Improve Customer Satisfaction Surveys With These Six Question Tips

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Customer Satisfaction SurveysMany companies today do their customer satisfaction surveys in-house. Many of them are a one- or two-question post-transaction survey, but many attempt a much more comprehensive survey and sophisticated analysis. We understand that the cost savings from DIY customer surveys can be compelling, but those cost savings often come at the expense of high quality information and insights.

For example, are you sure that your customers are telling you the truth? Especially in situations where customers can feel pressured to complete the survey, how do you know they are not just completing the survey as quickly as possible so you will leave them alone? Is there any chance that car dealership personnel, or restaurant servers, or retail sales associates may try to influence the survey results? Alternatively, is it possible that, just because you are the one sending the survey, customers do not believe that their results will be kept confidential?

These are all potential problems with DIY customer satisfaction surveys, and there  may not be much you can do about many of these issues. However, there is one area that is totally under your control that can have a huge negative impact on your survey results: the questionnaire itself. Here are six common mistakes that businesses make in designing their own customer satisfaction surveys:

  1. Ask about what is most important to the customer (Part I). You know a lot more about your business than your customer will ever know, and your customer is delighted with that. Don’t think that their interaction with your business is as important to you as it is to them. They probably won’t take the time – or even remember enough – to answer highly detailed questions. Focus on the job that your customer wants to accomplish with your business, and ask only about whether they were able to get that job done.
  2. Ask about what is most important to the customer (Part II). One of the keys to a successful customer survey is to keep it short. So don’t go on a fishing expedition – focus on those transactional elements, attributes, or factors that contribute most to creating satisfaction or dissatisfaction. You can find these by conducting a key driver or regression analysis to isolate those with the most impact.
  3. Use customer-friendly language. Just because they are customers, don’t assume they speak the same language you do. (I once interviewed an orthopedic surgeon who called the product, not by the product name, not even by the tool name, but rather “That shaver thingy.”!) If it is critical that you know which product they are talking about, include images so that customers can specifically identify the products they purchased or used. Don’t use technical jargon, but if you must, include a definition for those customers who might be less familiar.
  4. Set accurate expectations. Be honest with what you tell customers to get them to respond to your survey. If you tell them it will be confidential, keep it confidential. If you tell them it will take 10 minutes to complete, don’t let it take 15 to complete. If you tell them you are going to pay an incentive, pay the incentive. Remember, these are your customers. It is not just about getting them to do your survey; you want to keep them as customers and show that you respect and honor their time.
  5. Keep the flow. As you design your survey, think of it as developing a relationship with your respondent. Start with interesting, close-ended questions that can be answered quickly to get their attention early. Then, proceed logically through the rest of the survey. It is easier for respondents to answer survey questions that seem to proceed in a logical order, rather than jumping from topic to topic. And of course, finish with your toughest or most sensitive questions last.

As Stanley Payne said, “The great weakness of questionnaire design is lack of theory.  Because there are no scientific principles that guarantee an optimal or ideal questionnaire, questionnaire design is a skill acquired through experience.  It is an art rather than a science”.  Moreover, while many sources can provide you with sample questions for customer satisfaction surveys, they cannot tell you which questions are the best for your company and your customer. By keeping these tips in mind, you can get a start on a good survey of your customers.

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Kyle Burnam

Kyle Burnam is the CEO of Infosurv and the leader of its sister company, Intengo, where he oversees all client research and R&D projects. Having been in the industry since 2005, Kyle brings a wealth of experience to the table and an innovative eye to every project.