Tips for Creating a Better Customer Survey

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Customer surveys are among the most effective way for obtaining first-hand thoughts and opinions about your business. The key is designing a survey that’s easy for people to complete and gets to what you really want to know about the people who purchase your product or service.

What goes into the survey?

Start by drafting a list of questions you want answered. Then review those questions, deleting any unnecessary wording or phrases. From there, put each individual question to the test – does it absolutely have to be included in the survey or is it just information (like a customer’s name) that would be nice to have? The size of your survey can quickly balloon with too many unnecessary inquiries.

In general, experts say, it’s best to restrict the survey to between 5 and 10 questions. A study by SurveyMonkey shows that a couple of yes/no questions at the outset (ones that are easy to complete) get the participant more quickly involved and committed to completing the entire survey.

The goal is getting to your open-ended questions, the biggest potential gold-mine of customer information. These are more valuable than multiple-choice questions or answers involving scales (“1-5,” “1-10”, etc.). To make the task of responding less intimidating, follow-up a well-crafted yes/no question with something along the lines of “Why do you feel this way?” At the same time, never ask more than one question at a time, as in, “Why do you feel this way? Have you always had this opinion? What would make you change your mind?”

For the best feedback, keep these additional tips in mind:

  • No “leading the witness.” Eliminate language that comes with built-in assumptions (“What are your thoughts on our state-of-the-art LCD display?”).
  • Delete all jargon or industry-only words that most customers won’t know.
  • Ask for specific feedback or you may just get answers like “I really like it!” which offers no beneficial insights.

Encouraging customer participation

When the survey’s ready to go, spread the word everywhere you can. This includes announcements on your business website and at the conclusion of blog posts (with a call to action), in your email newsletter and your email signature, as well as on all of your social networks. The more participation you get, the more helpful your results will be.

There’s no across-the-board consensus on the best day of the week to send the survey. According to the results of a 2011 SurveyMonkey study, the highest open and click-through rates took place on Monday, Friday, and Sunday, respectively. A survey by   UK-based  ServiceTick suggests that Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday are the best days to send out an email survey, “with Friday being the worst.” SoGoSurvey Blog says, “Focus on Wednesdays and Thursdays-you’re competing with fewer emails and lighter work schedules.”

Given the difference in recommendations, you might choose a common-sense approach. Try sending out your survey on Monday afternoon (after the initial rush of emails we all have to deal with on Monday mornings) or distribute sometime on Sunday.

Finally, to encourage greater customer response, think about offering an incentive to complete the survey. Typical giveaways include store credit or a  discount  on your latest service. If your business is information-based, how about a free downloadable white paper? Remember to design the incentive so customers must complete the survey before becoming eligible for the reward.

Don’t forget to follow-up!

There’s no point to devising and distributing a survey if you don’t take action on the results. This includes making contact with individuals after they’ve responded to the survey.

As Jon Picoult, Founder of Watermark Consulting, notes, hearing back from a company representative is always impressive: “Particularly if that survey indicated that the customer was dissatisfied in some way, getting a personalized call or note back can be stunning, in a good way. It sends a clear signal to customer that they don’t often see-namely, that this company genuinely cares about their opinion and is acting on their feedback.”

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