What questions should I ask on a customer service survey?

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The good news is:

There is a 100% guaranteed-to-deliver-results answer to the question “which questions should be on my customer survey?

We’ve spent years helping customer contact teams all over the globe get brilliant at this, and we’ve seen what works and what doesn’t.

But first, we need to clear up…

What do you mean when you say “customer survey”?

Three types of satisfaction survey Three Types of Survey: View Larger

If you’re trying to do market research, you need to pause and talk to a professional. If you’re just asking for reviews, the answer’s simple: just ask people how they feel about you! But if you want to improve customer satisfaction, we’re here to help.

We’ve got a formula which you can apply to any feedback forms, whether you use CustomerSure or not. Before we explain what it is, we’ll explain why it works, so come with us on a trip…

…to the Hi-Fi Store

Before founding CustomerSure in 2010, Guy Letts was heading up a customer service department at the UK’s largest software firm.

Like you, he knew that greater satisfaction meant greater revenue, so he was committed to delighting every single customer. He tried everything to help his team deliver great service, but nothing seemed to really move the needle.

He threw countless initiatives at his team – away-days, ‘smile-as-you-dial’, customer feedback surveys, you name it, Guy tried it, but nothing really worked. Customer service was usually good or OK, occasionally poor, but rarely great.

Then one day, everything changed. Guy needed to back up a large number of family photos and videos so he dropped into his local Richer Sounds for some friendly advice. He left shortly afterwards with a DVD recorder, and a satisfaction card that would change his life.

The questions on that card were:

  • Were we knowledgeable and helpful?
  • Did we have the item in stock?
  • Were you served quickly?
  • If you tried to contact us before visiting, was it easy?
  • Do you have any other suggestions?

They don’t seem like much, but Guy spotted immediately that these questions were brilliant. They were exactly what he wanted the store to be good at. No more and no less.

Just as important as what they do ask, is what they don’t ask.

They didn’t ask how he heard about them. They didn’t ask his age or what newspaper he read…

They didn’t ask questions they were interested in, they asked questions about the things that were important to Guy.

And they didn’t waste a second of his time on anything else.

This is the most important point to bear in mind when you’re picking your survey questions: What’s important to the customer?. In fact it’s so important, we’ve made it our golden rule.

Here’s how you can apply the golden rule to your own surveys:

How many survey questions should I ask?

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

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:

Abandon rate is lowest for surveys of 6-9 questions

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.

Which Scored Questions Should You Ask?

There’s not a standard list of ‘perfect’ questions that are better than any other, but it is easy to work out what’s best for your customers and your business.

What might need improving?

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

It’s important to think about why a customer chose you instead of a competitor in the first place. Because that reason is as important to them today as the day they chose you.

Do customers buy from you because you’re knowledgeable, friendly, fast… what’s your secret sauce?

If standards have slipped, you’re at danger of losing customers who picked you based on those standards. So check that you’re not slipping by asking customers how you’re doing.

Use scored survey questions to understand how you’re doing against a customer’s expectations

Don’t worry about what scale to use for your questions. It really doesn’t matter. And don’t chop and change your scale! The harder you make a customer think, the more likely they are to give up on your form and go do something else.

Overall, how are you doing?

Ask one ‘make-or-break’ question to find out overall, if the customer is happy to stay with you or not.

Lots of people use Net Promoter for this purpose, but other metrics are available if it doesn’t suit you.

Use scored survey questions to understand how you’re doing against a customer’s expectations

You don’t need to get fancy. You just need to know if you need to intervene – now – to keep this customer with your business.

Which Open-Ended Question Should You Ask?

By now, you’ll have grasped the secret:

  • Keep things simple
  • Follow the golden rule (focus on the customer).

Your open-ended question 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.

Our 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

Well done on making it this far. You now know how to craft an amazing satisfaction survey that your customers will thank you for – but that alone isn’t going to add anything to your bottom line.

Spend a few more minutes reading the rest of this guide, so you know exactly when to send your new surveys, and what to do with the feedback when it arrives.

Do you have questions?
Or would you like to see CustomerSure in action?

Call us now, or email support@customersure.com to arrange a 20-minute online demo.