August 4, 2015

10 Tips for Creating Better Customer Surveys


You’re probably being bombarded with customer surveys on a weekly basis from a variety of business and services on a regular basis, right? How many of them do you actually sit down and answer?

The answer is probably, “not many.” That’s because a vast majority of customer surveys are put together hastily and sloppily. It’s as simple as that.

If you want a high response rate to the surveys that you send out and to get the answers you are looking to get, you are going to have to optimize them.

Sure, you can get a high response rate by making it a simple multiple choice survey, but will these responses help you in any way? The trick is to find a way to both a high response rate and high-quality answers, and it’s not easy!

Here are ten tips that can help get you on the path to creating better and more successful customer surveys.

Brand It

If your customers don’t know that it’s a survey from you immediately, it’s going to the trash can before it’s even opened. With so much spam email these days, everyone is suspicious when something that is not branded arrives in their inbox.

Make sure that you brand it so that it’s clear that your company is sending the survey. You can get creative with the design, but using your signature colors and logos is a must.

Sometimes people do respond to surveys that are not clearly branded, but there’s a big difference in such an instance. They’ll respond to a branded survey as if they are talking to someone they know, while they’ll respond to unbranded ones as if they are talking to a stranger.

Keep It Short

You know how short our collective attention spans are these days, right? This is especially true on the Internet. If your survey is too long, people are going to lose interest halfway through.

Ten questions should be the absolute maximum. If you have a lot of questions on your mind, don’t send them all out in one survey – break them up logically and send them out over a period of time with several different surveys.


Don’t Beat Around the Bush

For the best success rate, your questions need to be very specific. You need to make it easy for the customer to understand what you are asking them and what type of answer you want them to give you.

This is easier to do when you are providing multiple choice questions, but very difficult when you are posing open-ended ones. And questions that are open-ended tend to give you the best and most personalized responses, so throwing them out of the equation completely is definitely not advised.

Also, before the survey even starts, you should write an introduction explain to your customers what the survey is about and why you are asking the questions you are asking.

Ask One Question at a Time

Avoid questions with multiple points at all costs. You need to keep your questions focused and singular. If you’re asking several questions at once, the customer feels as if he or she is talking to someone who won’t let them finish a sentence.

Give the customer time to think about one question so that he or she can answer it completely and thoroughly. Asking too many questions at once almost guarantees that you are going to get half-baked answers.

Make the Most of Open-Ended Questions

Sure, asking multiple choice and “scale” questions is much easier, but open-ended questions give you more in-depth answers. This is where most of your most insightful feedback will come from – if you do it correctly.

If you are going to include open-ended questions, it’s best that you save them for the end. You should ease your customer in with the “simple” questions first.

Another good idea is to combine a multiple choice question with an open-ended one. This is not the same as asking several questions at once, which we already told you not to do.

For example, you can ask a question that is multiple choice and then follow it up with a question like, “Why do you feel this way?”

This way, the open-ended question already has some sort of direction given to it and it acts as most of an elaboration than an additional question.

Avoid Leading Questions

If you are asking leading questions, there is a good chance that you will get the answer you want to hear, but not what the consumer truly believes. A lot of companies worry so much about talking about how great their product or service is that they let that attitude spill over into the questionnaires.

Here’s an example of a leading question: We have just introduced fantastic, game-changing new features to our application, how do you like them?

Even though you might be doing it subconsciously, you are still pushing your customer to praise your product, even if you don’t really mean to do so. Let them decide if your new updates are fantastic and game-changing or not.

Keep Ratings Consistent

If you are going to use scales and ratings in your survey, be sure to stick to one format. Don’t try to get creative and include a number of different rating systems, it will only end up confusing your customers.

Whether you scale is rating your services from 1-5, least important to most important, or strongly disagree to strongly agree, try to stick to one for the entire survey.

You can use different rating systems in different surveys to see which ones work better than others, but don’t throw them all into one survey.

Make Your Design Pop

Sure, the content of your survey is certainly the most important aspect, but the packaging is important too. You don’t want to send a survey that looks ugly or boring. Not only do you want to brand it accordingly, you want to make it both easy to navigate and a pleasure to look at as well.

However, it’s important not to overdo it with the design. Make sure that the questions are easy to follow, the fonts are easy to decipher, and that the design is not taking any attention off of the questions at hand.

Make It Easily Adaptable

In order to create the perfect customer survey, you are going to have to test a few out. Most never get it exactly right on the first try, and that’s completely understandable.

That’s why it’s important to make your surveys easily adaptable so that you can make changes periodically and send them out again. Think of it just like A/B testing for your website’s pages.

Send surveys out every month or so with slight changes and keep records of the results so that you can identify what works and what doesn’t.

Offer Rewards

The easiest way to increase your response rates is by offering incentives. While many believe that offering rewards could decrease the quality of the responses, most studies have shown the opposite.

Customers will usually give better responses if there is something in it for them. You can offer account credit or discounts for filling out a survey. Or you can do giveaways and lotteries for people who fill out the questionnaires.

Don’t be afraid to get creative.


Creating customer surveys is far from an exact science. It’s a trial and error process that you need to be patient with if you want to see benefits in the long term.

It’s also very individual. What works best for one company, might not work at all for another. The best advice is to keep plugging away at it. Send surveys regularly, adjust and change them periodically and always analyze your campaigns to get a better idea of what works best with each passing survey.