Customer Satisfaction Surveys: Asking the right questions

Conducting a customer satisfaction survey can be a tremendous benefit for any organization. Knowing what you’re doing well and what you’re doing poorly will only help you serve, and retain, customers.

Recently we talked about the steps to take before carrying out a customer satisfaction survey. Of equal importance is the structure, and content, of the actual questionnaire. Everything from the question types used to the length and wording needs to be taken into consideration. In this post, we’ll take a look at a few useful suggestions to make sure that your survey is well structured and yields useful feedback.

Focus on Customer Loyalty instead of Customer Satisfaction

Even though it’s called a customer “satisfaction” survey, you need to find out more than if your customers are satisfied. A customer who’s perfectly pleased with your service is great, but it doesn’t mean they’ll stay with you, especially if they feel they’d be just as pleased with another provider. A satisfied customer isn’t necessarily a loyal one.

Instead of asking customers to rate their satisfaction with your offering on a basic scale of 1-5, include a point of reference for the respondent to compare you with. With such a scale, you’ll get a much more accurate picture. You’ll find out not only if the customer is satisfied, but also to what degree. If a customer has no complaints, it means you’re meeting their needs but they’re not very likely to be loyal. If they’re ready to recommend you to their friends, however, your chances of retaining that customer are much higher.

Avoid Coaching or Leading

It’s important to word your survey to be completely neutral and free of any sort of bias. Avoid leading the respondent in any direction. As much as you want to receive positive feedback, you have to be prepared to hear anything; otherwise, you’re wasting both time and money. Receiving anything other than completely honest answers will devalue the entire survey process.

When writing the survey, put yourself in the position of a 3rd party, someone who has no affiliation with the company. Don’t give any indication to the respondent that you’re hoping for positive answers. Make it clear that all viewpoints and opinions are accepted.

Be Simple and Clear

You may be familiar with specific terminology and jargon related to your business, but this might not be the case for your customers. Make sure the terminology and sentence structure used is as clear and simple as possible to avoid any confusion or misunderstanding.

Also, make sure your questions are specific, focused and on target. Don’t overload a question with too much information, and avoid asking double barrelled questions. Don’t ask how satisfied a customer was with the “pricing and convenience”, for example. This contains two constructs, and requires two different questions.

Include Open Ended Questions

Open ended questions are often viewed as risky as they’re very difficult to quantify. However, they can be of great use and it’s important to include at least one or two in your survey. Customers often have a lot on their mind, so allowing them to answer a question with less structure can provide you with broader feedback that you may not have gotten otherwise. Including open ended questions towards the end of your survey can be a great way to round it out.

Ask For Context

Some of the most important information you can receive from your survey won’t come from how happy your customers are with your offering, but from who they are, what they do, etc. Make sure to ask your respondents contextual questions such as how long they’ve been a customer, how often they give you business, when they give you business, etc.

Test, Test and Test

Before deploying your survey, it’s crucial to have a 3rd party test it. Make sure the questions are clear and easy to understand, that there’s no coaching and bias, etc. Building a well constructed survey takes time and it’s very important to give it a few practice rounds before unleashing it on your customers.

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