Writing a Customer Satisfaction Survey

Are your customers really as happy as you think they are? Conducting a customer satisfaction survey will reveal much about the expectations of your customers, and the extent to which you are meeting those expectations.

A good survey will allow you to identify areas of weakness and plan future ventures, and will help you to exceed expectations in the future. But if it is to be a truly useful tool, your survey must be properly executed. There is a method to compiling an effective survey - here are some keys:

  1. Identify your objectives. This is essential. Don't just begin with a series of vague questions. Think about what you are hoping to learn from the process. Construct a series of hypotheses and use the survey to test them. Matching your questions directly to your objectives will ensure that you get effective results.
  2. Construct your questions carefully. When writing each question, think about what you want to learn from it and tailor the question accordingly. For example, open-ended questions such as 'what do you like most about x?' allow for detailed individual responses, which can be of great value in identifying specific issues. On the other hand, if you want to compile statistics and comparative analyses, multiple-choice 'ranking' questions are better.
  3. Consider your target audience. Think about the people who will complete the survey. Make sure you phrase the questions appropriately. If you want really representative results, you must make the survey appeal to as wide a range of people as possible.
  4. Keeping the survey short and simple. A clear style, and an expected completion time of under 10 minutes will encourage more people to respond.
  5. Make it positive. The purpose of the survey is to allow for positive development. Don't focus too much on negatives: give customers a chance to say what they like, as well as what they may not, and to voice any suggestions. Your customers will appreciate the fact that their opinions and ideas count.
  6. Offer an incentive. A prize draw or some form of discount will encourage more people to complete the survey.
  7. Follow up. Once you have the feedback you need, make sure you act upon it! One of the values of a survey is its ability to monitor performance over time. Before you begin the survey, you should plan how you are going to deal with the results. Regular surveys over time will allow you to assess the effectiveness of any changes that are made.

Remember, a reasonably satisfied customer is not necessarily a loyal customer. Knowing the difference between satisfaction and total satisfaction will help you to encourage customer loyalty and allow your business to compete effectively. Anticipating problems, rather than reacting to them, is the key.

Customer Survey Tips

Traps to Avoid

Leading your customers. Take care not to lead the customer into a particular response by means of an accumulation of questions on a given subject: vary your topics.

Vague questions. Make your questions as simple as possible: for example, if you ask a question regarding the 'quality' of customer service, define what you mean by that, as a customer may have a different interpretation of  'quality'


What should you cover?

Here are some examples of the kinds of subjects you may want to feature in your survey.

  • Image of company
  • Place in the market
  • Range of goods and services available
  • Value for money
  • Performance of product
  • Ease of use (from order to delivery)
  • Comparison with others on the market
  • Staff attitude (friendly/knowledgeable)
  • Handling of queries (quickly/effectively)

Depending on your objectives, you may want to go into more detail with some subjects than with others. A survey that is focused on evaluating customer service may want to ask specific questions about a customer's experience, such as how many times they have contacted the company.


Question types
Here are two common types of question. Don't simply stick to one format: instead, use the question most likely to give you the information you want.

1. Rating:
eg. How would you rate the company's customer service?

  • Excellent
  • Very good
  • Average
  • Below average
  • Poor

2. Open-ended:
eg. How could the company improve customer service?

A combination of different question types can be complementary. For example, you could first ask how importantly they rank a particular issue, then ask for detailed feedback.

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