How to Design Customer Satisfaction Surveys that Work

Posted by Grant Robertson-Adams | Aug 9, 2021

Finding out what your customers really think isn’t always a straightforward process and that’s why it is more important than ever to spend time learning how to design customer satisfaction surveys that genuinely deliver results. It’s easy to ask someone what they think, but to get a survey (and the results that it provides) that actually gives you something useful and concrete to work from, that takes some hard work.

Customer Satisfaction Survey Best Practices

Customer satisfaction surveys can seem a bit scary at first, after all you’re opening yourself up to criticism. It is, however, important to remember that this is a good thing. Chances are if you even spend a few minutes reflecting on your business practices that you might acknowledge there are areas that you could improve on. It is very easy to ignore your own reflections, but hearing it from a customer’s perspective, this brings it into the cold light of day and forces your hand to act, thus improving your business.

Taking the time to survey, listen to and then measure customer satisfaction means that you can identify, work on and then improve areas of concern. But not only that, you’ll be able to see where your business is succeeding, meaning that you can consider further growth in those directions or expand best practices to other sectors within the business.

Getting to the crux of the matter comes through the customer satisfaction survey. This tool allows you to have a direct conversation with the customer and understand their issues related to their customer journey with you, their successes and their own reflections on the process with you. When acted on properly, these results are likely to have huge benefits for your business.

Satisfaction surveys come in many different forms. They could be as simple as a happy face vs an unhappy face, they could be a scale from 1-10 based on customer experience or they could have a comprehensive list of questions. However they are designed, it’s important to always think about the data that they’ll produce and how that data will be used in the future. Your business might get 85% happy face clicks, so what? You might get scored 8+/10 by 75% of the customers, well what about the other 25%? How will you act?

  • Organize high quality customer satisfaction surveys
  • Measure customer loyalty
  • Measure customer effort
  • Measure customer intention to repurchase
  • Consider using survey software
customer feedback thumbs up

Why Customer Feedback Surveys are Important

There is, unsurprisingly, more to customer feedback surveys than simply gathering information. They have myriad different benefits and should be an important part of your company processes:

Customer feedback improves retention.

When it comes to business growth, there are few tactics better than focusing on customer retention. Answers, both positive and negative, from the survey can lead to an improvement in customer retention. If a customer feels positively about the service that they have received then they’ll appreciate being asked for their feedback, will likely be willing to offer their suggestions on product/service improvements and will, vitally, feel that you genuinely care about how they feel. This feeling will drastically improve customer loyalty and will keep them coming back to you.

If a customer were to respond negatively there is still a chance that they will become a retained customer. A negative experience that is listened to, considered, discussed and then acted on proves that the company cares about their customers and customer experience. In a world where few companies genuinely do this, it could make all the difference.

Customer feedback helps build differentiation.

The truth of the matter is that many brands simply don’t bother to ask for customer feedback, or if they do it’s in a limited capacity. By taking the time to ask for customer feedback through a proper customer satisfaction survey the business will stand out from the competition. When it comes to referrals, chances are that people will mention interactions like this, that portray your company in a positive light, and therefore will all work towards a new customer coming onboard.

Customer feedback identifies potential brand advocates

Customer surveys help you identify both the positive and negative experiences that are had by your customers. The negative feedback that you might receive certainly helps you resolve problems quickly through identification and action. The positive feedback allows you to see where you’re doing well, and increase efforts in these areas to maximise potential conversions in the future.

Then there are those results that are so overwhelmingly positive that they bowl you over. These people are the ones that are so enamored with your brand that they tell all their friends and can’t see your company putting a foot wrong. These people are your potential brand advocates or brand ambassadors.

Brand advocates are like gold dust and should be identified and nurtured into a useful tool for your brand. They will, effectively, do a great deal of your marketing for you and they’ll deliver it with genuine emotion too, greatly benefiting your emotional marketing campaigns. Once identified, reaching out to them on a personal basis will go a long way to cementing a relationship with them. Going another step further and asking them to formalise a partnership with your brand will pay dividends in the long run.

customer satisfaction survey results

Customer feedback improves customer service.

Gone are the days where customer feedback forms were received then neatly filed away for no-one to see again. In the age of social media and online, public reviews, customer feedback is visible for all to see. This forces the hand of brand’s to offer better and better customer service, and to be seen to be doing so publicly.

Customer service will be a core part of the customer satisfaction survey. The survey should explicitly ask customers what their experience was of the company during the process, what the follow up service was like and how it could be improved. As always, the answers to these questions should then be acted on. This data will be best used when broken down into smaller sections. The process of user segmentation allows you to get granular and understand why certain groups of customers feel the way they do. You may discover that onboarding is great but aftercare requires work, or you may discover that customers find it difficult to get in touch with certain departments during their subscription.

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How to Measure Customer Satisfaction

Gathering the results of the surveys is only really part of gaining an understanding of customer satisfaction, the real art is in measuring just how satisfied customers are through a series of metrics. Through organised collation of measurable data, you’ll be able to actively track information about customer satisfaction on a quarterly, annually and beyond basis.

Net Promoter Score® (NPS)

Net Promoter Score is typically applied to surveys which have a simple, one question style with a measurable scale. It is also used to measure the chance that your customer base is planning on referring you to their friends, family and network in general. Consider the question, “How likely are you to recommend our business to friends and family?” with a scale 1-10 applied, 1 being not likely at all and 10 being extremely likely.

In this instance the scale is divided into 3 core sections, those who score 1-6, those who score either 7 or 8 and those who score 9 or 10. These sections are referred to as detractors, passives and promoters.

  • Detractors : People who are likely to move away from working with your business and may be actively telling others negative feedback about the brand.

  • Passives : Those people who will offer neither positive nor negative feedback. They aren’t likely to refer others but nor will they actively dissuade them from working with your brand.

  • Promoters : Those who are so pleased by working with you that they will actively refer others to your brand.

To find out the actual Net Promoter Score (NPS) that your survey has concluded you take the percentage of promoters and subtract the percentage of detractors.

500 people were surveyed.

60% (300) scored 9 or 10 and are noted as promoters.

20% (100) scored 1-6 and are noted as detractors.

This means that the NPS is 40 for that time period. The following year the same survey can be issued and one can measure whether there is an improvement or not.

This information can drive certain marketing elements, focus improved customer service and enhancements to individuals scoring as a detractor and incentivize those acting as promoters.

Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT)

The simplest of customer satisfaction surveys, the scales used will measure customer satisfaction. They could be as simple as a traffic light or scored from 1-10. When using a CSAT you simply tally how many customers have scored each number and look at the trends applied.

Customer Effort Score (CES)

A slightly different approach to customer satisfaction, rather than scaling on satisfaction the survey focuses on how easy the process was with your brand. Questions such as “How easy was it to (complete an action) today?” are then scored using the Very Difficult through to Very Easy scale.

The outcome is an understanding of the process the customer has to go through. If they’re scoring it as very difficult or difficult, it could indicate that the process is too convoluted, people were getting frustrated or lost and generally having a bad time. This could lead to losing customers or worse, they tell others not to bother with your brand as it’s too much hard work.

Types of Customer Satisfaction Questions

Binary Scale Questions

Questions that have a straight yes or no answer. This eliminates the fairly useless middle scores and forces a direct answer.

Did we solve your issue today? Yes or No

Multiple-Choice Questions

The classic grade school test of customer satisfaction questions. Normally limited to 3 or 4 possible answers, the closed options gives you a clear and easy way to measure the results without ambiguity. That said, scales using the 1-10 or 1-5 scale are still classed as a type of multiple choice question.

Rather than scales multiple choice questions may also get users to complete a sentence such as “When I purchase (product) I find that____” with multiple choice options after.

multiple choice customer satisfaction survey

Rating Scale Questions (Ordinal Questions)

Ordinal meaning a series of numbers, these are the questions that are followed by a simple scale of rating 1-5, or 1-10. Questions can then be measured using NPS or CSAT.

Semantic Differential Questions

Created in a similar way to binary questions but with more of a sliding scale. So they’re almost a hybrid of binary and scale based questions. The user is provided with two opposites such as Inefficient and Efficient. Between the two words is a dotted line where the user marks their feelings.

The concept has been found to allow people to more accurately note their experience and can be interpreted in various ways. The usual way to measure semantic differential questions is with binary results focusing on positive and negative feedback, with the central line being neutral.

Open-Ended Questions

These are questions to ask when you aren’t looking to achieve genuinely measurable results. They give you a more holistic view of how your customers are feeling but as the questions are open, the answers are too varied to accurately measure feedback.

Instead of quantitative results, you are presented with a set of qualitative results which can give important insights into customer journeys and interactions across the process. When customers present genuine issues you have the opportunity to resolve them on an individual level, you may also spot a trend allowing you to create a fix on a wider basis.

The 7 Best Customer Satisfaction Survey Questions to Try

  • Did our support satisfy you today? Yes or No
    • Binary CSAT - This figure should, of course, be highly positive, if it’s not that’s a red flag that an issue needs to be resolved immediately.
  • How well is [product or service] working for you? 1-5
    • Rating scale CSAT - The answers can create follow up questions depending on whether they score 1-3 or 4-5. This question can be asked at multiple points in the customer lifetime, when they first purchase, quarterly and annually.
  • How likely are you to recommend our product to your network? 1-10
    • NPS - As this question is asking about referrals it makes sense to use the NPS system to deal with the data. Generally, it is worth waiting a quarter before asking this question.
  • Was it easy to resolve your issue today? Very Difficult to Very Easy
    • CES - Here the question focuses on customer effort and allows you to understand the customer experience for that particular interaction.
  • How would you feel if you couldn’t use [product or service] anymore?
    • Open question - This gives you some emotional opportunities, you can also find out if anyone is signalling as a brand advocate.
  • How old are you?
    • Simple Quantitative - It might seem obvious but questions of this type allow you to segment customers into specific demographics.
  • How can we improve [product or service]?
    • Open question - This question could have endless answers, but if a trend develops it might offer genuine opportunities.

Key Takeaways

Customer satisfaction surveys offer your customers the opportunity to tell you how they really feel. Sure they can be scary but they can pay dividends and massively improve your business should they be acted on.

  • Don’t just ask and forget, analyse and act on the answers given.
  • Asking customers how they feel can massively impact customer retention.
  • Survey customers in a variety of ways to gain true insight.

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