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Do's and Don'ts for a Successful Customer Survey editorial staff editorial staff

When a customer survey is done well, it can provide great insight into the minds of your customers. To make your survey a success, follow these tips.

When a customer survey is done well, it can provide great insight into the minds of your customers, and it has great potential to help your business. When it's not designed and executed well, though, it may be nothing more than a waste of time and money. Here are some do's and don'ts to help you prepare, conduct and review a great customer survey.

Do: Share your motives

If your customer has made it to your survey, don't be afraid to be frank and honest with them. Tell them the truth; that the survey was created to gain insight and to ultimately improve the product they use. They'll appreciate your honesty!

Do: Keep your opinions to yourself

Leading questions are one of the easiest and most common ways to skew survey results. You should stand behind your product or business, but when creating questions, stay as neutral as possible.

"What do you think of the amazing new app we just rolled out?" is a leading question. Instead, ask "What do you think of our new app?"

Don't: Be afraid to ask for negative feedback

It's tempting to want praise from your customers, but you will often learn more from criticisms. Design a question or two that encourages negative feedback. For example,  "What could we most improve?" "What, if anything, did you not enjoy about our product?"

If a customer likes your product or service, they aren't likely to say anything bad about it without prompting. Knowing what they don't like, as well as what they do like, helps you deliver the best customer experience.

Do: Incentivize customers to participate in your survey

You'll see more responses if there's something in it for your customers. Think about offering a guaranteed benefit rather than just a "chance to win." Consider offering a free trial to your service or a discount, say 30%, off your product just for taking part in the survey.

Don't: Be afraid to ask about pricing

Wondering how lowering or increasing prices would affect your profit margin? There are a few simple ways to ask about pricing.

The first is the direct pricing method. "How likely would you be to purchase [product] at [specific price]?" You would then use a rating scale that starts at extremely likely and moves to not at all likely.

The second method is to ask at which price point the customer would most likely purchase the product.

If you are considering upgrading your product, you may want to ask about value for the price. "Would you purchase [product] at [increased price] if the quality or overall value of the product was increased?"

Do: Make it quick and keep it simple

Even with incentives, your customer's time is important to them, so don't risk losing their attention with long-winded questions. According to SurveyMonkey, participants are more likely to quit if the survey takes longer than seven minutes.

To reduce the time respondents spend filling out the survey, use multiple-choice questions, rating scales and yes/no answers. While free text answers are good, they can be time-consuming to complete and normally require a human to read and interpret the results.

Don't: Be inconsistent

Consistency throughout the survey will improve response rates. Try to structure questions in a similar way, through language and design. Both are going to help participants to move through the questions quickly and without confusion.

Do: Ask the right questions

Knowing what to ask can be tricky, but try to resist the temptation to copy other surveys. Think about what your customers can specifically tell you to help your business do better. Do they have an opinion on your latest pricing plans? Do they need more support from your team?

Consider your questions carefully. Keep them as specific as possible and ask what you really need to know. It helps to focus on aspects that you can change if things aren't working out.

For example, if you're manufacturing a product and changing the color of the product would be extremely difficult, asking customers if they would prefer a different color provides little benefit.

Don't: Be afraid to take it offline

For most online businesses, an online survey can suffice, but if you often engage with customers face to face or on the phone, you might want to think about conducting your survey in the same fashion. Of course, this may change the way you collate and analyze the responses, but you're likely to get better results.

Don't: Be afraid of yes and no questions

Not only are yes/no questions the easiest to answer, but they're also the easiest to collate and analyze. Customers can breeze through yes/no questions so they are less likely to quit out of frustration.

Do: Allow for extra feedback

When we asked our customers what they loved most about our software, we gave them some multiple-choice questions and a free text entry. To our surprise, almost every respondent used the free text entry to expand on the multiple-choice answers we'd suggested, giving us a ton of insight into what our customers really valued.

Do: Analyze the survey results

A survey is only as good as the usable data you receive from it. You may want to look for differences in responses between demographics or locations to give you extra insight into what specific subsets of customers think. You may notice certain trends across the majority of your customers.

Don't: Hesitate to use the results

Once you've analyzed the survey responses, it's time to put them to use. This means giving customers more of the things they like, and changing or minimizing the things they don't.

This is the real goal of the survey. It lets you know where you are excelling and what areas need improvement. Making changes based on survey results will also make your customers feel appreciated and heard.

Feeling inspired to create your next customer survey?

Image Credit: Chainarong_Prasertthai / Getty Images editorial staff editorial staff Member
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