When it comes to improving your company’s marketing strategy, one of the best ways to get results is to create a customer survey for the clients you already have. By checking in with your clients, you can find out what you’re doing right, what you’re doing wrong, and what you can do better.

The trouble is, a survey is not as easy as asking a few questions. Some surveys get answered, while others get tossed in the email trash folder. Worse yet, some surveys offer valuable insights, while others offer you a bunch of information that you don’t need.


Key to Getting Customer Responses

There are two significant hurdles to jump over when you create a customer survey. The first is getting customers to participate at all.

Customer surveys are often seen as a chore that people are not eager to complete. Because of this, you need to find ways to incentivize your customers to respond.


Keep it Short

There are plenty of times that I have made an effort to start a customer survey only to quit halfway through because it became too complicated or took too much time. When it comes to creating a customer survey, keep it short.

Survey Monkey did a study on survey length and completion time. It found that no matter how many questions are on a survey, there is a finite amount of time people will spend completing the survey. If you want well-thought-out responses, keep your survey short.


Offer Incentives

This one seems like a no-brainer, but I’ll say it anyway. I’m far more likely to complete a survey if I know I’m going to get something in return.

McDonald’s does this the best. On each of its receipts, it offers customers an incentive to complete a survey. Sometimes it’s a free Big Mac on their next visit; sometimes, it’s a free large fry. McDonald’s knows that it is far more likely to receive survey responses by offering an incentive to customers.


Keep it Relevant

Customers won’t complete surveys if the survey is not relevant to them. That’s why the Marketo blog suggests giving customers an out.

For example, if you want to hear from customers who have household pets and the customer says they don’t have household pets, thank them for their time and send them to the end of the survey. Don’t waste their time answering questions designed for people with household pets.  

If you’re polling people with and without household pets, then redirect the customer to the survey section that pertains to them. The people with household pets will answer different questions than the people without household pets.

When too many people answer questions that don’t pertain to them, it tends to skew your data results.


Ask Them In-Person

Customer service agency Sharpen says when you have your customer service agents ask someone to complete a survey, you’re more likely to see results.

“Saying ‘If you have a minute to fill out a quick survey, we would really appreciate your feedback,’ feels less personal than an agent saying ‘I need your help.’ Encourage your agents to instead ask, ‘If you have a minute to fill out a quick survey, I would really appreciate your feedback.’ This slight change of tone makes your customers feel helpful and included. They prefer the idea of doing your agents a personal favor over completing a company task.” (Source: Sharpen).

Remember, it’s a lot harder to say no to a person than it is to toss an email in the trash folder.


Asking the Right Questions

Getting customers to take the survey is just the first hurdle. That’s because the survey only works if you’re asking the right questions.

Not only do the questions have to be something the customer is willing to answer, but they also need to provide answers that are beneficial to your company.

For example, why ask a client what their favorite color is if you really want to know what color carpet they would prefer in their living room? Properly worded questions are fundamental when it comes to creating a customer survey.


Stay Neutral

One of the first things you need to do when designing your questions is to make sure you’re neutral. Phrase questions without bias. Instead of saying, “How great do you think our new product is?” ask a question like, “What do you think of our new product?”.

When you ask a biased question, you’re more likely to get a biased answer.


Leave Room for Negative Responses

Along the same lines as stay neutral, leave room for negative responses. When you use multiple-choice questions, be sure to offer three to five options covering a range of feelings.

For example, if you ask, “How was your visit to our store?”, don’t make the only possible responses:

  •       Great
  •       Good
  •       Okay

If these are your only options, your survey results will be skewed. Instead, you need to offer a range of responses, such as:

  •       Great
  •       Good
  •       Okay
  •       Bad
  •       Horrible

While you may not like what you hear, the responses you receive from the second set of answers will be more valuable to your company than the first set of answers.


Maintain the Same Scale Throughout

No matter how you phrase your questions, make sure you maintain that scale throughout the questionnaire.

If you’re going to use a “Great. Okay. Terrible” scale, then use it throughout your survey. If you use a 1 to 10 scale initially, don’t change it to a 1 to 5 scale later in the survey.

By the same token, if 1 represents terrible and 10 represents exceptional, then maintain that throughout your survey. Don’t switch it partway through to 1 representing fabulous and 10 representing terrible.

Changes in scale confuse people and skew your results. When you maintain the same scale throughout your survey, you’re more likely to receive accurate results.


Ask Open-Ended Questions

While it might be tempting to make it easier on the customer and provide multiple-choice or yes or no questions, resist the urge.

The Help Scout blog says, “Some of your most insightful feedback will come from open-ended questions that allow customers to spill their real thoughts onto the page.”

But be careful. You don’t want to ask a customer to write an essay right off the bat. Ease them into it with some simple yes or no or multiple-choice questions first.

“One strategy is to get people to commit to a question with a simple introduction, and then follow up with an open-ended question such as, ‘Why do you feel this way?’” writes Help Scout.


But Limit How Many Open-Ended Questions You Ask

That said, you want to limit how many open-ended questions you ask.

According to Survey Monkey, “Open-ended questions (also known as free-response questions) require more effort and time to answer than closed-ended questions. So, when thinking about how to write a great survey, you should consider minimizing the use of open-ended questions.”

Survey Monkey suggests one to two open-ended questions in a survey, at most. It also suggests that you leave them to the end so that even if someone drops out of the survey, you can still gather the information from the questions they did answer.


Ask One Question at a Time

Stick to one question, and if you need to, follow up. Never ask more than one question at a time because it will overwhelm your customers and lead to worse answers.

“Bombarding people with multiple questions at once leads to half-hearted answers by respondents who are just looking to get through to the end — if they don’t abandon you before then. Instead, make things easy by sticking to one main point at a time,” writes Help Scout.


Final Thoughts

Not only can you use customer surveys as a way to improve your business, but you can also use them as a way to personalize the customer journey. That personalization can start right after the survey answers are submitted.  

Some customers aren’t going to be happy with the service they received. As a business owner, responding promptly to these complaints and concerns and fixing any issues can help create a loyal customer.

Make it a policy to reply promptly to any survey respondents that expressed negative views. The customer journey may start bumpy, but you still have the opportunity to smooth out the path ahead and create a long and rewarding relationship moving forward.

For some great tips on personalizing your customer journey, check out this previous post


Written by Erika Towne