The Gist

  • Strategic importance. Customer surveys are more than just feedback tools; they’re strategic assets for brands.
  • Design best practices. Survey design needs to be clear, focused, and mobile-friendly to improve response rates.
  • Expert opinions. Open-ended questions and a tone that encourages candor can yield richer data.
  • Platform choices. Brands have several strong options like SurveyMonkey, Qualtrics, and Google Forms to choose from for survey tools.

When it comes to customer experience and marketing strategies, being able to create effective customer surveys is a pivotal skill. These surveys serve as valuable touchpoints for businesses to gather insights, gauge satisfaction and refine their strategies. In this article, we’ll delve into the art of creating customer surveys, examine the reasons that surveys matter, discuss how to optimize questions and take a close look at the top four survey platforms.

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Why Customer Surveys Matter

At a time when consumers have a wealth of options at their fingertips, customer surveys have evolved from a mere feedback mechanism to a strategic asset. These surveys act as a critical touchpoint, providing businesses with a direct line to the consumer’s needs, feelings and desires. Far from simply measuring satisfaction levels, modern survey tools are capable of capturing detailed insights into customer behavior, preferences and pain points. 

By harnessing this data, brands can adapt their products, services and customer support strategies to meet evolving needs and expectations. Advanced analytics and sentiment analysis, often powered by AI, can further dissect this survey data, uncovering trends and anomalies that can be addressed proactively. In a sense, customer surveys offer a dynamic roadmap for continual improvement, serving as the basis for shaping a customer-centric culture that can differentiate a brand in a crowded marketplace.

Related Article: How Customer Feedback Surveys Shape UX Design

Survey Design Tips and Best Practices

Brands must clearly define the survey objectives and target audience — who they need to hear from and what they hope to learn. Then, they must choose an appropriate survey length and structure based on those goals, keeping in mind that shorter surveys often receive higher response rates. Questions should be thoughtfully organized, starting with those that are easy or most interesting. Make it easy for customers to complete the survey by providing clear, unbiased questions tailored to the brand’s customers. The survey should be visually clean and mobile-friendly. Finally, brands should test the survey before launch to refine the content and flow. 

Dina Wasmer, president and CMO at Incite Creative, a Maryland-based marketing advisory firm, told CMSWire that customer feedback often provides insights into what really makes their clients different or unique and gives them critical input into how best to position and promote them. Wasmer shared some survey best practices that her firm has successfully used, such as:

  • Use open-ended questions as much as possible. Although it requires more time to analyze, we find it is much more informative and provides more valuable intel than baited multiple choice.
  • Use rating scales from 1-10. We find that participants are more inclined to think about the number they select, rather than 1-5, where they are more often to pick 3, which doesn’t tell us much aside from being middle of the road.
  • Use options such as “Did Not Meet My Expectations,” “Met My Expectations,” “Exceeded My Expectations” and “N/A” when asking about a client’s experience in working with the business. We’ll also break it down into the major milestone customer journey areas or departments. This helps us better understand where the gaps or areas for improvement are. If it’s not done this way, it’s more of a global statement and we can’t determine where to nip or tuck.
  • Keep the tone friendly yet professional, and refer to the company by name (XYZ Company) rather than “We” or “Us” so it sounds more third-party and credible. Also, if it’s too personalized, participants may be reluctant to be candid or fully truthful in their responses, which doesn’t do the business much good.
  • Make sure to convey that their feedback is valuable and that the inquiry is legitimate and approved. For example, “At XYZ Company, we strive to provide our clients with the highest level of service. To help us continue doing so, we selected a small group to participate in an electronic questionnaire. We would greatly appreciate your feedback. Feel free to take the time you need to provide insightful, candid responses to the following questions. Please note that your answers are for internal research purposes only and will not be distributed. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us at xxx-xxx-xxxx.”

Another thing that should be avoided is asking leading questions, such as “How well did the product work out for you?” This is a psychological ploy that is used to elicit the response the questioner is hoping to receive. That is another reason why, as Wasmer suggested, that brands should use open-ended questions. 

Ryan Rottman, co-founder and CEO at Online Sports Database (OSDB), a professional sports database website, reiterated this suggestion, and said that although we all want to hear positive feedback, a customer survey that is specifically designed to do so will do little to help you find areas needing improvement. “No one likes to read negative comments, as though we may try to not take them personally, it is difficult to do so; yet a survey that does not encourage brutal honesty also prevents a business from making necessary changes,” Rottman said, adding that by avoiding the use of leading questions in your survey, you may experience some discomfort, but in the end you will acquire the information you need to improve your business.

Michael Nemeroff, CEO and co-founder of RushOrderTees, an apparel ecommerce brand, told CMSWire that at his business, they made their customers the subject of every question. “Asking ‘what was your opinion or suggestion’ regarding a product makes the customer feel more open to expressing their concerns. You-centered questions imply that we’re interested in hearing honest reviews and that we welcome our customers’ contributions to our business.” 

Nemeroff said that he prefers this over asking vague, general questions because they feel more like an exam and less like a friendly conversation you’re having with a customer. “‘You’ creates a sense of comfort and familiarity which drastically impacts the quality of responses we receive.”

Many brands incentivize their surveys, providing customers with an exciting reason to take the time to complete a survey. Stephan Baldwin, founder and HR manager at Assisted Living, a health marketing company, told CMSWire that his business uses incentives to entice customers, giving them an opportunity to receive a useful reward in exchange for their feedback. “For example, customers who participate in one of our surveys would enter for a chance to win a gift card for a senior wellness brand, or to win a specific senior care product, like a weighted blanket,” said Baldwin. “These gifts are usually essentials for elderly loved ones — or at least, they might improve their current conditions — so clients are enticed to take the survey. The more relevant the incentive, the greater the response rate.”

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Survey Tools and Platforms

Wading through the wide variety of survey tools and platforms that are available today can feel like sifting through a digital haystack in search of the elusive golden needle. Thankfully, there are standout platforms that rise above the rest, both in terms of usability and the quality of insights they can deliver. These platforms offer more than just templated questions; they provide a comprehensive suite of features designed to capture, analyze and act upon customer feedback in real time. Here are some of the most popular, full-featured survey platforms:

SurveyMonkey is one of the most popular survey platforms, and most people are familiar with it, having taken a survey from this company at one point in their browsing lifetime. It features powerful analytics capabilities and extensive customization options, and enables brands to create engaging surveys that allow consumers to easily voice their opinions.

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SurveyMonkey has carved out its space in the survey solutions sector by offering a mix of intuitive design and robust analytical capabilities. One of its most compelling features is its vast library of pre-designed templates and questions vetted by survey research experts. This is very useful for businesses that may not have the in-house expertise to design surveys that will elicit useful responses. 

The platform’s customization options are also a high point. Brands can tweak nearly every aspect of the survey — from the types of questions asked, to the look and feel — allowing businesses to align the survey with their brand identity. Even the distribution methods are varied, enabling users to send surveys via email, web, social media and even through mobile apps.

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