By John Pearson
If you are looking to improve your business but not sure where to start, you should just ask your customers. Consumer surveys are the best way to find out what people think of your business and where they think you need to improve. Some corporations even use customer surveys to impress their stockholders, while others can use it to track trends over years.
Regularly and properly surveying your customers can provide direct insight into many important aspects of your business. How happy your customers are with your products and services, what deficiencies hurt your bottom line, and on what kind of new product development you should focus your efforts are all possible outcomes.
We are here to offer some good insights into creating and structuring surveys that can keep these problems to a minimum. To achieve these results and get ahold of your customer’s valuable opinions your survey’s need to be clear, concise, yet still probing enough to get detailed responses.
Creating a survey that meets all of these requirements can be tricky. Below, let’s look at the best things to consider when creating or improving your surveys.
Your biggest concern is being clear, concise, and finding the shortest way to ask a question without muddying its intent.
According to Forbes, 80% of customers have abandoned a survey halfway through. 52% of customers said that they would not spend more than 3 minutes filling out a feedback form. Overall survey length remains important for keeping abandon rates low. To achieve this, try to ask only questions that fulfill your end goal.
Every question you include should have a well-defined purpose and a strong reason for being there. Depending on the survey’s purpose, it may not matter how a customer first came in contact with your site. If that’s the case, then don’t ask. Do you need to know a customer’s name? If the answer is no, don’t ask.
Although it’s tempting to stick with only multiple-choice queries and scales, some of your most insightful feedback will come from open-ended questions, which allow customers to spill their real thoughts onto the page. One strategy is to get people to commit to a question with a simple introduction, and then follow up with an open-ended question such as, “Why do you feel this way?” By adding in one or two chances for customers to use their own thoughts, you can develop a better understanding of their opinions on your company, and its products.
With every survey, mistakes can happen. No matter what you do, research has shown that there will always be a small minority of people who will lie on your survey, especially when the questions pertain to the three B’s: behavior, beliefs or belonging. (Here’s a review of this topic from Cornell University.)
Not only this, some may just hastily skip through if your questions seem to be too complex or require in-depth explanations. So how do you ensure your survey inquiries are simple?
If you want quality responses, you need to give people time to think through each individual question. Bombarding people with multiple points to consider leads to half-hearted answers by respondents who will just be looking to get through to the end. And it can lead to them not even completing the survey at all. Make things easy by sticking to one main point at a time.
Avoid changing the scales formatting throughout your survey. Though you may think this will keep the survey takers on their toes and provide better responses, it leads to more mistakes.
Some may just look at the scale at the beginning of the survey and completely miss the change. This means they end up giving inaccurate answers, completely by accident.
When you are asking a question that has a simple outcome, try to frame the question as a yes or no question. Studies show that these closed-ended questions make for great starter questions because they are typically easier to evaluate and complete.
Questions that lead respondents towards a certain answer due to bias in their phrasing are not useful for your surveys.
SurveyMonkey offers a great example of a leading question to avoid:
“ We have recently upgraded SurveyMonkey’s features to become a first-class tool. What are your thoughts on the new site?”
This is a clear case of letting pride in your product get in the way of asking a good question. Instead, the neutral, “What do you think of the recent SurveyMonkey upgrades?” would be a better choice.
It has been found that the found the highest survey open and click-through rates occurred on Monday, Friday, and Sunday respectively. These days can be different for each company and you should get an individualized data report on your websites’ traffic. Once you gather a good understanding of when your clients are active you can decide when to send out your surveys.
Once you determine which specific days have higher traffic you can then look into your sending frequency. Companies might conduct customer surveys once a year, or at most, once per quarter. However, his may not enough to keep a pulse on customer satisfaction.
Between the large surveys, you’ll still want to keep a keen eye on your customer satisfaction. Smaller one question surveys can help you recognize issues customers are having before the next large survey.
It sometimes makes sense to entice customers to take your survey. These incentives could be a discount, a giveaway or account credit. A valid fear is that a “freebie” may detract from the quality of responses, but a few studies such as a Stanford study found here show that this isn’t likely to be the case. In fact, they found just how important these incentives can be.
Perhaps the most important decision in the process of creating valuable surveys is choosing a survey company. These companies take the stress of running, analyzing and updating these surveys and leave you with a list of comprehensive results.
This gives you more time to utilize the results to make changes and upgrades to your company. Many companies have begun to use Google surveys for their consumer surveys. While Google can be a great tool, their survey system is lacking.
For this reason, you should look for alternatives for Google consumer surveys. Pollfish is a great option for collecting quality survey results from the largest audience possible. This is because Pollfish pulls in results from 114 countries with 18 more detailed targeting capabilities that Google has yet to implement. These range from household income, exact postal code, the number of children, and a new “personas” feature. The personas feature pulls information from your surveys and your customers’ behavioral data to break down exactly what type of person your company should be focusing on. The basic data of age, gender, and location from google just can’t pinpoint your audience the same.
Consumer surveys are important tools in upgrading your business to better serve your customers’ wants and needs. Take the time to make them as valuable as they can be and you’ll be amazed by the way the results can improve your company!
John Pearson is a serial entrepreneur and writer who is passionate about helping small businesses launch and grow. His work has been featured in Huffington Post, Entrepreneur, and Forbes.