The Best Customer Survey Questions to Ask

Guy Letts
Setting customer survey questions

If you’re looking for help with the best customer survey questions to ask for measuring customer satisfaction then you’re in good company. It’s one of the top Google searches related to customer satisfaction.

On one level the answer’s easy. You could do far worse than just asking “How well did we do?” and “What could we do to make your experience with us better?”

But sometimes it seems like it’s not that easy because so many companies get it wrong. Very badly wrong. Long surveys, sent at the wrong time full of irrelevant questions. Who hasn’t despaired at a request to fill in ‘our short 10 minute survey’?

Or we just ignore them altogether because even when we do fill one in, nothing happens.

Well we are here to help.

Our single, simple guiding principle is the key to getting it spot on for your customers.

The Most Important Principle.

Don’t treat customer feedback as a way to collect data for your business. Think of it instead as giving your customers a dead easy way to tell you what you need to do to keep them.

That’s all. Just make it easy for your customers to tell you what’s important to them, by asking at an appropriate time, in an appropriate way, with relevant questions and making it fast and easy for them to respond.

Get it right, and your business will enjoy untold benefits. In fact based on what our customers tell us, you’ll be bowled over by the quallity of the results you get.

Get it wrong, and you’ll probably move on to worrying about why your response rate (and maybe even your customer retention) is so low.

How many customer survey questions should I ask?

If you’re asking more than 5 questions it’s probably too many.

Or maybe you’re doing market research instead of trying to measure and improve customer satisfaction, in which case more questions is fine. But don’t confuse the two, and certainly don’t combine the two.

Nobody in the history of the world has ever complained that a satisfaction survey was too short.

But they sure as eggs complain when they’re too long (or more likely, just give up when there’s no end in sight). Which means you miss out on how that customer feels and whether they’re at risk.

I can tell you how I feel about any company I deal with in less than 30 seconds. So don’t make your customers spend longer than that. There’s no need and they won’t thank you for it.

Check that customers’ priorities are being met – scored questions.

Scored questions - what's important to customer?

There’s not a standard list of questions that’s better than any other, but it is quite easy to choose the best customer survey questions for your customers and your business.

Ask yourself, “What is our business especially good at?”

It’s important to think about why a customer chose you in the first place. Because the reason they chose you rather than a competitor is probably still something that’s important to them. You’ll know what differentiates you from your competitors. Do your customers buy from you because you’re knowledgeable, friendly, fast…what’s your company’s secret sauce?

If you’re going off the boil on the reason why they picked you, then you’re at risk of losing them.

Don’t worry about what scale to use for your customer satisfaction survey questions. It really doesn’t matter. For market research it might. But not for this.

It’s just a temperature check.

So it doesn’t matter which scale, but stick to one. Don’t chop and change from question to question because then you’re forcing someone to get their head around the scale each time as well as the question.

Measure overall satisfaction.

Scored question - overall satisfaction

For this question, all you really need to know is the person’s strength of feeling at this point in time.

Are they emphatically inclined to stay with you, or are they hanging on by a thread?

Ask an open question that’s easy to answer candidly.

Text question

You’ll have grasped the secret by now. The key to a torrent of useful feedback is to make it easy for your customer to tell you what’s important to them.

It shouldn’t be about you finding the answer to something that’s important to you. There are other, better ways to do that.

It’s about making it easy for your customer to tell you what you need to do (or stop doing) to keep their business.

Choosing a question for comments rather than scores is a little easier. My favourite is:

“What can we do to improve your experience with us?”

It’s short, simple and completely open. As your customer, I can tell you anything that’s on my mind.

It has the advantage that you’re giving me permission to be honest. And you’ve asked in a way that makes it easy for me to tell you without feeling awkward, and without worrying that I’m jeopardising our relationship, because I feel like you’re asking for my help.

You can vary the wording to fit your style and tone of voice, just keep these principles in mind.

You’re not quite done.

Asking the right questions gives you great response rates and yields extremely valuable customer insights.

But it’s often at this point that companies seize defeat from the jaws of victory – by being content with all the data they’ve gathered but forgetting the people who have given it to them.

You have a chance to save customers who might otherwise have quietly walked away, had you not made it so easy for them to issue a cry for help.

You’ve just raised an expectation that you care, by asking excellent questions which are relevant and timely. If the customer does not then receive a reply, when they might reasonably expect one, for example if they’e highlighted a problem, then that’s worse than you not asking for feedback at all. Because you have failed to meet the expectation of caring you have just raised.

This is exactly the point at which customer feedback can make you money directly.

A customer has just received a product or service from you and you’ve made it easy for them to give you feedback. Someone who’s experienced a problem may well use this as a way to tell you they’re unhappy. You now know they’re at risk (and you probably wouldn’t have known if you hadn’t asked).

So you can influence whether they stay or leave.

Based on the results we see amongst our customers that can add up to 20% to your bottom line.

Three Golden Rules for Customer Survey Questions.

So, following a few simple rules will help you get it right for your customer, and that means you’ll get the biggest improvements for your business:

  1. Only ask relevant questions, at relevant times.
  2. Make feedback short, fast and simple for the customer.
  3. Act on the replies. Every one. And share them throughout your company because everyone has an impact on customer experience.

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