Most effective customer survey techniques

    By Erin Morioka | Small Business

    Here we take you through the essentials of crafting the perfect customer survey.

    Shorter is better when it comes to surveys. No matter the situation, people will insist that they do not have the time to fill out surveys. The order of survey questions also matters. Most people don’t like answering difficult questions first, so throw them a few soft questions and gradually build toward the more specific questions. Key Survey, a firm specializing in customer surveys, organizes its questions into three types: general, specific, and demographic. If you are going to use open-ended questions to allow customers to respond to suggestions for new products or services, put those at the end.

    You have a wide range of choices when it comes to survey fomat: phone, e-mail, snail mail, or in-person. There are advantages to each, depending on the customer base. If you service a younger crowd, an online system like Survey Monkey might prove to be most effective. Online systems are relatively inexpensive, in addition to being user-friendly. If your customer base is older, phone and/or snail mail might be a better fit, although they are more costly than online options. In-person surveys can work well if your employees are passionate about the survey. Regardless of the format, try incentivizing customer completion of the survey by way of coupons or drawings, boosting participation, and demonstrating to the customer that you appreciate their feedback.

    How many completed surveys do you need to have accurate information? According Jeffrey Henning, founder of the online survey management company Vovici, you only need 400 responses to represent a population in the millions. Of course, statisticians require thousands of responses to represent millions. For small businesses that service fewer than 1,000 customers, an 80% survey response is required to provide an accurate representation of the various groups that comprise your customer base.

    Deciding whether or not to use multiple choice, open-ended, or scalable survey questions will depend on the type of information that you are collecting. If you want detailed information about how customers feel about your service, you’ll want to use scalable questions. For example, "On a scale of one to ten, how satisfied are you with the quality of our product?" For other types of questions that can be easily categorized, such as frequency of visits, multiple choice questions work better. If you are looking for suggestions or more personalized feedback, use open-ended questions.


    1. Inc.: “How to Write a Customer Survey”

    2. Key Survey: “Developing a Successful Customer Satisfaction Survey”

    3. Satisfaction Questionnaire: “Write Your Customer Satisfaction Questionnaire in 30 Minutes”

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