When it comes to launching a new product or leveraging the growth opportunities, relying on gut instinct or doing guesswork is not a sound strategy. Bare facts and statistics may not provide valuable insight into customer views and expectations either. This is why a customer survey remains the primary tool for capturing feedback from the target audience and is sparingly used in market research.

While the satisfaction survey may be the most widespread example of a customer survey, it is just one of the dozens of survey types that can be used for market research. Overall, customer survey allows to answer any questions concerned with:

  • Demand and supply: The size of the market, market readiness to absorb a new product, alternative products that address the same customer pain, etc.
  • Marketing: The segments of the market and the marketing channels they prefer and marketing messages they are the most receptive to.
  • Customer expectations and needs: Including insights into customer experience and satisfaction rates
  • Customer demographics: Valuable sensitive information about customer demographics each business cherishes

Despite the great potential of customer surveys, its effectiveness can be ruined by poor design and creation practices. Thus, to get the best results, stick to the following 7 best practices for designing a customer survey.

1. Make it relevant

Design a customer survey with an exact goal in mind. The goals will determine who you survey, what survey software you choose (e.g. sms, phone or online survey software), and what questions you include. If the survey design is not aligned to research goals, you won’t be able to produce actionable insights.

Making survey questions relevant to your audience makes it more engaged too. This way, you increase the chances the survey will be eventually filled out.

2. Motivate customers to respond

Remember that market research is not an expense, it’s an investment, which should convert. Thus, take it seriously and make sure your customers take it seriously too. Providing an incentive is a great way to engage customers and get more authentic responses.

At the same time, research shows that no incentive commonly used to motivate responders to complete the survey (gifts, coupons or even cash) is as effective as communicating to the customers how you acted upon their feedback. Plan for such a step, especially is you measure customer experience and satisfaction rates.

3. Consider the length. Twice

Customers are doing you a favor when they agree to respond. Do not ask for too much and try to make the survey as short as possible (on condition it still allows gaining your research goals). While long phone surveys may cause indignation, adding just one more question to online surveys may limit the completion rate dramatically. If you feel the survey may be a bit too long, set the right expectations and include a note explaining your rationale to the responders.

4. Approach open-ended questions with caution

Many responders would rather quit the survey than respond to open-ended questions; thus, it is better not to make open-ended questions mandatory. You may increase the rate of responses if they are presented last.

When the first questions are short no-brainer questions, responders feel like they’ll be done with the survey in just a minute. Therefore, as they complete half of the survey, they may be more eager to finish what they have started and respond to personal open-ended questions even though they take more time to answer.

5. Avoid leading questions

Be careful with the wording of questions to make them straightforward and unbiased. If you include questions that lead the responders to the desired answer, the results will be invalid and the whole research becomes pretty useless.

To achieve better clarity and objectivity, avoid double negatives, do not use jargon and obscure terms, and do not include you opinion or evaluative words in the questions.

6. Make answer choices clear and balanced

Just like the questions, answer options should be clear and unbiased. If you use a Likert scale for the answer options, make sure the number of responses at both ends is the same. Another important aspect to remember is giving the right to select several choices each time when it’s applicable. Otherwise, survey results will be distorted too.

7. Use market research survey software

The use of market research software can speed up and improve the process of customer survey creation by far. In particular, it can assist research agencies in setting specific logic rules and calculation systems and adding client branding to surveys and questionnaires. What’s more, it may further be used for survey analysis and aggregation of data from multiple research sources.

Bonus Tip

Even if you are experienced in survey market research and follow the best practices for designing a customer survey, the best survey design will be achieved only through continuous testing and optimization.

It is recommended to send the draft to a small group of responders asking them to assess their experience with the survey too. Eliminate any questionable options and the questions that do not provide valuable insight. Thus, test the best time to send the survey or reach out with a phone survey. Improving the design of your survey, you improve its validity and its relevance for the business too.

Originally published at: https://www.adrianswinscoe.com/2020/01/7-best-practices-for-designing-a-customer-survey/