to fix areas of concern.
  • Make good on your promise. Surveys are worthless if the results get filed away somewhere instead of resulting in positive action. You may have to spend more than you’d like, or rethink some plans, but responding to customer feedback will pay off in the long run. 
  • Communicate externally. Once you’ve decided on a plan of action, publicize the results of the survey along with news about the changes you’re making. Post this information on your website, release it to the press, and send follow-up emails to survey respondents so people will know that your company is responsive to customer concerns. 

Resources

Customer Satisfaction Surveys
Developing Successful Customer Satisfaction Survey
How to Write a Customer Survey

Back to Customer Surveys 101 Part 1