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Customer surveys are valuable -- in more ways than you might think. 

  • They show you what’s important to customers and help guide your priorities
  • They help you measure your customer service and help you correct or tweak
  • They create engagement – sending a message that your customers are important and that you really care about what is important to them.

With online surveys, the ability to survey customers online is relatively easy.  Unfortunately, that also means that many surveys are not thoughtfully prepared.  And there is also the challenge of getting customers to actually answer them, given that they are so bombarded with requests for their attention. 

The following is a step-by-step plan based on years of experience to help you gain a goldmine of actionable feedback.

  1. Develop clear objectives for the survey.  While you may want to do many things, you will only be able to ask a relatively small number of questions.  Some possibilities are:
  • Client satisfaction with products and services
  • Feedback on new services or products you are thinking of developing
  • Insights into what communications, events, webinars, etc. are of value
  1. “What action will I take after getting this information?”  Upfront, it is very important for each recipient of the results (product development, customer service, sales, etc.) to chime in on what response he/she will take after getting this customer feedback.  Without answering this question in concrete terms, you may end up with information but no real insights.  Worse yet, you may potentially damage customer satisfaction in asking for feedback, but showing no real response in return.
     
  2. Create questions in the language of the customer.  Ideally, you have done some face-to-face interviews. Use this feedback to phrase questions in the terms used by customers, not your internal terms, or marketing-speak.  Also make sure your questions are simple, clear and only tackle one issue at a time.
     
  3. Ask for as little background data as needed.  For example, customer name should be optional to ensure complete honesty.  Also, make sure any demographic information you ask for is something you think will affect the results.  For example, if you suspect that men and women may respond differently, then ask for gender.  Otherwise, skip the question.
     
  4. Make very few questions required.  Also include a “Don’t know” or “other” response to make the survey as easy as possible.
     
  5. Include an open-ended question at the end.  You may get some ideas and insights you did not anticipate.
     
  6. Include an overall satisfaction measure or Net Promoter Score Very simply ask, “How likely is it that you would recommend [brand] to a friend or colleague?”  This one question has been shown to be the best predictor of customer satisfaction and referrals. 
     
  7. Limit the survey to 5-10 minutes.  This translates into roughly 20 multiple choice questions with a few open-ended comments.  You may need to circle back to your objectives and your actions to narrow the questions to a reasonable number.
     
  8. Write a personal cover letter.  Have the author be the CEO or the person with the closest client contact.  Let the customer know that this will be used to drive future company action based on what is important to them.
     
  9. Offer an incentive.  Easy ideas that are quick to deliver and of value are a digital guide or a gift card.
     
  10. Give a deadline for completion.  Two-three weeks is about the right amount with a reminder to those not responding 5-7 days before the deadline.
     
  11. Follow up with a sincere thank you and next steps. This acknowledges the value you place on their time and feedback.

Regarding survey platforms, there are many excellent options available on market.  Often the selection will be determined by the number of surveys you need to send, any security issues (such as password protection, single response protection), and whether you will need more complex survey flow.  Two options that are easy to use, with substantial flexibility are SurveyMonkey and SurveyGizmo.

About the Author(s)

Jeanne Rossomme headshot

Jeanne uses her 20 years of marketing know-how to help small business owners reach their goals. Before becoming an entrepreneur, she held a variety of marketing positions with DuPont and General Electric. Jeanne regularly hosts online webinars and workshops in both English and Spanish.

President, RoadMap Marketing
online survey