The key to customer surveys for maximum response: keep it simple


Have you ever received a customer survey? If you are a dedicated consumer, keeping the economy alive with your well-thought-out purchases and decisions, then chances are you have.

In turn as a business owner, you may be having thoughts of conducting your own survey to gauge just where your customers place you in the big consumer scheme of things. Below is some information that may help you along, get you thinking, or maybe even completely turn you off the idea. It’s not always rainbows and lollypops in the wide world of surveys, as some of us have come to learn. In fact, I may never be the same again. 

By way of speaking from firsthand knowledge, please allow me to share a painful experience. The names have been removed to protect the innocent, but they know who they are.

A cautionary tale...

In the past month, I have received, and filled in, a couple of customer surveys. In 50% of the cases, I stopped and didn't complete the whole survey.

Why? Let me give you an example from the last survey I received.

It was from a very well-known on-demand provider of TV series and movies. Yes, that one! After having completed about 15 questions in around 5 minutes I realized that I was not even halfway through the survey. Result: bye-bye survey! Oh My! Now there’s a title for a book. ‘How to lose friends and disinterest people, in one easy step.’

The value of K.I.S.S

It really is pertinent in these times of busy individuals, to consider your customers and the probability that certain triggers may mean they may never return.

I’m not saying your survey will make people want to throw themselves off a cliff, or worse – never patronize your business again, merely after receipt of one inconvenient survey.

No. The point is, a failure to capture information truly significant to your company can be attributed to the simple notion that while good intent is there, people just don’t have the time to answer a multiple-question survey. Don't fire 500 questions at a customer. Keep it brief!

Frankly, if you really need to ask a zillion questions, at least be honest and tell your victims upfront that they probably will have to dedicate a good part of their precious time to answering the same ridiculous questions 100 times. The only difference is a principal keyword.

Keep It Simple, Stupid. It’s worth remembering because it works.

So, what are you looking for?

Purpose-built surveys are the way to go. This is a marketing tool after all, and a very powerful one, given the right attention and consideration.

Have a goal in mind. Is the purpose of your survey, to determine if you liked someone’s accent?

Below is my case in point. This is a true account, believe it or not.

ʺNow it’s time to evaluate the person who solved your technical problem. Did you like their voice? Yes totally – Yes Somewhat – Neutral – Not really – Not at all – I Don’t knowʺ.

Then two questions later: ʺDid you like the accent of the person who solved your technical problem: Yes totally – Yes Somewhat – Neutral – Not really – Not at all – I Don’t knowʺ.

If the best effort is determining whether your staff are annoying customers, or dissuading them from a future purchase or helpful interaction, then perhaps build the entire survey around this line of questioning.

Keeping it relevant

If you really want to ask every single question there is to be asked about any process in your organization, split it up into a couple of surveys.

Only ask the questions that are relevant to your customer's latest interaction with your organization. Like it or not, memories are fleeting, and what may be present and current in our minds in one moment, may not be two hours from now.

Are you the exception, like me?

Ok, so if you, like a few remaining champions of truth out there, are like me and are still prepared to express an opinion through a survey, then think about how many completed responses companies actually receive.

Given that I’ve already abandoned a survey without completing it, if you delivered a survey like my examples, how many responses do you think you would get?

More to the point, guess who will answer? Probably only the really disgruntled customers who want to vent their anger and frustration. If you (or your unfortunate, soon-to-be nervous Intern) want to sift through aggression and vile complaints all day, then these things need to be considered with the same respect as any other marketing decision. If not, you may be the one heading for the cliff face. If you’ve ever been on the rough end of a survey, you’ll know exactly what all of this means. If not, take my very example of being in receipt of one of these mind-bending, time-consuming, mother-of-all surveys. If you follow my advice, you will discover that the above are real win-win solutions.

These points are to be remembered and will help your organization. You will definitely get more responses, and like me, you’ll get your life back.


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