The Importance of Customer Satisfaction Surveys [And How to Run One Effectively]

Everyone knows CSAT (Customer Satisfaction) surveys are important—but the single-question CSAT surveys you’re likely familiar with aren’t the only way to measure customer satisfaction.

Any customer satisfaction survey you manage will likely have a unique set of goals and can span a variety of formats from short (CSAT) to long (product feedback), public (online reviews) to private (audience research), onsite (pop-up surveys) or offsite (email).

The common thread is that measuring customer satisfaction and feedback regularly is essential. Customer surveys can help:

  • uncover hidden pain points among your customers
  • provide opportunities to improve negative experiences
  • deepen customer personas
  • measure service levels and KPIs over time
  • build successful, customer-centric business strategies
  • know where to improve your product or services

and much more!

However, creating an effective customer satisfaction survey that achieves some, or all, of those rewards isn’t as simple as throwing a quick questionnaire up on your website or out to your email list. An effective customer satisfaction survey—whether it’s one question or ten—takes time, effort and intentionality.

In this article, we’ll show you how to design, implement and analyze a customer survey step-by-step so you can run effective surveys that generate important insights for your business.

What Are The Goals of Your Customer Satisfaction Surveys?

In order to effectively measure your customer satisfaction—or any other measure of customer feedback—you need to understand what exactly your survey is meant to measure. Sound obvious? It is, and yet, it’s often skipped over in a desire to get data fast.

Take a step back, and first identify:

  • clear objectives and goals for your survey
  • your ideal audience to gather feedback from
  • the right timing and frequency

Creating a clear foundation paves the way for important, essential surveys. Here’s how to identify each of these three pieces:

Clear Objectives & Goals

Obviously, customer surveys can have a wide variety of goals and objectives. Your goals for the survey are determined not only by what questions you want to answer or problems you’d like to solve, but also by the bigger picture—how are you hoping to use the feedback you’re gathering?

You may want to survey customers about your product—say, new product features or services. You may want customer feedback on your business in general, their overall experience, or their engagement and needs from your industry. Or you may want to improve specific KPIs, such as cart abandonment or NPS score, with customer feedback.

Whatever it is, proactively identifying it upfront will give you a clearer foundation from which to build your survey and get actionable insights.

Identify the target audience

The target audience for your survey may or may not be a sample of your entire customer or audience base. For more general surveys, a more general audience makes sense.

However, if your survey is looking for more specific insights, it’s worth considering which of your customers could best provide the feedback or insight that would help you achieve your goals. For example, if you’re looking to improve cart abandonment, you may want to send your survey only to customers who have abandoned a cart in the past six months. If you’re looking to deepen customer loyalty and improve NPS scores, you may want to survey a sample of both high- and low-loyalty customers to compare trends and responses.

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Find the right timing and frequency

Some surveys may be a one-off project, whereas others may be better served by happening on a regular timeline, say every quarter, semi-annually or annually.

When considering timing, ask yourself:

  • How often do we need to collect data related to this goal?
  • How often are we collecting customer data in general? How does this survey fit into our broader customer feedback strategy?
  • How often are we asking the same group of customers for feedback? If you’re sending out surveys to your entire audience, you’ll want to ensure they’re spaced out appropriately. However, if you’re limited your surveys to smaller audience segments, you can run more of them consecutively.

Measuring customer satisfaction and engagement every six months, for example, will give you greater insight into trends, CSAT over time, and actionable insights as opposed to a one-off survey.

Designing & Conducting an Effective Customer Satisfaction Survey

Once you’ve identified your goals, audience and timing, you can then develop effective questions. How do you write questions that accomplish your goals?

Here’s a few of our best tips from more than 40 years of experience in CX:

Writing effective customer satisfaction survey questions

Make your questions clear. Avoid ambiguity—write clear and concise questions that can only be interpreted one way. “How was your last experience with us?” is ambiguous, and invites a broad, unhelpful answer (especially if the customer doesn’t quite remember their last experience with you!). “Think back to the last time you purchased an item in-store. How would you rate your checkout experience on a scale of 1-10?” is clear, straightforward and invites a specific response.

Stick to one question at a time. Keep your questions focused. Short, specific questions will give you better data than a few sprawling questions. “Tell us any feedback you have about the new product lines features, prices, colors and availability” is less helpful than four separate questions asking about each of those things individually.

Make sure your questions and answers match. Always double-check the UX of your survey before you send it! If you say, “select all that apply,” make sure your survey form allows users to do so. If you ask users to choose a number from a range, make sure every relevant option is included without duplicates—for example “30-40” and “40-50” creates unclear options if your answer is “40.”

Use multiple types of questions. Look to gather both qualitative and quantitative data, which means asking a mix of questions—multiple choice, open-ended questions, yes/no questions, ranking or slider scale, and so on. Not only does this give you better data, but it also helps keep users engaged.

Use appropriate survey formats

Of course, questions aren’t the only part of effective survey design. You’ll also want to consider the format and delivery of your survey. How are you going to reach your intended audience?

Email is a popular survey distribution channel, especially if you have a highly engaged email list, but it’s not the only option. You can also survey you audience through:

  • social media
  • phone calls
  • your brand’s app
  • an online dashboard
  • your website

The two most popular customer satisfaction survey formats are either on-site survey tools (like a survey pop-up) or distributed tools (like Typeform). On-site survey tools are best for in-the-moment feedback related to specific experiences, services or site use (i.e. “did this page answer your question?” or “how was your checkout experience?”). On-site survey tools can also be used to gather CSAT data after a live chat experience.

Distributed tools, like Typeform, are better for creating longer, more general surveys used for post-purchase or brand feedback as a whole.

Analyzing and Using Customer Satisfaction Survey Data

Once you’ve distributed your customer satisfaction survey and collected some data, you’ll need to effectively analyze it and put it into actionable insights you can then use to improve.

How can you analyze survey data effectively to identify key insights and trends for business improvements? Follow these guidelines our team uses:

Analyze both qualitative and quantitative data. While quantitative data is much easier to analyze, don’t neglect qualitative data. If you’ve asked open-ended questions (hopefully you did!), be sure to read each response. These responses will give you insight into common trends, problems, responses, experiences and so on.

If your survey sample is so large that reading responses individually is overwhelming, invest in a software or AI language processing program that can “read” the responses for you and generate sentiment analysis, word clouds and common themes to help you analyze them more quickly.

Use industry or internal benchmarks (if available) to understand trends. Internal benchmarks, when compared over time, can be one of the best ways to uncover insights and trends. For example, you could measure how CSAT has changed over time, or how the launch of a new product affected call volume and handle time. If you don’t have internal benchmarks yet, you can use industry standards to get started.

Follow best practices for analysis. Use good data analysis practices to get the most valuable insights. For example, if your survey sample size is very small, you might not have statistically significant results, even if the data is very actionable. Extrapolating results from too small a sample size can have negative impacts, so tread carefully! This is one instance where using an external team can really help—if you don’t have internal data experts, outsourcing your data analysis can provide better, more accurate insights.

Use survey data to improve business operations, products and services. Once you’ve analyzed your data and found helpful insights, seek to action them as quickly as possible. Customer needs and preferences change quickly, and companies who are able to keep up are the ones who stand to gain the most market share.

How to Respond to Customer Feedback

The final step is responding to customer feedback—whether you sent out a survey directly to consumers or solicited feedback via your online channels, it’s a good practice to respond promptly to feedback.

If you sent out a customer satisfaction survey, thank the group as a whole for their responses and send a reward if applicable. Then, address feedback as necessary on a case-by-case basis.

If the feedback is positive, you may wish to thank customers for their positive feedback (especially if it’s in a public space) and for being a loyal customer. This can be quite simple, such as an automatic pop-up thanking them for a 4- or 5-star review.

If the feedback is negative, you’ll want to take a closer look to address the complaint. Is there a feature they might not be aware of that can solve their problem? Is your team already working on a way to address that problem in the future? Do you want to follow up with them directly to get further details?

Finally, be sure to continue communicating with customers even after the survey ends. Show customers how you’re using the survey results to improve your product or make changes. Customers are apt to feel more loyal to your brand if they see that you took their feedback into account—so implement quickly and communicate relevant changes widely.

Need Help with Customer Satisfaction Surveying?

And voila! Your customer survey is complete. Now you know the importance of customer surveys, along with how to:

  • assess the goals and objectives for your customer feedback
  • design a survey that meets your goals
  • write effective surveying questions to get actionable feedback
  • choose appropriate survey formats and timing
  • analyze survey data effectively
  • respond to customer survey feedback
  • and more!

If you need support getting customer feedback, running audience surveys or engaging your audience further, outsourcing can be an effective and affordable way to increase the amount and quality of your customer feedback.

Whether you need audience research surveys, customer satisfaction surveys, general customer feedback or something else, ROI CX Solutions is experienced with running professional, actionable surveying that gets your team results. Ready to kick off your market or audience research? Connect with an expert from ROI CX Solutions today and see how we can help you achieve your goals, from start to finish.

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