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The Team at CallMiner
September 04, 2019
There are hundreds of potential questions you might ask on a customer satisfaction survey, but the best questions for any particular survey depend on your goals, your audience, your industry, and other factors. In other words, there are many things to consider when developing a customer satisfaction survey. For instance:
The good news is that you’re not limited to using only one type of survey; in fact, using a mix of NPS scores, CX scorecards, Customer Effort Score (CES) surveys, and other tools such as conversation analytics can provide you with a broader, deeper data set that reveals valuable insights about how satisfied your customers truly are – and reveal actionable insights for improving satisfaction. In other words, customer satisfaction surveys are just one tool in your omnichannel customer service toolkit, but they are a crucially important one.
Below, you’ll find 25 expert tips on developing effective customer satisfaction surveys, the types of questions to ask, the best formats for customer satisfaction survey questions, and tips for leveraging your customer satisfaction surveys (and the resulting data) to drive business performance improvement.
1. Ask useful, actionable questions that measure a process or behavior.
“Survey questionnaires can be long lists of 10-point ratings on every potential aspect of a customer’s experience. One of the best ways to improve the quality of your direct feedback is to stop and look at what it is that you’re actually asking your customers. Focus on questions that are useful, actionable, and measure process or behavior. For example, by rephrasing ‘How do you rate our room service?’ to ‘How satisfied were you with the speed of room service?’ you are asking for valuable feedback that offers a clear option for direct action. That way you are guaranteed to have superior actionable insights.” – Geoffrey Ryskamp, 4 Ways to Boost Survey Response Rates, Medallia; Twitter: @Medallia
2. Use CSAT surveys for in-the-moment feedback.
“A Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) survey is the simplest way of gauging what your customers think about any interaction, across any channel, they have with your organization. Whether it’s speaking to a customer service representative at the contact center, navigating the website or using an app, a CSAT survey asks customers to rate the experience in question on a three-point, five-point or seven-point scale.
“The fact that it’s a single-question survey and can be answered by checking a box, typing a single number or selecting an emoji means that it can be sent via any channel. However, with CSAT, speed is of the essence – it should be sent as quickly as possible to measure the moment, while that moment is still fresh in the customer’s mind.” – CSAT vs NPS – Which One Should I Use?, Sitel Group; Twitter: @Sitel_WorldWide
3. Scale questions produce more data you can analyze compared to simple yes-no questions.
“The benefit of asking scale questions is that you will be provided with more data than a simple ‘Yes’ or ‘No,’ and this data can then be used to come up with scores based on the responses. Again, this is an easy enough question for the respondent to answer and you may find that this kind of survey question has a better response rate than some of the others on our list. Using scale questions means you can aggregate scores to see how satisfied a wide range of customers are and they can be used for practically any aspect of the customer journey.
“3 examples of scale questions
4. Ask unbiased questions for the most accurate results.
“It’s hard to be objective when you think your customer service is outstanding. Take a step back from what you think you know and let your shoppers do the talking. Avoid embellishing your questions with superlatives. Take the following prompt:
“’How would you describe our friendly customer service representatives?’
“This is a leading question as it describes the reps as being ‘friendly.’ As a result, it isn’t likely to provide accurate results. Instead, ask a focused question about an aspect of your customer service, such as:
“’How responsive or unresponsive were our customer service representatives?” – Examples of Great (and not-so-great) Customer Satisfaction Survey Questions, SurveyMonkey; Twitter: @SurveyMonkey
5. Avoid double-barrel questions.
“These questions touch on more than one issue, but only allow for one response. They are confusing for the respondent and you’ll get skewed data because you don’t know which question the respondent is answering.” – Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) Surveys: Examples, Definition & Template, Qualtrics; Twitter: @Qualtrics
6. Ask about product usage.
“When it comes to customer success and satisfaction, it’s critical that your business collects feedback about your product or service. If you don’t, then it’s more difficult to assess customer needs and provide effective solutions. Finding out how satisfied your users are with your offer provides your marketing and product teams with valuable information that can be used to improve customer retention.
Some questions that you could ask in this section are:
7. Semantic differential questions are a useful alternative to Likert-scale questions, offering more guidance to respondents for better ratings consistency.
“Semantic differential questions are similar to Likert scale questions in that they both use a 5- or 7-point scale. What makes semantic differential scale questions unique is that they are more descriptive and ask the respondent to choose the option that best represents their opinion or attitude on a given subject instead of asking them to simply agree or disagree.
Example: “How helpful do you find our video tutorials?
8. Ask questions designed to measure customer loyalty.
“Although you can try to determine customer loyalty based off of customer retention rates, customer loyalty is truly a different concept.
“The questions below will help establish how your customers truly feel about doing business with you, now and in the future:
9. Include an overall satisfaction question.
“It is a good idea to include a general satisfaction question, which will serve as an overall measure of how well your company is pleasing customers across all aspects of the business (product, brand, service, communication, etc.).
“Example Q: What is your overall satisfaction with (insert company name)? (use the five point rating scale shown below)
“The results of this question will provide a useful baseline to use in measuring your company’s progress over time. Since this is a very common question asked by many companies, there are various industry benchmarks to also measure yourself against.
“The most common way to analyze responses to this question is to look at the percentage of respondents who are either somewhat or very satisfied. Most companies will find that this number usually lies somewhere in the 75%-85% range, although it will vary by product type and industry.
“One downside to this question, however, is that it is not very actionable. It might tell you that customers are relatively happy or unhappy overall, but it doesn’t tell you why they feel the way they do. Knowing that 75% of your customers are satisfied isn’t very useful on its own, but I do think it is helpful to understand if that percentage is rising or falling from quarter-to-quarter or year-to-year.” – Market Research Guy, 5 Essential Customer Satisfaction Survey Questions, My Market Research Methods
10. Ask competitor-based questions.
“In your satisfaction survey, you might want to know how your business, products, and services stack up to your competitors.
“Depending on what industry you’re in and what you sell, you might consider asking questions that allow your customers to compare you against other options they were considering before choosing you.
“Competitor-Based Questions to Ask
11. Use multiple-choice questions to identify words customers associate with your product.
“Which of the following words would you use to describe our product?
“Why should you care how people would describe your product? Because it’s an important issue when your product gets described as ‘buggy’ instead of ‘life-saving’.
“If you don’t want to give your clients any suggestions you can use on the open-ended variation of this customer survey question and ask ‘How would you describe our product?.’
“Answers to any of those will show you how well you communicate your value proposition and product vision to users. If your goal is to provide them with the world’s most sophisticated graphics software and people describe it as ‘Paint with 1 cool feature’ it means that the communication is broken.
“Hint: Check what are the most common positive words used to describe your product. If they are very frequent, it may indicate that this is what your Customers are looking for in your product. You can use such words in your future marketing campaigns.” – Lucjan Kierczak, 16 (+4) Best Customer Satisfaction Survey Examples To Use, Survicate; Twitter: @Survicate
12. Limit your customer satisfaction surveys to no more than five questions.
“They don’t even complain when they’re too long. People just give up, and you never find out how that customer feels, and whether they’re at risk.
“If you’re asking more than 5 scored questions it’s probably too many.
“We looked at our data – millions of survey requests from hundreds of companies worldwide, and here’s how the number of questions on a survey affects abandon rate: People run for the hills if your survey is longer than 9 questions total, but around 6 is the ‘sweet spot’. Asking no more than 5 scored questions gives you a bit of breathing room.” – What questions should I ask on a customer service survey?, Customer Sure; Twitter: @CustomerSure
13. Ask whether your customer service representatives act in your customers’ best interests.
“[Company] service representatives (CSRs) act in my best interest.
“’You’re not following our process.’ Drew J. told Nasser that one of his CSRs said this phrase to a customer. ‘This was a wake-up call for sure.’
“If you simply train agents on a rigidly scripted customer encounter process, they can over-rely on these procedures and lack the ability to adapt to actual customer situations.
“More important than any policy, procedure, or script are the reasons for these resources. Your focus should be on making the customer happy, and your agents and their tools should work for the customer, not the other way around.
“Asking whether CSRs act in the best interest of your customer is an elevated version of getting at whether your service is good or bad. Before you can solve a customer’s problem, you need to show them you care about their goals and concerns. If customers don’t believe CSRs are working in their best interest, nothing else will matter.” – Cathy Reisenwitz, 7 Customer Satisfaction Survey Questions to Try, Capterra; Twitter: @Capterra
14. Include one or two open-ended questions.
“Open-ended questions are questions that require a respondent to write a comment, an essay, or other type of free-reaction text.
“You don’t need to make all the questions open-ended, rather include only one or two such questions.
“This will unfetter your respondents and give them the freedom to blurt out what’s on their minds without holding back.
“Below, are two smart open-ended questions culled from a recent survey by an e-commerce company:
“When asking an open-ended question, you need to be careful, as some respondents may get carried away and provide you with long compositions.
“To prevent such incidents, provide a text box where they can write their answers, but limit the number of characters the text box can accept.
“That way, they’ll provide you with only the most important things they have to say.” – Zoe Uwem, Survey Questions That Work: How to Unlock Your Customers’ Deepest Desires, NeilPatel.com; Twitter: @ZoeUwem
15. Begin the survey design process with your survey goals in mind.
“Vague surveys lead to vague results. Beginning by defining your goal helps you create an organized, focused survey. That means you won’t leave out what may be your most relevant questions.
“Grabbing a generic survey template or subscribing to an online survey platform is quick and easy, but you won’t get maximum effectiveness by taking the easy way out. It’s essential that you consider your particular business situation and goals when designing the survey.
“Your clearly defined goal will lead to questions that are easier to answer and simpler for you to analyze and act upon later.” – David Hoos, The Best Customer Satisfaction Survey Questions (for Top Growth Insights), The Good; Twitter: @thegood
16. Customer satisfaction surveys are an important part of proactive engagement.
“To truly build long-term customer loyalty, companies need to move from transactional interactions with their customers to building company-customer relationships. The first step to building these relationships is engaging with customers beyond basic one-way dialogs. Customers don’t feel valued when they have to take the time to contact the companies they do business with about issues that the company should already know about like service outages. At the same time, sending out mass text messages with no way to respond doesn’t give your customers warm fuzzy feelings either. When proactive outreach is done right it can help organizations maximize productivity, customer satisfaction and contributions to the bottom line.
“Examples of proactive outbound campaigns include collections, surveys, reminders, notifications, and confirmations. These interactions also lend themselves to effective delivery via self-service. And, when done within an omni-channel experience, they can provide a more interactive communication channel resulting in higher completion rates and more customer comfort.” – Bernhard Santjer, Building Long-Term Loyalty Through Proactive Customer Engagement, Aspect; Twitter: @aspectsoftware
17. Focus on the right KPIs.
“The most effective CX related KPIs focus directly on the real desired result – delivering an exceptional customer experience where the customer leaves the engagement not only satisfied, but positive about the brand. These include:
18. The right metrics may vary for different types of businesses.
“The “right” metrics will vary with the type of business (B2B or B2C, for example), but generally companies should be gauging how easy it is to do business with them (Customer Effort Score) and how likely customers are to buy again (Net Promoter® Score—but more on this follows). Online sentiment analysis—how people talk about your company and products—can be very valuable in showing you where your weaknesses are and what market segments might find you more appealing if you did something differently from the way you do it now. Personally, I don’t think Net Promoter® is as informative as it could be. If you take it to the next level and seek out why the Passives identified in NPS® are passive and what it would take to turn them into Promoters, that would be an improvement. Of course, you need to pay attention to the big things like gross and net profit margins, cost of goods and services, and so on, always looking for both strengths and weaknesses.” – Roy Atkinson, as told to Robert Morrissey, Providing Proactive Customer Service: an Interview with Writer and Analyst Roy Atkinson, RingCentral; Twitter:
19. Eliminate silos when measuring and supporting customer interactions.
“As the number of digital touch points increases, the ability of a contact center to effectively address customer interactions will need to be even more closely managed to assure high satisfaction and resolution on whatever channel the customer chooses. The reason for this is best explained via a McKinsey & Company concept called the ‘Customer Journey Experience’. Essentially, contact centers today generally focus on measuring and supporting customer interactions in a siloed manner. The issue is that from the customer perspective, customers don’t look at these stops on their journey as silos. Customers view them as interconnected, and as their journey occurs, the aggregate interactions of all the interactions at a touchpoint form the basis for the overall experience the customer has with the company. So the customer satisfaction with the overall journey experience is an important metric to focus on. You can see in the following chart that taken individually, satisfaction seems somewhat reasonable for each digital channel from a standalone perspective.
“However, when viewed holistically across the entire journey, overall satisfaction is only 61% (statistical calculation of the overall satisfaction value of the web channel and the IVR channel and the live agent channel is multiplicative).
“As the number and usage of digital channels increases, and the possible channel permutation complexity increases, contact centers will need to have the infrastructure not only to manage these channels, but will need to do it well on every channel to provide a high overall end-to-end satisfaction level across the entire customer digital journey, regardless of the consumers’ choice (or order) of channels for their digital journey.” – James Mastan, Part 2: The digitization of customer service, Nuance; Twitter: @NuanceInc
20. Tie customer satisfaction feedback to agent performance and campaign activity.
“Most survey systems operate in a silo, separate from the contact center ecosystem. This disconnection often results in surveys taking place days/weeks after the actual interaction. A delayed survey not only minimizes the opportunity for accurate feedback, but also provides feedback without context. Survey results are essentially provided without being tied to what, why, and how the interaction happened.
“In essence, surveys often leave business leaders struggling to:
21. Follow great survey design principles.
“When designing your customer satisfaction survey, all aspects of Great Survey Design are important. But, pay special attention to these three principles:
22. Conduct surveys at the right times.
“Here are the three major client survey types that combined will give you the most accurate image of your customers’ satisfaction:
23. Optimize your survey design to improve response rates.
“This Zendesk infographic shows how quickly customers get bored of poorly designed surveys. Zendesk’s study also found that 21% of respondents feel that they’re usually too busy to take a survey, while 16% claimed that surveys ask far too many personal questions. Another 12% believe that surveys are often too long, making them far too time-consuming to fill out.
“These figures stand as testament to the importance of optimising your surveys to improve response rates. A survey with low response rates won’t accurately capture how your customer base perceives your product, and will ultimately fail to product statistically significant insights.” – Vrinda Singh, Customer Satisfaction Surveys: Best Practices for Meaningful Insights, Paperform; Twitter: @PaperformCo
24. Choose the right medium for conducting customer satisfaction surveys.
“After determining your need and choosing a survey type, you need to pick a medium. Will you be sending your survey over email, text, in-app, on paper, or in person? Most surveys are collected over email, but some product development surveys could be done in person. Surveys that measure a website’s ease of use can be done as pop-up surveys on the site itself.” – Meaghan Brophy, 5 Types of Customer Satisfaction Surveys + Free Templates, FitSmallBusiness; Twitter: @FitSmallBiz
25. Be sure you’re sending your customer satisfaction surveys to the right audience.
“Another reason why some companies achieve below average response rates is because they end up sending their survey to the wrong audience. It may seem obvious to send your survey to your customers, but it’s not that simple.
“For example, your CRM might have several contacts for each account and clicking ‘select all’ makes no sense. While you do business with some of them, there is a high chance that some of those contacts are people who work in administration or legal departments, and sending your survey to them probably doesn’t fit the purpose.
“What’s more, depending on the survey goal you defined, you need to segment your customers. By dividing your customers into different categories, you can deliver your key messages (and surveys) more precisely, thus better connecting with your audience and developing long lasting engagement.” – Jerome Collomb, The Ultimate Guide To Creating A Customer Survey (With Questions!), MyFeelBack; Twitter: @MyFeelBack
What best practices do you follow when developing customer satisfaction surveys?