An Essential Guide to understanding, designing, and deploying customer feedback surveys

Introduction to Surveys

"Without data, you're just another person with an opinion." - W. Edwards Deming

Imagine living in a world where decisions were made without data to support them. 

Let's say you run a small restaurant, and you've recently noticed an increase in negative online reviews. You need to pinpoint the problem. Reflecting on what could be the cause, two things have changed: 1) you recently partnered up with a 3rd party delivery service, and, 2) you’ve made changes to your menu.

By deploying customer satisfaction surveys (CSAT) and analyzing results, you can eliminate guesswork. As it turns out, when ordering take-out, your customers are complaining that their food is arriving cold, and your delivery partner is taking longer than expected to fulfill orders. With this feedback, your restaurant can start to take the necessary steps to protect your brand and earn back your customers' trust. First thing to go is that 3rd party delivery service! And, the good news is that according to your survey, your menu changes have been well received. Thanks to your customer satisfaction survey you are now able to close the loop on every customer interaction, listening to customer feedback, and using data-driven decision making to resolve problems quickly and effectively.

By understanding what surveys are, how to design and deploy them, and the importance of customer feedback, businesses are able to save more, earn more, and drive loyalty. 

In this article, we'll cover the basics of what surveys are and how best to use them to survey customers. You'll walk away with some clear insights on how to administer and deploy. And stick with us until the end for some tips and tricks on designing high-impact customer surveys, and picking the right survey tool for you.

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Survey 101: Definition of Survey

Surveys are tools used to gather information on a specific subject, using a series of carefully designed questions, targeting a particular audience with a specific goal in mind. They feed us data-driven insights to be more thoughtful, more strategic, and more deliberate in our actions. Surveys are an essential instrument in collecting large amounts of data and customer feedback across the customer journey and every imaginable domain – from retail and hospitality, to government, education, healthcare, you name it. 

Survey data can be analyzed to identify trends, measure change over time, answer questions, help retain existing customers, increase deal sizes, acquire new business, and beyond. Surveys are a critical component of any CX program, as the primary tool used in the collection of Voice of Customer (VoC) data. 

You can survey customers to get quantitative and qualitative output using two types of survey:

1. Statistical Surveys are used for the quantitative (“numerical”) study of data, focused on a sample group, audience, or population. These types of surveys tend to produce data that is precise and can be easily categorized or organized into graphs, charts, or tables.

Example: A survey conducted in a classroom to find out how many kids were born in each month of the year. 

A statistical survey could include a Customer Satisfaction Survey (CSAT) or Net Promoter Score® (NPS®), where a numerical value is recorded and can be averaged or used to gather trend data overtime. Both NPS® and CSAT are considered rating questions.

2. Human Research Surveys are used to gather qualitative (“categorical”) data in relation to opinions, beliefs, preferences, experiences, needs, or feelings. They tend to start with a “how” or “why”, and are usually descriptive in nature, making them harder to measure precisely. Qualitative surveys most often come in the form of an open-ended or text-entry question, however can include polls

Example: “How would you describe your experience at our restaurant?”

Keep in mind, quantitative and qualitative surveys aren’t mutually exclusive. Both question types can be used interchangeably in the same survey, and statistical analysis can be done on categorical data as well. What matters is your goal to survey customers, and accordingly, different surveys are used.

 

Survey 102: Types of Customer Feedback

Now that you understand what a survey is, let’s take a moment to better understand the different types of customer feedback you can get while surveying customers.

Customer feedback comes in two forms:

1. Solicited feedback is feedback that is actively requested or sought out on a particular topic, based on a specific set of questions.

Example: A Customer Satisfaction Survey (CSAT) or Net Promoter Score® (NPS®) survey sent to a customer after a recent purchase was completed would result in solicited experiential feedback.

2. Unsolicited feedback is feedback that is provided without being prompted. It often results in a more honest, raw opinion, or truthful take on a particular experience that was had.  

Example: A Yelp review submitted online following a dining experience at a restaurant is a form of unsolicited feedback.

Both types of customer feedback are considered highly valuable, but often, only in combining the two will the richest possible collection of data and insight be attained. So grab every opportunity you get to survey customers to enhance their experiences.

 

Survey 103: Survey Administration & Deployment

When it comes to surveying customers, deployment can either be facilitated or self-administered

Facilitated surveys require administration by an interviewer. They tend to cost more than self-administered surveys, however usually generate a higher response rate. 

Self-administered surveys are cost-effective and easier to distribute at scale. They provide a higher degree of anonymity which can positively influence the quality of responses received. It is also worth noting that self-administered surveys are often incentivized to keep participant engagement high.

There are four common ways to deploy a survey:

  • In-person surveys (facilitated)
  • Phone surveys (facilitated)
  • Online surveys (self-administered)
  • Pen and paper surveys (self-administered)

Over the past decade, online surveys have risen in popularity thanks to our old pal the internet, making surveys more accessible and easier than ever to complete – anytime, anywhere, on any device.

A good survey tool will offer multiple online deployment methods, such as distribution via email, link, social, QR code, embed code and SMS. When vetting survey tools, make sure to thoroughly compare plans before purchasing, ensuring you are getting the functionality and deployment capabilities that resonate best with your audience.

Speaking of audiences, an effective deployment strategy takes into consideration who you are targeting. 

Key points to consider before launching a targeted survey:

  • Does your audience prefer to be contacted by email or in person?
  • Are they mobile-users?
  • When is the most appropriate time of day to reach out?
  • Are you deploying your survey right after a transaction/experience, when feedback is most relevant? 

By defining and understanding how these individuals interact with your business, you can pick a survey distribution method that will align with their behaviors, having the greatest impact on your survey results.

Example: If you want customers to answer a survey before entering a store, place a QR code at the entrance, that way they’ll see it first thing when they arrive, and can scan it on their phone with ease.

It’s important to survey customers and incorporate survey tools into the customer journey at appropriate touch points, that way you are more likely to observe higher-completion rates and better quality data.

 

Survey 104: Benefits of Surveying Customers

“Survey and test a prospective action before undertaking it. Before you proceed, step back and look at the big picture, lest you act rashly on raw impulse.” - Epictetus

Surveys are designed to uncover answers to specific problems or questions. They increase general knowledge on a particular topic, or uncover solutions to problems that could result in better data-driven decision making.

Top reasons why you should survey customers:

  • Surveys provide an affordable way to easily conduct market/consumer research;
  • Surveys make it easy to solicit data or feedback at scale;
  • Surveys alleviate guesswork;
  • Surveys promote data-driven decision making and action;
  • Surveys uncover insights about specific groups or populations;
  • Surveys can be used to gather competitive intelligence;
  • Surveys make it easy to identify trends;
  • Surveys are an effective testing tool;

And, as it pertains to customer experience, remember that surveys bring voice of customer (VoC) data to life. The right survey tool can even help individuals, brands, and organizations boost productivity, strengthen their focus, and earn back what is spent on their CX initiatives. 

As you think about launching a new survey, or enhancing an existing customer experience survey program, there are three key areas where you can drive big impacts for your business: 

  • Retain Existing Customers
    Use a survey tool to better understand what your customers love about you as well as what they might like to see from you in the future to ensure they keep coming back.

  • Increase Average Deal Size
    Use a survey tool to dig deeper into your customer's experience. If they're coming to you to fill one need, why not others? Identify and resolve any aspects of your customer journey prohibiting them from taking advantage of your full offering.

  • Acquire New Customers
    Whether you're replicating a success or filling a gap, learnings from one customer interaction are an opportunity for every one that follows. As you leverage surveys to continuously learn from your existing customers it will increase your ability to attract and wow new ones.

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Survey 105: Survey Tips & Tricks

Still with us? Great! 

You are well on your way to understanding what surveys are, how to deploy them, and the many benefits of surveying customers using a survey tool. Now is the time to start building your own. 

Remember, effectively designed surveys can yield actionable feedback and boost response rates.

Pro tip! Bookmark this page so you can refer back to these steps in the future.

Here is the step-by-step guide on how to design surveys:

1. Start by defining your goal

To ensure the collection of high-quality data, a survey must always begin with a clearly defined and attainable goal. Begin by asking yourself some of the following questions:

  • What is the primary objective of this survey? 
  • Who are we targeting? 
  • What problem are we trying to solve?
  • What is our primary purpose?
    • A ‘purpose’ is especially important because without it you are collecting disorganized data that lacks context.

2. Identify your sample population

By defining the audience or sample population you wish to survey, you can become more strategic in your outreach, as well as in the language you use, and in the context of the questions being asked. This specificity and attention to detail will provide you with reliable and actionable data. 

Remember, if you are surveying customers within an existing database, there may be an inherent degree of bias present vs. data collected from a random sample.

3. Keep it short and sweet

Shorter surveys tend to yield higher-completion rates and result in more thoughtful responses. Respondents are taking time out of their day to provide you with their feedback. Make it as easy and enjoyable as possible for them to share their insight at the right time in the customer journey.

Pro tip! Take advantage of tools that provide estimated completion times for your survey to optimize your survey length.

4. Picking your survey question types

There are numerous ways to ask a question, and the type of question you ask will have a direct impact on the quality of data you collect. 

Text-entry/open-ended questions provide the greatest degree of qualitative insight, but can also lead to a higher amount of survey fatigue, and should be used sparingly. 

With the right survey tool, you can even leverage sentiment analysis to refine unstructured data, making it easier to interpret, revealing patterns and trends that could otherwise have been missed.

Also, be wary of double-barrelled questions.

Example: How was the music and atmosphere in the hotel lobby?

As you can see this sentence is actually composed of two entirely different questions, one about music, and one about the atmosphere. Double-barrelled questions contribute directly to survey bias and poor quality of results. When in doubt, break it out.

So, what kind of questions should you use? 

Here are some of the most commonly used survey question types:

Popular Survey Question Types

Checkbox

Checkbox questions have multiple answers, where more than one can be selected.

Radio

Radio or radio button questions have multiple answers, where only one can be selected.

Calendar

Use a Calendar question type to add a date picker to a survey.

Dropdown

Dropdown questions display a list of answers, where only one can be selected. Often used for long lists. (E.g Select your Country)

Rating

Rating questions allow respondents to quickly rate any aspect of your business or service.

Text Input

Text Input questions are ideal for short comments.

Location

Location questions provide respondents with a list of locations that they can choose from based on the context of the question and their experience. Ideal for use with multi-location businesses!

 

Input Question Types

Audio Input

Audio Input questions are used to enable respondents to record an audio response to a question.

Video Input

Video Input questions are used to enable respondents to record a video response to a question.

Image Upload

Image Uploads allow respondents to upload an image to a survey.

CAPTCHA

CAPTCHA questions are a type of challenge used in surveys to distinguish human from machine input.

Net Promoter Score (NPS®)

Net Promoter Score® (NPS®) questions are ranked from 1-10 and are used to measure loyalty and likelihood to recommend.

Customer Satisfaction (CSAT)

CSAT questions measure customers happiness with a specific experience, product, or service.

Matrix

Matrix questions ask respondents to evaluate one or more items using the same set of answer choices.

Ranking

Ranking questions have multiple answers, which can be dragged & dropped into the preferred order by the respondent.

Slider

Slider questions provide respondents with a scale of numeric responses. (E.g. 1 - 10, 0 - 100, etc.)

 

Text-Entry/Open-Ended

Text Entry questions are used for long, qualitative comments. They can also be used for sentiment analysis.

 

To learn more, please see How To Create The Most Effective Survey Questions.

5. Avoiding survey bias

Though surveys are an effective way to collect data, survey bias does occur, meaning responses can be inaccurate or false due to the conditions in which the questions were asked. 

Survey bias comes in 4 types including: sample bias, nonresponse bias, response bias, and question order bias. Ensure that you are strategic and deliberate in designing your survey and its deployment.

Also, remember to avoid ‘leading’ questions. Leading language skews outcomes by applying an inherent bias on the way in which the question is asked. 

Example: “Were you happy with the service you received in store?”

Using the word happy in the question above suggests a positive bias towards the experience had, and doesn’t give the respondent the opportunity to tell you how they really feel or what they experienced.

6. Test and then test again

Before sending your survey out into the wild, we highly recommend you take some time to test the survey and work out any kinks. Most survey tools have a preview functionality, and will allow you to send an anonymous test link. Go through the entire survey as your respondent would, and you’ll likely uncover opportunities for refinement. Ask others to try the survey as well, your mom, brother, Aunt Ida, different people will pick up on different things, and it's easy to miss typos or logic errors when you're the one who built it. Don’t forget, you want to make it as easy and enjoyable as possible for respondents to complete the survey and share their insights with you.

7. Analyze and understand your survey data

Great - you’ve designed a survey, tested it, deployed it, and received responses. Now what? Data collection is the objective, but analysis is where the magic happens. Once you reach this step, you should revisit your original survey goal. 

Pick a survey tool that allows you to easily identify, track, and analyze the data you collect, so you can draw insights from the data received against the goal you defined. 

Key drivers help determine the areas of a business that are most important to customers. Understanding the impact that actions taken will have on performance means you’ve embraced data-driven decision making and can start taking the high-value actions that earn customers for life. Tools like IntouchSurvey™ take it one step further providing users with access to custom dashboards, reporting, and key driver analysis.

8. Drive action with automation

When analyzing your survey data, look for a survey tool that allows you to build automated workflows, create triggers, and assign follow-up actions, so your businesses can stay focused on what matters most. Rally your organization, from top-to-bottom, at every location around your shared goals.

If you’ve reached the bottom of this list you are ready to survey customers and build your very own survey! However, if you want some additional support, we recommend you read through the resources provided below. 

Or, feel free to contact our team over at letschat@intouchinsight.com.

 

Survey 106: Choosing the Right Survey Tool

Of course, in order to conduct a survey, you must first select the right survey tool. That’s why we’ve put together the following list of questions. By defining the essential functionality your business will need in order to meet its goals, you’ll be able to find the right tool and get onboarded quickly. Run through this list when comparing products to ensure your goals and objectives align with the functionality of the survey tool and pricing plan you select.

  • Are your customers likely to take surveys using a mobile device or from their computer?
  • Do you want your surveys to be fully branded and white-labelled, or are you ok with having the vendor’s logo appear?
  • Are there specific custom attributes that you want associated with your data for reporting purposes?
  • Are you a location-based business? If so:
    • Do you need to slice-and-dice your data to understand performance location-by-location?
    • Do you need a tool that allows for the easy deployment of location specific programs?
    • Do you want to analyze data at a location-by-location level, automating corrective measures to save time?
  • Would you like to have access to a question template library or pre-built surveys?
  • Do you need extra support in getting started? 
  • What level of support will you need for implementation and beyond?
  • Do you want to analyze your survey data against other business metrics (e.g. sales data)? 
  • Do you want the survey tool to include an integrated email automation solution for survey distribution?

And remember, more bells and whistles won’t necessarily mean better surveys or outcomes. Find a tool that meets your needs now, and has the flexibility to grow with you into the future.

 

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