How to Conduct Better Customer Surveys

Customer surveys are one of the best strategies for better understanding your customers’ thoughts and opinions. Issuing even a small survey can enlighten you to what your customers think about your brand, how they use your products, and what they might be interested in buying in the future.

Of course, there are also many ways to do customer surveys “wrong.” With bad surveys, bad planning, and bad data analytics, you might walk away with the wrong conclusion—and your business can suffer from the results.

So what steps can you take to conduct better customer surveys?

Focus on Customer Experience

First, focus on overall customer experience, rather than a single aspect of customer experience. For example, many businesses issue customer surveys inquiring about satisfaction with customer service. While this is an important concept to understand, it doesn’t tell you the full story. Customer experience involves every step of the average customer’s journey, from their first impressions of your brand to their ongoing interactions with your staff members. Try to gather data that helps you better understand this “big picture.”

Collect Both Quantitative and Qualitative Data

Quantitative data and qualitative data each have strengths and weaknesses. Quantitative data is easily measurable, since it relies on numbers and objective answers. For example, you can ask consumers whether they’re satisfied, dissatisfied, or neutral with your services, or ask them to rate your customer service on a scale of 1 to 10. Quantitative data is easy to chart, graph, and process, but it can oversimplify complex concepts.

Qualitative data, on the other hand, relies on open-ended answers and more descriptive outputs. For example, you can ask consumers to write a short paragraph about what they think of your brand. Qualitative data is harder to measure and chart, but it can give you much more information about your customer’s subjective experiences.

Choose the Right Sample Sizes

Accurate statistical analysis depends on your ability to choose the right sample size. For data reliability, the bigger your sample size is, the better. But the bigger your sample size is, the higher your costs are going to be. Try to find a sweet spot; aim to get at least 100 responses from customers, and get responses from at least 10 percent of your customer base.

Automate What You Can

Creating and issuing surveys is time-consuming, so minimize expenses by automating what you can. For example, you can rely on templates to form the basis of your new surveys and email your surveys via drip campaigns and segmented lists. Minimizing the time and effort you spend on the campaign means you’ll see a higher return on investment (ROI).

Keep It Short

People have short attention spans and limited patience. If you want people to complete your survey, you have to keep it short; otherwise, you’ll have people abandoning your questionnaire halfway, and the data won’t be as impactful. Only ask a handful of questions, and make sure you’re not demanding more than a few minutes of your customers’ time.

Craft Goal-Oriented Questions

With only a handful of questions to ask, you need to make sure your questions are as valuable and informative as possible. To achieve this, you need to start with a goal in mind and craft questions to help you reach or better understand that goal—don’t just ask things because you’re curious about them. For example, is your goal to improve the usefulness of your product? If so, ask questions that will eventually help you improve that product.

Filter Out Bias

We’re all affected by a number of cognitive biases. Don’t let those biases affect your questions or your interpretations of customer answers. Pay attention to how you’re wording your questions; you don’t want to “lead” customers to a specific response. And when collecting information, be sure to keep your confirmation bias in check; analyze answers with as few pre-existing assumptions as possible.

Master the Timing

When you send your survey can have a massive impact on its completion rate (not to mention its accuracy). Figure out when your target demographics are most likely to be available and send the survey then. For many brands, this means sending on a weekday in the early afternoon—rather than, say, at 5 pm on a Friday.

Offer an Incentive

To get completion rates even higher, consider offering an extra incentive for completing the survey. For example, you may offer a discount or a free bonus product to people who submit the full form.

With better customer surveys in place, you’ll be able to collect more reliable data, analyze it more consistently, and ultimately improve your understanding of customer experience. Put the data to good use with improvements to your products, services, and customer support, and you’ll stand to benefit tremendously.