Customer Experience News & Trends

13 ways to get worthwhile results from online surveys

Online customer surveys are convenient — but often met with apathy. Here are 13 proven ways to get worthwhile results from your surveys.

Customers will respond with valuable feedback if you word and time the survey right.

To get results:

1. Begin with the end in mind

Think about what you will do with the answers and how you’ll analyze the survey before you draft a question or pull an email list. For instance, asking customers their income is easy to ask and answer, but what will you do with the results?

Having a single, well-defined objective will help you create a survey that only asks the questions that provoke candid feedback and helps you make changes based on customer needs.

2. Save demographic questions

Customers have a certain amount of goodwill toward surveys. Don’t waste too much of it on demographic questions that you could probably do without. Ask interesting questions to engage customers early in the survey — those that you really need answered. Leave the boring demographic questions for the end.

3. Use neutral wording to start questions

This approach helps you avoid using leading questions. For example: “What is your opinion of …?” “How do you feel about …?” “To what extent do you …?”

If you ask them to rate something, use both extremes so they aren’t lead to one. For example, “How good or how poor is …?” and “How important or unimportant is …?” are better than “How good is …” or “How important is …?”

4. Keep it simple

Ask questions in the same language that you’d use if you were having an informal conversation. That sets the stage for more relaxed, candid feedback.

5. Keep it short

As a rule of thumb, keep the time to complete the survey to under 10 minutes. People will opt out after that.

6. Ask general, then specific questions

If customers feel strongly about a specific topic, it might have too great of an influence on their response to the general or related questions.

For instance, ask about overall customer satisfaction first. Then ask if they’re satisfied or not with email response rates, website information, order processes or technical help. If they love it all except tech help — and they’re asked about that first — it will likely artificially under-inflate the rest of their answers.

7. Be careful with follow-up questions

Caution is recommended when asking “why” questions. When you ask why a customer responded in a certain way, you might get false or misleading information, especially if the “why” question is only triggered by negative feedback. When customers realize that the “why” pops up when they rate something low or indicate an unhappiness, they may be tempted to say yes so they can get done faster.

Only ask follow-up “why” questions that allow customers to elaborate on your most important objective — and have them prompted from both negative or positive answers in the preceding question.

8. Keep your scales in line

When asking for feedback on a scale, make sure you’re measuring quality across the same scale. For instance, five-point scales that go from “very good” to “very poor” should have a mid-point such as “neither good nor bad.” A scale that has “average” as the mid-point needs to have “above average” and “below average” as its end points. Similar language needs to go with a scale that includes “satisfactory” as the mid-point.

And when it’s time to analyze, make sure you compare apples to apples: Compare scales with the same possible end answers. You don’t want to compare one question with a “strongly agree/strongly disagree” scale to a question with a “very good/very poor” scale.

9. Use ‘don’t know’ sparingly

People will default to this answer when they’re bored with or trying to rush through the survey. Instead, try stronger wording, such as “no idea at all.” They likely won’t resonate with that strong emotion and will pick a more appropriate answer.

10. Proofread and pretest it

Several people should proofread the survey for continuity, ease-of-use, grammar and spelling before it goes live.

From there, send it to a control group for a pretest. Check that the survey looks good and actually works in various operating systems and browsers. And make sure that you can collect the data from each of those systems and browsers.

11. Send it at the right time

One recent study found that the highest survey open and click-through rates are on Mondays, Fridays and Sundays, despite the long-held belief that those are low-response rate days. Even better, the study found that the response quality was just as good on the weekend as it was on weekdays.

12. Use a cover and a follow up

Send a short cover email giving details on why you’re surveying customers and what you’ll do with the results. When people understand the purpose, they’re more likely to participate.

And if responses are slow coming, send a reminder to take the survey after a week or more.

13. Add an incentive

Studies show that offering to enter respondents into a drawing for a gift — or some sort of incentive — has a significant impact on response rates.

Subscribe Today

Get the latest customer experience news and insights delivered to your inbox.