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Updated Oct 23, 2023

Types of Surveys Your Business Should Use

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David Gargaro, Business Ownership Insider and Senior Writer

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Surveys allow businesses across all industries to efficiently collect honest feedback, opinions and responses from customers and employees, and use that information to improve operations, make any necessary adjustments to the onboarding process, increase sales, reduce costs and uncover product development opportunities. Survey responses can either confirm the effectiveness of current practices or provoke discussions on strategic business decisions and provide unbiased data to guide decision-making. Feedback gleaned from surveys can also tell you what customers think about your brand and products, as well as provide a baseline for comparison over time. However, there are a range of survey types and techniques, so before designing one, you should understand the difference between them so you can select the type of survey most suited to your needs. It is also important to be familiar with the best practices for putting together a survey that will give you valid results you can use, and ensure higher rates of completion.

There are two main types of survey techniques:

  • Questionnaires consist of a list of questions that respondents can answer individually.
  • Interviews involve asking a respondent a series of questions and following up with additional questions based on their answers.
Key TakeawayKey takeaway

Employee surveys make up a significant portion of business surveys, but there are many different types, each with a different purpose. Learn how to develop and conduct employee surveys.

Types of surveys

The following types of surveys can help your business in different ways.

Market research survey

A market research survey enables you to gather information about your market, such as how and where your products are purchased, your customers’ demographics, and the competitive landscape. You can use this type of survey to research a specific target market, measure brand awareness, and identify product and pricing opportunities.

You can conduct a market research survey when you have no data about an audience or a product (e.g., to evaluate a target audience’s feelings about a product you are about to launch). You can also build upon data you’ve already gathered and measure it against a benchmark (e.g., to see how a newly launched product is being perceived in the market one year after launch).

Market research surveys can help you grow your business by doing the following:

  • Providing immediate data on what customers think about your products or services
  • Enabling you to collect data in a structured way so your company can develop strategies based on informed decisions
  • Revealing the strengths and weaknesses of your products or services

Lead generation survey

A lead generation survey enables you to gather contact information and some preferences from your target audience. It allows you to assemble a list of prospects who might be interested in purchasing your product or service.

A lead generation survey should be focused, as you don’t want to turn off respondents with too many questions. It should include a minimal number of form fields for gathering contact information (e.g., first name, email address), an opt-in checkbox for email subscription and a question related to their preferences regarding your product or service.

Lead generation surveys can help you grow your business by doing the following:

  • Providing you with leads who have an interest in your product or service
  • Enabling you to qualify those leads by asking questions about their preferences and needs
  • Getting permission to contact prospects, as they will have opted in to fill out the survey

Brand awareness survey

A brand awareness survey enables you to determine how well your customers know your brand, the meaning of your name and logo, and what your brand stands for. It’s important to be memorable so that customers will think of you when they’re looking to purchase products or services.

Use these metrics when creating a brand awareness survey:

  • Brand loyalty is how likely your audience is to return when making their next purchase.
  • Brand identity is your audience’s opinions about your logo and branding elements.
  • Brand image is what your audience associates with your brand.
  • Brand recognition is how your audience recognizes your brand when they see it.
  • Brand recall is how well your audience remembers your brand.
  • Brand trust is how trustworthy your audience finds your brand.

Creating brand awareness is essential for building an audience. You can use a brand awareness survey, as well as market research data, to create marketing that communicates your brand name and the associated products or services.

Brand awareness surveys can help you grow your business by doing the following:

  • Measuring the effectiveness and performance of marketing strategies and investments
  • Enabling you to identify respondents’ associations with your brand to uncover new business opportunities
  • Verifying that your brand is either perceived in a way that fits how you have been positioning it or demonstrating that there is room for improvement

Customer satisfaction survey

A customer satisfaction survey enables you to measure your customers’ satisfaction with your company and your products or services. It can also help you to increase sales. Prospects and customers will respond to positive reviews from other customers, especially if the reviews are published online. However, you cannot force customers to say they are satisfied or to fill out a customer satisfaction survey. Ask the right questions, and make it fun and inviting for customers to fill out.

Customer satisfaction surveys can help you grow your business by doing the following:

  • Indicating whether customers are loyal to your brand and intend to repurchase your product
  • Determining whether customers are satisfied, increasing a customer’s lifetime value and reducing churn
  • Measuring customers’ satisfaction to address negative feedback, which will improve service and brand image
  • Enabling you to retain customers, which costs less than acquiring new ones
  • Identifying brand ambassadors (i.e., respondents who have indicated they are very satisfied with your product or service)

Event evaluation survey

An event evaluation survey enables you to get customer feedback on your event. It also measures the success of the event after it has concluded, which helps you better plan events in the future (or determine whether they are even worth doing).

The event evaluation survey can also help you determine if and how attendees viewed the event differently. Some attendees might not have enjoyed a particular part of the event, while others might have loved it. Match the tone of your event evaluation survey to the tone of the event (i.e., if it’s a fun event, make the survey fun as well).

Event evaluation surveys can help you grow your business by doing the following:

  • Collecting attendees’ honest opinions and in-the-moment perceptions of the event
  • Providing your customers with an opportunity to interact with your brand
  • Allowing you to collect data to improve future events

New-hire survey

A new-hire survey lets you identify problems with your onboarding process and make any necessary changes to ensure a positive experience for future employees. It also highlights employees’ experience during their first weeks or months on the job, which can really set the tone for their morale and productivity in the long term. The results of new-hire surveys can increase employee satisfaction, helping you attract and retain employees. A new-hire survey should be given within an employee’s first few months on the job.

New-hire surveys can help you grow your business by doing the following:

  • Providing information about which aspects of your onboarding and training procedures are – and aren’t – working 
  • Identifying issues interfering with employee productivity
  • Bolstering team morale
  • Pinpointing and accommodating individual employees’ needs

Employee satisfaction survey

An employee satisfaction survey enables you to determine whether employees are satisfied with the work environment. It involves asking employees for feedback on different parts of the job and allowing them to list concerns or frustrations with the company. The survey should include questions about the company’s atmosphere and how employees feel within the team environment. Positive survey responses can show that employee motivation is high and that there is a sense of strong team spirit.

Conduct the employee satisfaction survey annually to monitor sentiment over time. Protect employees’ anonymity when they are completing the survey, which will result in more honest answers.

Employee satisfaction surveys can help you grow your business by doing the following:

  • Collecting insights and recommendations that will help you improve the company
  • Identifying areas of your business that might need improvement
  • Including employees in the process of improving the company, which will boost morale
  • Allowing you to track the improvement in employee satisfaction over time

Job satisfaction survey

A job satisfaction survey enables you to evaluate an individual employee’s views on the company and determine how satisfied they are with their job. It is similar to an employee satisfaction survey, but it targets specific roles. Conducting a job satisfaction survey can directly influence employee morale, so be sure to protect employee confidentiality.

Job satisfaction surveys can help you grow your business by doing the following:

  • Revealing direct insight into how employees work within their team
  • Providing actionable targets for employees to achieve based on the input, which will improve their communication skills, teamwork and ambition
  • Collecting data to support additional training or guidance
  • Connecting employees’ job satisfaction to the quality of their work and the way they represent your company

Training evaluation survey

A training evaluation survey enables your employees to provide feedback and opinions on company training programs. The survey can ask about the quality of the training content, how relevant it is to their role and how well the instructor did. It can also help you evaluate how well the course content was understood, allowing you and the instructor to address issues promptly. Conducting a training evaluation survey will help you get the most out of your training budget and resources.

Training evaluation surveys can help you grow your business by doing the following:

  • Evaluating the quality of the training, instructors and trainees
  • Keeping your company current with industry trends and supporting employees’ growth
  • Increasing attendee productivity and satisfaction
  • Improving all elements of training and aligning the goals of training

Exit interview survey

An exit interview survey enables you to find out why an employee chose to leave the company. People might leave due to personality conflicts, a lack of advancement opportunities, better financial incentives at other organizations or personal reasons. Identifying the reason for a departure tells you for certain why someone left, which will help you determine if you can do anything to improve.

When combined with other surveys related to employee satisfaction, the exit interview survey can provide valuable information on how to improve the work environment. In addition, this type of survey can identify what employees enjoy and what you are doing well.

Exit interview surveys can help you grow your business by doing the following:

  • Identifying ways to improve employees’ roles and overall satisfaction
  • Reducing employee turnover by addressing issues at an early stage, which will help increase productivity and employee engagement
  • Helping you anticipate remaining employees’ happiness and reduce turnover and the associated costs

Build an email marketing contact list to connect with potential respondents for a customer survey (keeping best practices and legal requirements in mind).

How to craft a survey

While the specifics of crafting a good survey that meets your needs will vary depending on what those needs are, there are some general rules for creating any survey that are important to keep in mind. William B. Armstrong, director of student research and information at the University of California, San Diego, offers some basic survey tips:

  • Clearly state your intentions. Include a brief statement about your intentions with the information you collect from the survey. Reassure your respondents that the information you collect will remain confidential. People will be more likely to respond if they understand the purpose of your research and feel that their privacy is taken seriously.
  • Include instructions. You made the survey and understand it inside and out. Your respondent, however, does not, so be sure to include instructions on how to properly fill out the survey. This will help ensure that your survey results are valid.
  • Give your survey a clean, organized layout. Your survey should be well organized and clearly laid out, with consistent formatting. This will make it easier for people to respond to your questionnaire and help you get the data you need.
  • Don’t ask for personal information unless it is absolutely necessary. Asking for personal information that is not relevant to the purposes of your survey can deter respondents from completing the survey. However, sometimes collecting personal information is necessary for the purposes of your research. In such cases, it is best to put these questions at the end of your survey.
  • Keep questions short and to the point. Each question on your survey should be clearly stated, using straightforward language so that there is no opportunity for misinterpretation. Try having someone other than your prospective respondents look your survey over to identify any ambiguous or unclear questions before distributing your survey.
  • Avoid double- and triple-barreled questions. Ask only one question at a time. For example, “How have teachers and students at your school responded to the new 45-minute lunch period?” should really be two separate questions: one about students and one about teachers. This is a common mistake in questionnaire surveys that can affect the validity of your data.
  • Ask unbiased, neutral questions. Don’t ask questions that will lead your respondent toward a particular response. Distance yourself from your personal opinion about the question you are asking. For example, “Do you think that the new cafeteria lunch menu offers a better variety of healthful foods than the old one?” subtly nudges the respondent to agree that the new cafeteria menu is an improvement over the previous one. “How do you feel about the new cafeteria lunch menu compared to the old one?” is a more neutral way of phrasing this question.
  • Ask questions that your respondents are able to answer. A common survey mistake is asking questions that your respondents are unlikely to have the information to answer. People may have difficulty answering questions like “How much did you spend on school supplies last year?” because they are unlikely to remember that figure offhand. Instead, you can ask for an approximation.
  • Order your survey questions by subject. If your survey contains more than six questions, it’s best to group your questions by subject. This will allow respondents to focus their thoughts on one subject at a time and complete your survey easily and quickly.
  • Test your survey. Before sending out your survey to a large group of respondents, consider testing your survey with a small group of five to 10 people. This will help you determine if your survey will generate the data you need, as well as ensure that your respondents understand the questions you are asking.

Once you’ve put your survey together, the next challenge is getting people to complete it. Offering an incentive, such as a discount, gift or prize, is a great way to motivate respondents to take your survey.

Outsourcing surveys

If your organization lacks the time and/or resources to assemble and/or implement a survey, there are many third-party companies that can assist with all or part of the process, such as Delighted, SurveyMonkey, CustomerThermometer, Nicereply, Askia, Global Survey, IntelliSurvey and Just The Facts, Inc., to name a few.

Some customer service platforms, such as Zendesk, Help Desk and Help Scout, offer built-in customer experience surveys, although these tend to be short and ask broad questions, and may not meet your needs.

Call centers and answering services are a great option for outsourcing phone questionnaires. There are an overwhelming number of options available, but we’ve assembled a list of the best call centers and answering services to guide you through the process of choosing the one most suited to your needs. 

Jocelyn Pollock contributed to the writing and reporting in this article.

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David Gargaro, Business Ownership Insider and Senior Writer
David Gargaro has spent more than 25 years immersed in the world of business. In 2018, he published the book How to Run Your Company… into the Ground based on his firsthand experience at a small business. In the guide, he advises on everything from strategic partnerships and product development to hiring and expansion — and all that's in between. Gargaro's expertise, which also extends to sales, marketing and financial planning, has also been published in the business-focused Advisors Magazine, Moody's Analytics and VentureBeat. He has been hired to speak on topics like the customer experience and created an entrepreneurs' toolkit for startup founders.
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