Using Customer Feedback Surveys

Collecting customer feedback can provide you with invaluable insight into the customer process. These are insights that you can assume or guess out on your own, and can go a long way toward shaping your business in a way that sets it up to be more successful in the future. Unfortunately, information on how to gather feedback so that it is accurate, unbiased, and actionable, that is, leading to actual tangible steps you can take to improve, is sparse. Many who go the DIY route with their customer satisfaction surveys fall into common pitfalls of question writing and end up with data that doesn’t do them a lot of good.

Tip #1) Know what you want to know Seriously, before you start writing your customer feedback survey, narrow down what exactly it is you hope to come out more knowledgeable about. For example, it’s not super helpful to gauge overall “satisfaction.” Instead, think of a specific question like “What is stopping customers who have items in their cart but don’t proceed to checkout?” or “How can I improve my support options to make customers happier?” Having a guiding topic like this will help you make sure you have a consistent purpose through your questions.

Tip #2) Share where your customers are Sometimes, sharing a survey with your customers or trying to reach them in the wrong place can make it difficult to get a high response rate. For example, you could email your survey out to those on your customer email list, but what if you embedded the survey right on your website, on crucial pages, as well? Or if you have a physical store, maybe you setup an ipad with a survey to catch people as they leave the store instead. Try to get creative and reach your customers where they are actually most likely to actually be and respond.

Tip #3) Keep your brand voice in mind Remember, when you’re asking your customers to give you their feedback, your survey acts as a branch of communication for your brand. If the language or phrasing or tone of your survey seem to deviate too extremely from your brand tone of voice, it could come off as odd. Worse yet, customers could assume that you care so little about their feedback that you’ve hired someone externally to do your satisfaction research. Remember, that survey itself is a brand touchpoint, so treat it as such!

Tip #4) Avoid words and phrases that could push responses toward a certain bias Too often, surveys word their questions in a way that leads respondents toward offering up a certain opinion. While it’s nice to hear that you’re doing well or that customers love a certain feature, it’s better to make sure that your feedback is genuine and honest. Avoid framing questions in any way that hints at something being good or bad before you ask the respondent for an opinion of it.

Below we’ll take a look at some more advanced techniques for guaranteeing your surveys yield actionable results.

Advanced Tip #1) Avoid agree or disagree type questions When surveys give a statement and then ask respondents whether they agree or disagree with it, they may intentionally be biasing their responses. According to Harvard University’s own guidelines for sharing surveys, these questions often result in a bias toward more people choosing ‘agree’ than actually would rate themselves as being aligned with the statement.

Advanced Tip #2) Keep your survey to 10 questions, max When people bother to give you the time it takes to fill out your customer survey, you should appreciate that decision, not disrespect it by keeping them on the hook for longer than necessary. Plus, keeping your survey short is actually to your benefit as well. Research has shown that the longer a survey gets, the less time people spend on each question, because they get frustrated with the survey dragging on and speed up their responses on the later questions. It’s best to keep things more manageable and get to the point quickly both for your sake and for that of your customers.

Advanced Tip #3) Use question logic In the survey industry, question logic refers to the ability of a survey software to change which questions a respondent gets asked depending on how they’ve answered something previously. For example, if a customer answers that they have never purchased a teddy bear from your store, it makes little sense to ask them followup questions about the quality of the bear they purchased. Question logic lets you have the people who tell you they’ve never purchased a teddy bear skip right over the questions that pertain to that product. This can help you keep your questions as relevant as possible, which will also increase the chances that your respondents stick around.

Advanced Tip #4) Limit your use of open-ended questions. When it comes right down to it, it’s great to offer your respondents open-ended text fields that let them give a detailed opinion on a topic. That said, relying on these types of questions too much over more quantitative, measurable rating scales, etc. can make it hard to get data that’s easy to pick apart. Being able to tie comments and explicit suggestions to your business is great, but so is the ability to see where average highs and lows lie with your customer group as a whole. It’s a good idea to mix in quantitative and qualitative questions as your survey progresses, to get a nice balance of information coming in.

Finally, you should be striving to follow-up personally with every person who bothers responding to your survey. First, you should thank them, then you should dig into the specific answers you got and make sure you understand what actions you should take next to improve – this applies to those who had both positive and negative input for you!


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