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Ask the Audience: The Complete Guide to Customer Surveys

Jul 4, 2023

I recently returned from a family vacation, and I was pleasantly surprised and horrified by the number of emails asking me to provide feedback about my trip. 

There were surveys for everything. From Disney. From the Universal Orlando hotel that I stayed at. From the escape room I visited. Almost every company I interacted with sent me a survey to complete. I’m a sucker for data and analytics, so if a customer survey finds its way to my inbox, you can guarantee I’ll answer it. Except when it’s so poorly executed that it feels like climbing uphill in the snow both ways to complete it… 

As a business owner, your audience is your most valuable resource. The more you know what your customers and clients want (or don’t want), the better you can serve them with your offers. And that’s why I’m a big believer in gathering feedback from your customers and why it’s one of the first phases of every Lean Six Sigma project. However, there are ways to do surveys well and fail miserably. Let’s look at how you can create a user-friendly experience that helps you get data you can use.

Create customer surveys that people will take the time to complete 

If you have a website, you’ve probably heard the phrase “bounce,” meaning a user visits a page and immediately exits without taking any additional actions. Think back to some of the surveys you’ve completed over the years  — what made you decide to click through and answer the questions instead of ignoring the email? 

Design is crucial to boosting the likelihood that your customers will complete a survey and not bounce from it immediately. I don’t mean design in the fonts, colors, or logo sense either (though that helps), but in the user experience. Remember, you’re essentially asking your audience to do you a favor — don’t make it a huge chore! 

Keep your survey short and sweet

When crafting the email for your survey, get straight to the point. People don’t have much free time, and you’re asking for some of it. Be respectful and get to the point. Especially if you’re in a business-to-consumer industry like travel… nobody wants to face reality when you return from vacation, and your survey will feel more like work than fancy drinks.

It only takes a few sentences to tell the reader about the survey and give them the link to take it.

Remember, keeping your customer survey to a ~5-minute response time is essential, so you probably can’t ask everything you want. And it’s not just the email that should be short — keep your survey questions clear and concise. Pick your questions wisely to get the most valuable feedback in the shortest amount of time.

This is where your goals come in. What will you do with the information you receive from this survey? Discover new product ideas? Improve an existing product? Look for better phrases to use on social media? Get demographic data to create better target markets for your ads? Once you understand what you’re hoping to learn from your customers, it makes creating your questions much easier.

Make your customer surveys user-friendly

Since our goal is to keep our response time down to ~5 minutes, we want customers to spend their time answering questions NOT trying to figure out how to navigate through the survey.

I once opened a survey on my phone that was virtually impossible to complete. It required me to scroll left to choose an answer. Don’t make the mistake of forgetting to design a mobile-friendly survey! Roughly 58% of all website traffic is mobile.

Another tip? Make the survey look shorter by using page breaks so your user isn’t overwhelmed by a never-ending scroll of questions. You can even use logic to hide questions behind specific answers. No one wants to waste time answering “N/A” on a bunch of irrelevant questions. (For example, you would want to ask, “Have you purchased a product with us in the last 6 months?” and eliminate your product-specific follow-up questions if they answer “No.”)

If you’re looking for a tool with a great user interface, check out Google Forms which is a great free option that offers lots of functionality. If you want to customize the design or have more advanced logic options, consider a premium software program like Typeform.

Tip: Make sure to send your survey to a friend to test it before you send it to your audience! This will give you insight into how your users might feel while taking the survey. Sometimes you’ll even find tech issues that need to be fixed, such as requiring a question to move forward that shouldn’t be.

Give your audience an incentive to complete the survey

Now that you’ve designed an excellent survey, it’s time to encourage people to take it! That means giving them an incentive or appealing to their generosity.

You don’t necessarily need to reward survey-takers, although you definitely can. It’s more about telling them exactly why they should take the survey. 

If they aren’t getting anything tangible out of it, offer an intangible reward. Reassure them that their answers will help you design better products or improve future experiences for them and other customers.

If you do decide to offer an incentive, you have lots of options:

  • A coupon code
  • A free PDF
  • An extra resource
  • A giveaway
  • An add-on product
  • The chance to get on a call with you

Choose a reward that’s valuable to your audience but not too costly to your business.

Do something with your results

You’ve made it to the last stage! You created a survey and got your customers to fill it out. Now, it’s time to put that data to work.

Figure out what you need to update

Read through the responses with an open mind. Remember, negative feedback isn’t a personal attack — it’s a chance to improve something in your business. If your survey is tied to the launch of a new product, use that feedback to make adjustments or inspire future offers.

If the survey is part of an ongoing campaign (instead of a single launch), don’t forget about it! Set a task to remind yourself to check in with survey results occasionally. This ensures that you can address feedback quickly whenever you receive it.

Figure out what needs amplifying

Chances are, your survey will also generate some great insights into why people love following you and buying your products. These can make great testimonials on your sales or product description pages, building trust with potential buyers. You can also share them on social media directly (as a quote) or indirectly (by using the words and phrases your customers use to describe your business). 

Measure the completion rate

Finally, it can be helpful to track some statistics around your survey:

  • How many people access the survey from the email link?
  • How many people ignored the email or didn’t click on the survey link?
  • How many completed all the questions?
  • How many clicked away without answering all the questions?

Use this data to improve future surveys. If your numbers are lower than you like, you need to offer a better incentive, punch up the email in which you request feedback, or shorten the survey.

Making the most of customer feedback

Customer surveys are a great way to find out how to serve your audience better. The key is to design surveys that your customers will take. Create short, user-friendly surveys, and consider offering an incentive to encourage responses. And don’t forget to use that feedback to make changes in your business.

Want expert support to fund your business better? I’d love to help. As your Chief Operating Officer, I can help you solidify your vision for your company, develop new products, and hone your leadership skills. 

Plus, having a strategic partner on your side allows you to spend less time on your business and more time on whatever you want.

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