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The Best Customer Satisfaction Survey Questions (for Top Growth Insights)

Data can show you what happened, but how do you understand why? Using a customer satisfaction survey is the key. Here are the best questions you should be asking.

Customer satisfaction survey questions can help you find out exactly what your customers think about your products and how they believe your company can do a better job of serving their most pressing needs.

Armed with that information, you can frame your solutions to those needs in ways that make more sense to your prospects and draw more sales.

Here’s the problem:

Companies often believe they already know their best customers inside and out. Managers often don’t realize how easy it is to become detached from the real needs of customers over time. Client success in one area can distract you from client pain in other areas.

When sales fail to hit projections or conversion rates show dismal results, the data can show you what happened. To find out why it happened, though, there’s no more reliable way than to interact with the people who generate the data: your customers.

One way to do that is via customer satisfaction surveys. Done correctly, surveys are a low-cost method capable of bringing in high-value results. Done incorrectly, they can create confusion and ill will.

If there’s a secret sauce to the process, it’s knowing how to create effective customer satisfaction survey questions.

In this article, we’ll show you how to create surveys that get the answers you seek based on the goals you set.

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How to Plan and Prepare Effective Customer Surveys

Effective customer satisfaction surveys have clear goals. Knowing what you hope to accomplish is the first step in preparing your survey. Once the purpose is clear, the rest of the steps fall naturally.

Here’s the process we recommend:

  1. Define your goal—get clear on what you hope to accomplish.
  2. List the types of responses you need in order to accomplish your goal.
  3. List the questions you must ask to get those responses.
  4. Select the tools you will use for the survey.
  5. Determine how you will distribute your survey.

When it comes to survey length, short and succinct surveys get the highest response rates. It’s much easier to get customers to take a minute to respond to three brief questions than to get them to invest half an hour in an elaborate questionnaire.

We’re not saying there is no place for long-form surveys, only that they are difficult to carry out, and you’ll have to offer a considerable benefit to customers who will give you that much time and thought.

There’s also a mental burnout factor that comes into play. Once the respondent begins to wonder how long the survey is going to keep dragging on, there’s a tendency to resort to less thought-out responses.

Try this strategy instead:

Chunk your questions into fine-tuned sections based on your goals. Rather than creating one long and involved survey, consider designing a series of short, highly focused surveys with one goal each. This method will typically provide a much better response rate and higher-quality data.

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Defining the goal for your customer satisfaction survey

Vague surveys lead to vague results. Beginning by defining your goal helps you create an organized, focused survey. That means you won’t leave out what may be your most relevant questions.

Grabbing a generic survey template or subscribing to an online survey platform is quick and easy, but you won’t get maximum effectiveness by taking the easy way out. It’s essential that you consider your particular business situation and goals when designing the survey.

Your clearly defined goal will lead to questions that are easier to answer and simpler for you to analyze and act upon later.

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For example, would any of the following customer insights be helpful to you?

  • Do you want to determine the aspects of your products customers find most valuable? That knowledge helps with both product development and marketing.
  • Do you want to get feedback on purchase experiences to determine the quality of the process? That knowledge can help you boost your conversion rate.
  • Do you want to uncover the customer needs that aren’t currently being met? That knowledge can help you expand your offers and get more sales.

These are examples of how goals can help you drill down to the questions that are most valuable. The more tightly focused your goal, the more valuable the results.

You don’t need to stop with the three major goals listed above, though. For example, another goal could be to identify customers who are dissatisfied as well as customers you can nurture into brand evangelists.

Goals can identify improvement issues and areas for every department in your business. You can even view your employees as “customers” and use goals to determine ways to get them better engaged and enthusiastic about their work.

But don’t stop there.

Here are even more potential goals:

  • Learn about internal and external barriers to purchase.
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of your website.
  • Uncover the language your prospects use to talk about your niche.
  • Get a better understanding of your competitors and how their ecommerce presence stacks up against yours.
  • Gain insight into the keywords shoppers use to find you and your products.

It’s clear that setting specific goals is crucial to the design of effective customer satisfaction surveys, so how do you begin the process of narrowing the focus of your survey?

Ask yourself these three questions:

  • What do I most want to learn?
  • Who could best provide the answer?
  • What will I do with the information I glean?

For example, let’s say you sell tents for camping and backpacking. You’re thinking of adding on a line of heaters that are safe for using inside a tent, but they’re considerably more expensive than the heaters with “Use in well-ventilated areas only!” warning stickers.

Here is what you know so far:

  • You want to know if your customers would buy the new heaters and how much they might be willing to pay.
  • You think current tent and heater owners can provide the answer.
  • You will use the information you collect to help decide whether or not to offer the new line of heaters.

This process will help you create a focus for your survey.

You’re now prepared to move on to the next step in the process of writing customer satisfaction survey questions: listing the answers.

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List the answers that will help you gain the knowledge you need

We’re not talking about “rigging” the survey to get a predetermined outcome. Rather, the idea is to guide the conversation. By mentally reverse-engineering the process, you can gain a better understanding of the questions you’ll need to ask.

The answers you seek will directly tie to the goal you’ve set. Using the example in the last section, the goal is to determine the feasibility of adding a new product to your online catalog.

Begin by brainstorming potential answers customers may provide. You may even think you already know what’s going on, but don’t short-circuit the process based on your predetermined conclusion.

Your list of possible answers could look like this:

  • I would buy the heater.
  • I would not buy the heater.
  • I would consider buying the heater if the price was right.
  • I wouldn’t have any use for the heater.
  • I already have a heater that works inside my tent.

You may believe most people would buy the heater if the price was reasonable, but you won’t know for sure until you ask your customers.

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List the questions that will get those answers

The answers you get will only be as good as your customer satisfaction survey questions. Don’t rush through this part of the process.

You don’t want to lead respondents towards a desired outcome. Rather, you should give them plenty of room to tell you exactly what they think.

Avoid confusion. Ask directly for what you want to know.

In our example, for instance, you may think “I would buy the heater” is the answer you’re going to get, so you write a to-the-point question to confirm you suspicion:

“How interested are you in purchasing a heater that’s safe to operate inside a tent?”

  • I’m definitely interested
  • I’m not at all interested
  • I need more information before answering

But that’s not all you want to know. There are other questions that must be asked if you’re to get at the answers you seek:

“If we sold a heater you can use inside your tent, which factor would most influence your decision about whether to purchase it or not?”

  • Price is my main concern
  • I’m concerned about whether or not I would use it
  • Safety is my primary concern
  • Other (please explain)

“Heaters safe for inside use must be specially constructed. They must also meet a tough list of safety standards. What would you consider a fair price for a high-quality heater that met those requirements?”

  • I would pay up to $50 for the heater
  • I would pay more than $50 and up to $100 for the heater
  • I would expect to pay more than $100 for the heater
  • I wouldn’t want the heater regardless of price

Note how correctly worded questions can drill down to deliver the exact answers you’re looking for. You may not get the answers you want, but you’ll get the answers you need.

For example, you may find out price isn’t the core problem. In order to identify the other factors that may be turning potential buyers away, provide follow-up questions that allow them to further explain their concerns. Armed with that information, you can get to work protecting and restoring your brand image.

Also note that the questions should primarily be multiple-choice, but also include room for personal, unscripted responses.

Types of purposes your questions can serve

  1. Segmentation questions allow customers to separate themselves into meaningful groups. “Do you own a tent?” and “Do you enjoy tent camping?” are segmentation questions.
  2. Product ownership questions help you assess the distribution and saturation of products within your audience base. “How many tents do you own?” and “What is the size of the tent you use most?” are product ownership questions.
  3. Behavior-oriented questions help you understand how, why, and how often they buy. “How long has it been since you last purchased a camping tent?” and “Which of the following events would lead you to shop for a new camping tent in the next 90 days?” are behavior-oriented questions.
  4. Content-oriented questions are aimed at identifying the content most useful in making a purchase decision. “How important are photographs to your selection of a new tent?” is a content-oriented question.
  5. Decision-making questions identify the most important factors in the purchasing decision. Is quality more important than price? Is durability a concern? How important is free shipping to your customers?
  6. Goal discovery questions determine what visitors hope to accomplish when they visit your ecommerce website. They also help you make sure your content and design is helping visitors reach those goals.
  7. Goal-ranking questions rank those goals according to perceived importance. Are your best prospects more concerned about getting what they want quickly, or would they prefer to browse a bit and consider your information sheets carefully?
  8. Product use questions help you understand your customers better. Do they go camping only on Memorial Day weekend, or do they try to get outdoors every chance they can? Do they like campgrounds or do they prefer to hike into remote campsites?
  9. Brand selection questions get to the reasons why they decided to buy from you. Is your reputation for no-hassle returns and strong product support a primary advantage over the competition? Why do they choose you instead of them? Does that fit your self-assessed unique selling proposition?
  10. Unique information gathering questions give your customers an opportunity to express concerns or answer questions you haven’t even asked. “What products are we not yet carrying that you would love to see us offer?” is a unique information gathering question.
  11. Survey options questions allow your prospects to participate at a deeper level. For example, you might give them the option of a telephone follow-up interview in exchange for a special incentive offer.

Ecommerce survey questions to help you generate ideas

Before purchase:

  • What information is missing or would make your decision to buy easier?
  • What is your biggest fear or concern about purchasing this item?
  • Were you able to achieve the goal of your visit today?
  • If you did not make a purchase today, what stopped you?

After purchase:

  • Was there anything about our checkout process you’d like to see improved?
  • What was your biggest fear or concern about purchasing from us?
  • What most persuaded you to complete the purchase of the item(s) in your cart today?
  • If you could no longer use [name], what’s the one thing you would miss the most?

Other great questions:

  • Do you have any questions before you complete your purchase?
  • What other content would you like to see on this page?
  • What were the three main factors that persuaded you to create an account today?
  • What nearly stopped you from creating an account today?
  • What’s the one thing that nearly stopped you from buying from us?
  • Which other options did you consider before choosing [name]?
  • What would persuade you to shop with us more often?
  • What was your biggest challenge, frustration, or problem in finding the right [item] online?
  • How likely are you to recommend us to a friend or colleague? (a net promoter score [ NPS] question)
  • Please list the top three things that persuaded you to purchase from us rather than a competitor.
  • What other products would you like to see us offer?
  • Were you able to find the information you were looking for?
  • How satisfied are you with our support?
  • How would you rate our service on a scale of 0–10? (NPS question)
  • How would you rate our support on a scale of 0–10? (NPS question)
  • Is there anything preventing you from purchasing at this point?

Great job! You’ve determined your goals for the survey, you’ve identified the answers you seek, and you’ve written the questions to ask that will uncover the information you need.

This survey is important to your business. You know exactly how you’ll use the data. But what about tools and methods? How will you design and distribute your survey questions?

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Choose your survey tools and distribution method

Tools and distribution are often intertwined. Certain tools lend themselves to particular methods of distribution. For that reason, we’ll consider tools and distribution together.

Look first to your audience. How do they prefer to be contacted? Some like phone calls, some like email, and some are all but unreachable unless you use text messaging. Others don’t want to be contacted at all; they want to initiate the conversation.

This part of the strategy is necessarily company-specific. Your knowledge of the people you serve is more essential here than anywhere else. Not only that, but your experience in tool choice and survey distribution will add to your understanding of those customers.

The most common survey tools and methods of distribution

Online survey forms are multi-purpose gems. They allow you to post a survey that’s accessible 24/7 to anyone you send to the site. Top choices for online forms include services like SurveyMonkeySurveyGizmo, and Typeform. The free versions are normally not full-featured enough for serious business use, but paid versions are reasonably priced.

The beauty of online survey forms is that you can direct traffic to them in a variety of ways (be sure to set up tracking so you’ll know who came from where). You can give identified customers a special link. You can run ads on social media or via search engine PPC. You can develop an email campaign that invites people to take the survey. The possibilities are considerable.

Online survey forms are low-pressure, and it’s easy to record/view/analyze the information collected by them.

Phone and voice interviews give respondents the ability to speak their answers. It’s easier to talk than to type. Voice interviews can work well with many prospects.

Whether you ask them to “stay on the line for a brief survey” after a customer service call, or you employ live interviewers, phone and voice surveys can glean valuable information. A huge plus is that the respondents aren’t limited to a set number of characters or even a set number of questions. Their answers can go on as long as they’re willing to talk.

Systems for phone and voice can complicated. If your customer service department can handle the workload, they may be your best bet. For third-party help, check services like Plum Voice and CallFire.

Text (SMS) interviews are making headway. Many of your prospects are more likely to answer a text message than an email or phone call. Careful, though: The strategy can backfire with some audience segments and create suspicion instead of willing participation.

Whether the text message sends people to a mobile-friendly online form or gets recorded by an SMS chatbot, you’ll want to keep it quick and simple. Few people want to write a novel on their mobile phone.

Check Qualtrics and Voicent to get started.

How to write a customer survey email request

The content of the survey request email should be to-the-point and free of any marketing. We’ve found that a plain (or minimally styled) text email with only one or two sentences works the best for getting a solid response rate. Be direct and express your gratitude for the help.

Test the subject and content of your emails before sending a final version to pull a greater response rate.

Here are two survey request email templates that have worked well for our clients:

B2C subject line examples:

  • Help improve our site with this brief survey
  • Brief survey to improve [yourbrandsite.com]
  • Get a 15% discount coupon by taking this survey
  • Take our survey, get a coupon for 15% off any purchase

B2C body copy examples:

Hi [Prospect Name],
We’re updating [ourbrandsite.com] and could use your help! Please take one minute to complete this short survey: [LINK]
Thanks,
[Your team]

If you’re surveying other businesses, it can be helpful to offer to share the data back with the participants (not always necessary).

B2B subject line examples:

  • Share your opinion and gain industry insights
  • [First Name] – your opinion for our industry survey
  • 2-minute survey on [Company Name]’s research process

B2B body copy examples:

Hi [Their Name],
We’re conducting an industry-wide survey to improve the process of [focus of survey] online.
If you will take two minutes to fill out the survey at [LINK], we will gladly share the results with you.
Thanks,
[Your team]

Customer satisfaction survey questions can provide tremendous insight

There are a variety of reasons for creating a customer survey. The motivation can change depending on the company and department, but the key purpose is always the same: they allow you to better understand the people you serve.

Too many organizations replace trustworthy qualitative and quantitative data derived directly from their customers with gut reactions and best guesses. Ignoring feedback opens the door to lost revenue. When your offers aren’t tailored to your customers, your conversion rate will suffer.

The customer survey is a powerful and simple way to get real data that can help you validate your ideas, refine your processes, improve your products, fine-tune your marketing efforts, and ultimately improve conversions.

You can bet your strongest competitors are leveraging the power of data-driven insight. Don’t let them get the jump on you.

The process we’ve just outlined can provide a huge return on investment for you. Lead with a goal and follow the steps given. If you need help or have questions, contact The Good. We’re here to help you succeed.

Resources:

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About the author: David Hoos is the Director of Marketing at The Good, conversion rate experts who deliver more revenues, customers, and leads. David and the team at The Good have made a practice of advising brands on how to see online revenue double through their conversion rate optimization services.

2 Comments

  • Author’s gravatar

    Great idea indeed on knowing what’s the customers are looking for. They surely differ in wants and needs but at least getting the best idea direct from them can help us produce a better product.

    Reply

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