Home

Product and service reviews are conducted independently by our editorial team, but we sometimes make money when you click on links. Learn more.

How to Develop a Customer Survey

Sean Peek
Sean Peek

Customer surveys have a high ROI and provide numerous advantages for businesses.

  • Incorporating customer feedback into your business is more important today than previously.
  • One of the biggest advantages of using customer surveys is that you can identify patterns and predict trends.
  • Identifying your goals is the first step to create a solid customer survey.
  • This article is for business leaders who want to improve their companies by conducting, analyzing and implementing customer surveys.

In an era where 93% of customers read online reviews before taking action, it's never been more important than now to ask your customers how you can enhance their experience with your business.

By using customer surveys, you can identify areas to grow, capitalize on what you're doing well and cultivate a more positive relationship with your customers. Requesting, analyzing, and implementing customer feedback is essential to improving your business and ensuring customer satisfaction. Here, we'll explore the benefits of conducting customer surveys, how to develop a customer survey and how often your business should conduct customer surveys. [Read related article: Best Marketing Automation Software for Small Businesses]

The benefits of conducting customer surveys

What are the benefits of conducting customer surveys, besides knowing what your customers think about your business? Here are six concrete benefits of conducting customer surveys:

  • Gain valuable feedback. More important than knowing what a customer is thinking is why they're thinking it, and what that means for your business. Often, customer surveys indicate areas for growth that business owners weren't previously aware of, in addition to signaling what a business does well already.

  • Understand your customers' perspectives. Every customer is unique, meaning each customer's buying journey offers businesses a different opportunity to craft a positive experience. By asking a range of specific and open-ended questions, you can gather a comprehensive picture of how positively or negatively customers view their interactions with your business.

  • Identify patterns. After several iterations of customer surveys (and then analyzing the results), you should be able to identify patterns in the responses. Patterns may manifest in matrix rating scale questions or open-ended response boxes. Use these patterns to inform future decision-making.

  • Help determine your priorities. By identifying patterns in the feedback received, your business goals and priorities may shift based on how customers perceive your brand. Ratings-based questions help identify areas of opportunity. If one segment of your business gets a consistently low score, it's safe to assume there's room for growth there. Highly rated areas might warrant continued investment.
  • Analyze how changes are received. It's important to consistently survey your customers, especially after implementing changes based on previous customer feedback you've received. Include specific questions related to the changes you've made, and analyze the answers to evaluate if the change resulted in a more positive or negative experience than before.

  • Retain customers. Besides the fact that keeping customers happy means they can become loyal to your brand, customers love to know their feedback was valued and, even more, implemented.

How to conduct a customer satisfaction survey

1. Identify your goals.

The first step in conducting a customer satisfaction survey is to identify the goal(s) you want to accomplish with the survey's help. Goals can be general, like figuring out the business's top three areas of weakness and working to rectify those areas; or they may focus on specific aspects of the business, such as decreasing online cart abandonment by a certain percentage; or discovering what can be done to improve customer service and increase your business's net promoter score. Identifying the goals you hope to achieve with your customer survey gives a solid framework for the rest of the process.

2. Develop the questions.

Next, develop the questions of the customer survey with concrete, measurable and attainable goals in mind. Developing questions doesn't have to be a one-person job, though.

"Reach out to your vendor partners; they will look at things from a different point of view," said Shana Krisan, vice president of Goldfish Swim School. "With the accumulated knowledge and unique viewpoints, you will be able to coordinate a thorough program that gleans actionable insights that translate into measurable recommendations."

By leveraging feedback from several sources, diversifying question types (open-ended versus specific), and ensuring your queries are relevant, your newly-created customer survey will be systematic and comprehensive.

3. Use the right tools.

After the prep work of identifying goals and developing questions, it's imperative to use the right platform to collect your surveys.

"Pick a system that can grow with your business," said Nerissa Zhang, CEO of The Bright App. "Do the research now, set up systems and procedures now, start collecting customer survey data now so you're not scrambling to do all of this when you're already pushed to your limits."

Examples of popular customer support and survey software include SurveyMonkey, Help Scout and Asana.

4. Follow best practices.

While there are dozens of best practices, focus on the most important ones to ensure honest feedback from a wide range of customers. Here are three tips to follow for your surveys:

  • Ask questions that accomplish your goal. This is yet another reason why identifying a concrete goal early in the creation process of your customer survey is so important. Asking relevant questions keeps respondents focused and the survey short.

  • Ask one question at a time. Avoid asking more than one thing in a single question. If you'd like respondents to offer the same type of feedback on several different parts of the business, consider creating a rating scale instead of posing several questions in one with an open-ended answer box.

  • Demonstrate the benefit to the respondent. Discounts, giveaways and credits are motivations that not only afford customers a benefit, but they show you value the time they are taking to offer their feedback. The incentives should be feasible and sustainable for your business.

Krisan advises collaborating with others and applying strategic thinking when creating customer surveys.

"For the best results, consider pulling in colleagues from other teams, departments and verticals in your organization," she said. "Discuss the holistic objective with a group of franchisees and get their feedback."

Customer survey questions to consider

A wide range of questions can be used to obtain the information you're seeking from a customer survey to achieve your goals. Here are several examples of types of questions and their benefits.

Product and service usage

  • How often do you use X product or service?
  • What would you improve about the product or service?

Product and service usage-based questions give your team valuable insight into customer attitudes about what you offer. These questions can help build customer loyalty and maintain customer retention.

Demographics

  • How old are you?
  • What is your employment status?

Demographic-based questions give your team a better understanding of your customer base. It also helps craft an image of the "typical customer" for your marketing team so they can better target their messages and advertising to potential audiences.

Satisfaction scale

  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how satisfied are you with X product or service?

Satisfaction scales offer a quantifiable measure of positive or negative customer satisfaction toward a product or service. Not only can it offer valuable insights to parts of your business not addressed in other questions, but it affords you a consistent way to track and analyze satisfaction, especially after changes are made.

Open-ended questions

  • How can we improve your experience with our product or service?
  • What can our employees do better?
  • Do you have additional comments you'd like to share?

Open-ended questions offer your customers the opportunity to freely express their own opinions instead of utilizing already-supplied answers. Customers value open-ended questions because it gives them a chance to offer honest, unencumbered feedback. Open-ended questions are also an opportunity for business owners to receive positive reviews and comments they can use in marketing materials – just be sure to ask permission to use your customers' comments.

Longevity

  • May we contact you with follow-up questions?
  • Would you be willing to take this survey again in the future?

Not only do longevity questions help build a base list of customers to whom you can send your next survey, they also identify an engaged and honest group of customers ready to offer feedback on new changes and offerings.

How often should you conduct a customer survey?

The key to securing actionable, honest feedback is proper planning on when your business sends its customer satisfaction survey. Most customers who've engaged with your business for at least several months are happy to fill out a customer survey semiannually, especially if they know the process will only take a few minutes.

Targeting customers with three to six months of engagement with your business can ensure the data you collect is valuable and well informed, as very new customers often haven't interacted with your business enough to offer insightful feedback.

In the months between sending out customer surveys, continue interacting with survey respondents. This communication demonstrates that you found their feedback valuable, are listening to what they're saying, and are dedicated to enhancing their next experience or encounter with your business.

Image Credit: AndreyPopov / Getty Images
Sean Peek
Sean Peek
Business News Daily Contributing Writer
Sean Peek has written more than 100 B2B-focused articles on various subjects including business technology, marketing and business finance. In addition to researching trends, reviewing products and writing articles that help small business owners, Sean runs a content marketing agency that creates high-quality editorial content for both B2B and B2C businesses.