When you’re a small business owner, your customers’ opinions are at times obvious, but some can also remain a mystery. The next best thing to telepathy is to simply ask them what they think, in the form of a customer satisfaction survey.
The benefits of surveying your customers are many. Asking customers specific questions can help you:
- Improve and develop your product
- Address website issues (technical problems or download errors)
- Target customer retention and upsell opportunities
- Prevent cart abandonment
- Build relationships with your customers
- Understand market insights and demographic nuances
Overall, customer satisfaction surveys are a great opportunity to help you improve your business and grow your customer base. Use the following guidelines and tips to create an effective survey.
Tips for formulating your survey
1. Utilize online tools
Start with some tools that will eliminate some of the manual design and development work. I’ve put together a list of some popular customer survey tools and form builders. Many have free versions and affordable pricing, and come with extensive, secure, features.
Tools/sites to use:
There are a few different ways you can distribute your survey. You can add it to your website through a popup that appears somewhere during their experience, asking if they’d like to participate. You can also email your existing customers the survey, post a link to it on your social media websites, or add a link to the survey after a customer completes a purchase. A little incentive such as a small, free gift goes along way, too.
2. Plan your questions
Planning can mean everything when it comes to surveying your users. You want to formulate effective questions, so think about the type of content that is relevant to your business. What questions do you wonder about your customers? Are they demographics, such as age, region, and income, or are they more personal such as interests, opinions on your products, unmet needs and concerns?
Another important benefit of surveys is discovering areas of frustration for customers, so you can address them, and make them happy. Start with a list of 15 or so questions and you can narrow it down later.
3. Create your answer options
Now that you’ve got a good foundation of questions to work from, you can create answer selections for each. You have two options here: open-ended or closed.
Open: An open-ended response allows the user to type their answer into a comment box. They usually provide more detail, as they allow customers to speak freely. However, they can also be more time-consuming as well. Keep these high level, such as ‘what would you improve about our product/site’ rather than, ‘what do you think of our new shoe?’ Wufoo suggest this open-ended customer service question:
Closed: With a closed response, you would provide answers in a multiple choice, or yes or no format. They’re quick to answer, and this type allows you to sort and filter responses, whereas with open-ended questions you have to manually analyze each response. The downside to asking close-ended questions is that they restrict or pigeonhole your users to one option. This example does provide a short field for an open-ended response as well:
Include a variety of both types, but limit the amount of open-ended questions you ask. You may experience a higher abandonment rate from participants if you ask more than a couple.
4. Organize your content
Organize your questions and answers in a way that makes sense. Funnel the format from broad to specific, or beginning to end of an experience. For example, possible answers to a question about frequency of product usage should be structured, rather than random.
- a few times a week
- on occasion
- once a month
This type of structure is easy to digest, and guides the survey participant to a quick answer selection. If you’re asking about an ecommerce experience, start by asking about the homepage, then move deeper into the experience, such as checkout, and finally end with satisfaction of delivery time and the product itself (i.e. beginning to end).
5. Use a clean, well-designed template
Customer satisfaction surveys should create a feeling of trust and ease with your user. They may have a bit of a clinical feel compared with the rest of your site, but that’s okay. You want to create a clean, simple design that’s easy to navigate and even easier to complete. Don’t use your survey as a placement for ads, promotions, or banners.
6. Achieve balance
How many questions is too many, or too few? It’s a good question, and one that may take some trial and error to figure out. Generally speaking, shorter surveys have higher engagement rates. Strive for an experience that is informative and insightful for you, and simple for the user. SurveyMonkey recommends inviting a few people to take your survey, and timing how long it takes them to complete it. It shouldn’t take more than about 5 minutes to complete your survey, so adjust the amount of content in yours accordingly.
7. Tone and style
Speak with a tone that’s professional and direct, but conveys gratitude to the user for taking their time to provide feedback. Be sure to welcome them at the beginning of the survey, give specific instructions throughout, and thank them immensely toward the end.
8. Exercise caution and transparency
Make it clear that your customer’s input is anonymous. Privacy is a must-have when it comes users, and if you think it might be a thing of the past, consider this: a recent customer satisfaction survey lists ads and privacy concerns as primary contributors to Facebook’s low scores.
Also, make your intentions for the survey clear. Is it to gather feedback on products, so you can improve them, or source new ones? Or is it regarding a new site design or shopping cart feature?
Gathering your data
If you’ve embedded a survey to your site, or are linking to it, establish a timeline for collecting and analyzing the data. It’s difficult to identify trends in respondents feedback if you’re only looking at a handful. Leave the survey on your site for at least a couple of weeks. If you sent your survey via email and have received a low response, it’s okay to email those that didn’t participate a week or so later with a reminder.
Export the data you’ve received into a spreadsheet, so you can sort and filter the answers. Review open-ended questions individually. The rest you can sort and filter based on importance, funneling from large to small. Make sure to pay attention to the timeframe you’re analyzing. If it’s over a holiday or during a promotion, take that into consideration.
Most survey companies, such as Polldaddy have plenty of features and support to help you analyze your data. No matter what story your data is telling you, you’ll walk away from the experience with action items.
First and foremost, you should thank users for participating, and provide the incentive if you offered one. Some other improvements to consider:
- Seek ways to improve any product that received negative feedback or low scores. After redesigning or improving, invite a user group to try it out.
- Prioritize areas of your site that need improvement. Support, payment process, and shipping are common areas of weakness for ecommerce store owners. Do what you can to improve these areas, and after some time, survey your customers again.
- If you see a steady trend of negative feedback in one area, and plan to improve it right away, be transparent with your customers and let them know. Whether it’s in a monthly newsletter or a banner on your site, a ‘coming soon!’ notification confirms that you listened, and cared, about what users had to say.
As an example, we created a fun, short, and easy survey about our blog that we’d love for you to participate in. Thanks for reading!
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