How to Write an Effective Customer Survey

Steve Grant

Managing Director

Steve is a founder of Figment, a multi award-winning UK-based SEO agency helping clients connect with new customers online to achieve healthy and sustainable business growth. Having advised over 200 business owners, Steve combines a strong commercial background with Figment’s innovative SearchRank 360™ approach and specialist team to deliver simple, cost-effective results. His ability to lead by example and inspire his team is a testament to his unwavering commitment to excellence. As a former Apple consultant and first-class Brunel graduate in Multimedia Technology and Design, Steve brings a unique blend of technical knowledge and marketing strategy to create tailored SEO campaigns that deliver results. Outside of work, Steve is a devoted family man, accomplished jazz pianist, and talented artist. With his friendly and professional approach, Figment's founder is not only an industry expert but also a true asset to any business seeking to make its mark in the online world.

Customer satisfaction surveys are a vital tool for so many aspects of a business. They help you to glean a more detailed understanding of what customers really want, and what their main concerns are. This provides the clarity you need to make improvements where necessary and by demonstrating that you are willing to listen and respond to customers’ needs, you can boost loyalty and protect your bottom line.

It is vital to know what issues are important to your customers, and surveys can be designed to discover how well your services or products are meeting their needs. You may well find out through a survey that there are certain issues that you had no idea about, and the feedback will give you the opportunity to address them.

Asking for opinions therefore show that you are willing to listen to your customers.

Asking for opinions shows that you are willing to listen to your customers.

We live in an age where people have ample platforms through which to express their views, and most of these will be out of your control. Asking for opinions therefore will show that you are willing to listen, and will allow customers to air their views in a more controlled way.

Finding out how customers feel

Customer survey results are gold dust when it comes to building an understanding of all the aspects of your business. Aside from service standards, you can find out how customers feel about things like order processing times, billing and payments and marketing communications. Sharing the results across the business will make everyone feel more involved and will help them gear what they do towards customer satisfaction.

When you start to analyse the results of your surveys, you will see where the strengths and weaknesses of your business lie. You will have the opportunity to make improvements in specific areas, to introduce training, boost resources or streamline processes.

Getting your surveys right

Of course, all of this is only going to be possible if you are able to glean the right level of feedback. So what happens if respondents fail to complete your surveys in full?

If this is happening, it may be that there are aspects of your surveys that are proving unclear to the respondents. The questions may not be designed in such a way that the right sort of information can be gleaned, or worse, they may be causing frustration for the respondent who will abandon the survey because they are unable to express what they want to say, or to understand the questions properly, or to be clear on the sort of information you are looking for.

There are numerous common mistakes that people make when writing customer surveys. Here are five things to avoid when you come to write yours:

  1. Making assumptions

Never assume that all your customers can answer all your questions. Not every question will apply because it is unlikely that everyone will have used your service or product in the same way. It may also be that they do not recall their experience. Always include an ‘N/A’ option to avoid customer frustration.

  1. Going too far back in time

Timing is everything with survey questions. There is only so far someone can go back to recall how they felt when they used or bought something. It is best not to allow guesses, as these will not provide accurate responses. Instead offer a ‘Can’t remember’ option. At every least this will show you how far back people can generally recall their experience with your company.

  1. Scaling inconsistencies

If you are using a scale, for example, ‘rate your experience of using our website on a scale of 1-5, with 5 being very satisfied and 1 being completely dissatisfied’, ensure it is consistent throughout all your questions, otherwise respondents will get confused. Don’t expect respondents to remember your scale throughout the survey: make sure you include a reminder of it every time you want it to be used. It is a good idea to illustrate the scale in some way to help with its completion. For example you could use a smiley / sad face system, or use a colour scale from red through orange and yellow to green.

Getting your surveys right is vital if you want to really discover how your customers feel.

Getting your surveys right is vital if you want to really discover how your customers feel.

  1. Going overboard

A survey that is too long is rarely ever going to be completed in full. Keep it as concise as possible whilst making sure you include all the crucial points you want to cover. If you are providing an online survey, keep the respondent up to date with a progress bar, so they can see how far they’ve got to go. Around 5-10 questions is ideal.

  1. Failing to test

If you don’t test your survey, you’ll never know whether it’s going to be effective. Send a sample batch, either to customers or to staff or staff friends and family. Look out for incomplete surveys or unusual answers which could denote a misunderstanding of a question.

Customer surveys offer a raft of benefits, but only if they are well written and designed. Take time to put together a well-thought out survey that meets your objectives for analysing certain aspects of your business, give it a test run, and once you’re satisfied, get it out there!

If you could use some assistance in formulating an effective customer survey, get in touch.

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