How to Create Effective Customer Surveys

customer surveys

Any business, big or small, can benefit from a better understanding of the wants and needs of its customers. And the best way to find out precisely what your clients are looking for is to go ahead and ask them. Done right, surveys are a powerful and informative tool that can help guide your decision making and direction. And with online surveys relative easy to engineer and administer, you don’t need to be a large, deep-pocketed company to set up one of your own.

The best surveys – those that elicit the most detailed, thoughtful and actionable answers – are a mix of art and science. Here are some tips to make sure your survey delivers meaningful, manageable results.

Know What You Want to Know
Before you get started, sit down and figure out what you hope to learn, who you plan to ask, and how you intend to act on the findings. Perhaps you’re eager to test the appeal of a potential new product or to solve a puzzling problem with your business. Maybe you’d like to gauge the satisfaction of previous customers, or ask potential new ones what their interests are. Whatever the goal, it’s important to refine your focus before you begin. When you’re done, analyze your results and use the findings to implement a course of action.

Keep It Short and Simple
Remember, people typically have short attention spans, so don’t burden them too many questions. Five to 10 questions (or any number that can reasonably be answered in 5 minutes or less), is generally the best length. With that in mind, make sure your most important questions are asked early on. If participants start losing interest towards the end, they’re likely to give shorter, less helpful responses.

Avoid leading questions, and double-barrelled questions that ask more than one thing. Remember to avoid jargon and write your questions in simple, straightforward language. If participants are confused in any way, the quality of their answers will be negatively affected.

If you’re asking people for an opinion on a subject, rather than a quantitative answer, make sure you give them the option to say ‘I don’t know’ or to skip a question entirely.

Tell People Why You Want to Know
It’s important to tell people why you want their input – they’ll be more willing to take part if they understand your goal is to create better products or provide improved service. Include a sincere thank you message at the end of your survey. Once you’re finished, you may even choose to share the findings with your customers, and tell them what you’ll be doing to make their experience better.

If you want to encourage people to participate, it’s perfectly acceptable to offer some sort of incentive, such as a discount coupon, free download offer, or random draw among respondents. An incentive can also be used to get customers to complete additional questions beyond the basic set, perhaps a section including written answers that allows respondents to go into greater detail about their dealings with your business.

On a Scale of 1 to 10, Scales are Really Important
When you’re asking people for their opinion, it’s helpful to offer scales. For instance, knowing how many people ‘strongly support’ an idea as opposed to the number who only ‘slightly support’ it gives you valuable insight into the strength of their feelings. Using scales will also help you analyze your collective responses by assigning each answer a numerical value and then determining the mean average. A higher average indicates a greater level of satisfaction, while a lower number highlights an area of concern.

Take It for a Test Run
Before your survey ends up with your customers, it’s important that it’s tested by a fresh set of eyes first. Have the questions checked and double checked for spelling and grammar, as well as clarity and order. If your survey is going to appear online, check it across multiple platforms, operating systems and on different browsers to ensure it displays properly. It will reflect badly on your business if the survey is sloppy, confusing or simply doesn’t look good.

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