<a href="https://www.olark.com/site/3200-998-10-8434/contact" title="Contact us" target="_blank">Questions? Feedback?</a> powered by <a href="http://www.olark.com?welcome" title="Olark live chat software">Olark live chat software</a>

How to Create a Customer Survey that Gets Authentic Results

Designing an effective customer survey is more than asking your audience a few questions—it’s a valuable tool for unlocking insights to transform your small business.

Your customers' experiences, needs, and preferences are directly linked to growth and retention. Utilizing valuable data from a customer survey can increase your bottom line by improving customer satisfaction. However, creating an effective survey takes careful consideration, thoughtful execution, and a proper understanding of your objectives.

Let’s explore strategies and best practices for planning your customer survey that will deliver the authentic results you need to enhance your customer experience.

Your Customer Survey Strategy: Craft an Outline for Success

A powerful customer survey begins with a carefully crafted plan. So how do we accomplish this?

Pinpoint Your Primary Goal

The right goal for your customer survey depends on what you’re looking to accomplish within your small business. Your goal could be focused on understanding your customer, getting feedback, or gathering data. For example, here are a few goal ideas:

  • Measure customer satisfaction by identifying strengths and weaknesses in your business.
  • Learn customer pain points and discover issues or obstacles to address.
  • Track loyalty to gauge the effectiveness of customer retention strategies.
  • Enhance overall CX by learning how customers feel when they interact with your digital platforms.
  • Explore your competitive positioning to gain an advantage over your competitors.
  • Improve customer support by assessing how knowledgeable and efficient your staff is.

Define Clear Objectives

Once you understand the goal of your customer survey, it will be easier to form your objectives. These objectives should be clear and concise and lead to actionable data. That being said, you should avoid overloading your survey with too many objectives. 

For example, check out this survey goal sheet:

Your Goal: Improve Customer Support

  • Objective #1: Gather feedback on the professionalism, knowledge, and helpfulness of support staff.
  • Objective #2: Gauge customer satisfaction with the response speed.
  • Objective #3: Discover customer satisfaction levels with quality of response. 

Now that you have a few objectives, you have a great foundation for defining your survey questions.

Know Your Audience

Before designing your customer survey, take a moment to understand the target audience. Notably, this might not be your entire customer base. Rather, it could be a small slice of loyal or highly interactive users, or customers who returned items to your stores.

However, for almost any survey, you’ll target customers who have direct and relevant experience with your offerings. This will allow you to gather actionable insights that reflect real customer perceptions, needs, and expectations.

Remember—life happens, and not everyone will be able to complete your survey. Ensure you have a large enough audience size to get accurate data.

Design Your Customer Survey with ROI in Mind

With your goals and objectives planned out and organized, you can begin creating the customer survey. Let’s dive in.

Choose Supportive Questions

Your objectives will provide the framework for selecting the right questions. There are a variety of question types to choose from.

  • Closed-ended questions:
    1. Rating scale (1–5, 1–10)
    2. Yes or no
    3. Multiple choice
    4. Likert scale (strongly agree, agree, neutral, disagree, strongly disagree)

  • Open-ended questions:
    1. Responders provide their thoughts or opinions in a text box
    2. Demographic questions (age, title, industry, etc.)

Ensure Clarity and Conciseness

As you define the questions for your customer survey, consider that your audience is giving you their precious time and effort. Don’t waste it! Instead, follow these best practices for brevity and precision.

  • Keep it short: Limit your questions and aim for a 5–10 minute experience. Additionally, be clear about how long it will take to help prevent overwhelming your audience.
  • Use simple and relatable language: Industry jargon doesn’t resonate with everyone, so choose plain language in your customer survey. Complex sentences and technical terms can be frustrating too.
  • Be specific and consistent: Ensure your questions aren’t vague or confusing. Furthermore, keep your formatting and language consistent.
  • One thing at a time: Each question should address a single topic. Avoid double-barrelled questions.

Make Your Customer Survey Accessible

Set yourself up for success by making your customer survey accessible to all potential responders.

  • Survey platform: Select a customer survey system that complies with web accessibility standards.
  • Provide Alt Text: Ensure any images in your customer survey have descriptive alt text for users who can’t load or see them.
  • Use high-contrast colors: Create sufficient contrast between text and background colors for respondents with visual impairments.
  • Avoid time limits: To prevent frustration, allow your audience to take the time they need to complete the survey.
  • Offer multiple ways to respond: Provide options for all respondents to complete your survey via phone, tablet, email, mail, or even SMS text.

Plan Your Customer Survey Delivery for High Response Rates

Choosing the delivery method and timing of your customer survey is just as important as the questions you’re asking. If you miss the mark, you could lose out on crucial data.

Timing: When to Send Your Customer Survey

The right send time will depend on your goals and the demographics of your target audience. With this in mind, there are a few variables that you should consider:

Send Times for Action-Based Triggers:

  • After purchase or interaction
  • Post-event or post-training
  • Following a support interaction
  • After an instance of a specific customer behavior

Send Times for General Feedback Surveys:

  • Weekdays or weekends: Consider days that your audience is likely to respond. Use data from other sources if you have it!
  • Morning or evening: Choose a time of day that makes sense for your respondents.
  • Holidays: Be aware of state, federal, or seasonal holidays that could affect your customer survey response rate.

Bonus: by utilizing email automation, you can make your customer survey timing more precise with trigger-based, scheduled delivery.

Method: Choose Your Distribution Options

Maximize your response rates by utilizing effective and accessible ways to send your customer survey.

  • Email from a direct invite or as part of a newsletter
  • SMS sent directly to your customer’s mobile phone for quick responses
  • Physical surveys printed and mailed to your customer, feedback cards around your business, or QR codes printed on receipts or posted in your building
  • Pop-ups or marketing ads that target web visitors

Offer: Consider Incentives

You can also consider offering an incentive to respondents who complete the customer survey. This can be a powerful way to motivate potential respondents who would otherwise ignore your requests. For example, here are some easy incentives you can provide that won’t cost much: 

  • Discounts or coupons
  • Exclusive content
  • Sneak peeks or early access
  • Giveaway entry
  • Rewards or loyalty program benefits

Even so, tread carefully. While discounts can be well-received, ensure they’re an audience-appropriate incentive. You don't want customers to feel like they are being coerced into completing the survey. Additionally, think about your return on investment (ROI)—you don’t want to give away too much for too little in return.

Analyze and Utilize Data to Improve CX

Now that you’ve completed your customer survey and sent it out, allow enough time for respondents to complete the process. Then, it’s time to move forward.

Create Your Actionable Plan

Once your respondents have completed the customer survey and you have all the data in front of you, it’s time for some analysis.

Begin by quickly reviewing your main goal and objectives to reframe your mind for analysis. Next, start sorting and categorizing the responses using tools like spreadsheets or survey analysis software.

As you move through your analysis, are you able to see if your questions got clear answers? Were the respondents genuine and honest with their reviews? Did you uncover themes and patterns that might need your attention? Did you discover that your customers love specific things about your process?

With this in mind, prioritize the critical findings to develop a strategic improvement plan. Create clear objectives using the data that indicates where you’ve fallen short. Furthermore, formulate a timeline for the implementation process and maintain open communication with your team members.

Follow up with Responders

Surprisingly, communicating with your responders is a great way to build customer loyalty and, in turn, further improve your ROI. Acknowledge your customers and thank them for providing you with valuable feedback.

In your response, be transparent and personal. If applicable, outline how proactive you’ll be with the changes being implemented. In this way, your customers will know that you’re committed to listening to them and making continuous improvements.

Drive Continuous Improvement with Future Customer Surveys

You’ve completed your customer survey, put your plan into action, implemented changes, and monitored progress—what’s next?

Continue to gather feedback from ongoing customer surveys or CX evaluations to identify further areas for refinement. By establishing a culture of continuous improvement, businesses can enhance their products, services, and overall CX to meet evolving needs and expectations.

Using Quality Customer Surveys Can Improve Your CX

In conclusion, creating a powerful customer survey is a multifaceted process that requires careful planning, thoughtful design, and proactive follow-through. Small businesses can gather valuable insights that drive meaningful improvements, and enhance the customer experience—ultimately improving their bottom line.

However, if you’re feeling overwhelmed at the idea of creating your own customer survey, consider hiring a professional CX agency. An agency can handle the heavy lifting for small business owners like you. Creating a great customer survey is easy and can be done in as little as 10 minutes, with no long-term commitment.