What’s the best survey method? Is there a top choice when it comes to collecting valuable feedback from your customers?
As a platform that helps many enterprise companies make sense of feedback and reviews, we were curious to find out if there really is a specific method that brands find most effective.
That’s why we reached out to a group of marketing and customer experience professionals with one simple question:
“What is your top survey method, and why?”
Eleven experts replied with methods that work for them as well as helpful tips to get the most of your surveys and feedback collection methods.
Here’s are the methods our contributors recommended:
1. Use NPS
We measure our customer happiness by calculating our net promoter score (NPS)
We do this by regulatory running customer surveys using a favorite tool of mine called GatherUp (formerly Get 5 Stars). Using this tool, we solicit feedback from our customers. If the input is good, we ask them for reviews for our site and also third-party sites like Yelp. If it’s bad, we get out in front of the issue immediately.
Then we ask, “on a scale of 1-10, how likely would you be to refer a friend to use GreenPal (our company)?” We use this data to calculate our NPS.
Doing this allowed us to capture some funny reviews like this one:
“We were using a guy recommended by our Landlord, who while entertaining at times, looked like ZZ Top, was also a bit of a pain–racist, drank beer on the job I think, would get mixed up about us already paying him. GreenPal solved these problems for us.”
We have a mantra: Listen to your customers; otherwise, you will have none.
2. Track Behavior
Survey results are misleading. Behavioral tracking is not.
Having run marketing for numerous companies across a wide range of verticals, there seems to be an assumption in marketing that surveys reliably provide direct, actionable intel. Unfortunately, in most cases, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Surveys have a tendency to gather information about what customers want, not what they need. And I don’t mean “need” in a personal sense. I mean to say “need” as in what the customer needs before converting into a sale.
For example, while working in both B2C and B2B e-commerce business models, based on customer surveys I have implemented an “already seen” feature that allowed customers to click a button that would merely grey out a search result from all future searches to indicate they’ve already seen that product. The result: a 30% drop in sales.
And the reason is simple; sometimes a person needs to see a product a couple of times before realizing they want to buy it. It’s not what they thought they wanted, but they were wrong.
This is only one example, but I have a library of failed endeavors which stemmed from customer surveying
CMO at Industrial Motor Power Corp
3. Use Both Open & Close-Ended Questions
Typeform is our go-to choice for survey creation and analysis. Some top my top tips are:
- Keep the number of questions short, but connected. Typeform offers the choice to jump in-between questions, depending on previous answers of the respondent.
- Minimize long-form, open-ended questions if possible. In conjunction with this, you want to keep questions mandatory to prevent users from skipping these-open ended questions.
- Offer an incentive in your emails, but reveal it only when they finish the survey. Curiosity kills. Keep the giveaway/incentive exciting, though!
- For manual email campaigns, dig deep into the demographics of subscribers and A/B test until you find the best time to send these emails to them. Consider “when will the user have 5-7 minutes to spare to answer questions?”.
We have a completion rate north of 80%, mixing both open and close-ended questions.
Marketing & Customer Satisfaction Manager at Smallpdf
4. Utilize Mystery Shopping
I have been working in the customer experience space in healthcare for over 20 years.
The industry is required to use multiple-choice surveys for public reporting of patient satisfaction. However, this method does not adequately assess engagement or emotional elements involved in consumer experiences.
I have found that mystery shopping and ethnography are the best methods for drilling down into both the facts and feelings involved in consumer experiences.
5. Ask Regularly
We are always looking for feedback, and you can’t get it unless you ask for it.
We try to stay active on social media and ask our customers for feedback regularly. We also send out customer surveys, gather the data, and take it into consideration for the future. We also offer product promotions for the feedback received. Our customers believe in our mission and our company and therefore are usually excited to give us feedback.
Here are a few tips I have for crafting effective survey questions:
- Overcomplicated and non-specific questions – It’s crucial to write survey questions as clearly as possible without leaving any room for confusion. The whole point of a survey is to get accurate and reliable data which is impossible if your questions are misunderstood. If you keep your questions short and sweet, your answers will follow suit. For instance, if you’re surveying about the frequency of an activity, it’s a good idea to define your parameters.
- No loaded questions – Loaded questions are inherently biased, making the answers completely unreliable. Although many surveyors purposely use loaded questions to get their desired response, many people do so completely unknowingly. Whether by including emotional buzzwords or leading them towards an answer, loaded questions steer subjects into confirming the point driven by the surveyor.
- Hard to answer questions – Avoid asking questions that rely on long-term memory or any form of calculations. When it comes to a survey, simple is always better. For instance, you can’t trust data about how much someone spent on takeout last year or how many movies they watched.
6. Use SMS Surveys
Paper surveys are a thing of the past. And while email surveys might get you a few responses, the vast majority of them won’t even be read, or they’ll be sent straight to the spam folder! That’s why we have come to rely on text (SMS) surveys.
98% of texts are read, compared to just 22% of emails. That means that an SMS survey can get you up to five times as many responses! SMS surveys have another distinct advantage over email and paper as well: speed. 90% of texts are read within 3 minutes of delivery, meaning you can get near-instant feedback and conduct things like live polls or surveys during events! So the next time you want to get feedback from your audience, look to their phones!
Inbound Marketing Specialist at Trumpia
7. Time it Right & Get to the Point
When looking to gather quality data from consumers, timing and context are key. You need to intercept the customer at the correct point in their journey.
We favor using surveys with consumers who are already somewhat invested in a product or service. This could be customers who have activated a free trial, downloaded a whitepaper, or abandoned a basket transaction.
Additionally, don’t muddy the waters by trying to cover too much ground in a single survey. Attention spans are limited, so always get straight to the point. We favor direct questions over ratings out of 10.
Numbers are great, but you often need further written confirmation to address the issue. For example, you may ask; rate our checkout process on a scale of 1-10. Users who have abandoned the process will probably give a low rating.
To understand why they provided a low rating, you need to ask why they chose to abandon the process. By framing this question in the first place, you’ll get specific details about what frustrated the user, without losing their attention through question-overload.
Digital Marketing Specialist at Session Ltd
8. Focus on Improvements with the Greatest Impact
The best survey method depends on what you’re trying to achieve. At Nigel Frank, our Customer Experience Team uses Survey Monkey CX to connect with our candidates and clients after we’ve made a placement.
The main question we use to gauge customer satisfaction is: “How likely would you be to recommend us to a friend or colleague?”
This question measures NPS and lets us see how satisfied candidates are with the service we’ve provided, enabling us to benchmark potential customer loyalty and advocacy.
In addition to this, we ask customers in our surveys to rate us on a scale of 1-5 in areas that we believe have the most impact upon our customer’s experience. Our focus is on continuous improvement, and this insight helps us identify areas we excel at and, most importantly, areas we need to improve on. No matter how positive the response is, we can always improve, so repeating this exercise monthly helps us to stay best in class.
Marketing Director at Nigel Frank International
9. Ask a Single Open-Ended Question
My favorite survey method is very simple: You ask one open-ended question and use the responses to segment your market.
The question is, “What’s your biggest challenge with x?”. For example:
- What’s your biggest challenge with lead generation?
- What’s your biggest challenge with weight loss?
- What’s your biggest challenge with career development.
The answers will be all over the place, but the beautiful part is there will be patterns.
Once you see the patterns, group them into different segments so you can refine your messages. Start with four at first; otherwise, you’ll have too many segments to manage.
With these insights, we wrote all the copy and personalization segments on our website.
10. Talk to Your Customers 1-on-1
The best way to survey your clients is definitely through a 1-on-1 phone call with them.
Set up 10-15 calls every quarter with a customer and make sure the person that completing the calls is either the CEO/Founder of the company or someone that understands the goals of the company and how it runs.
It cannot be someone that does not understand your company fully. A person that understands your company will be able to compare the feedback from each and every person to see how your goals aline and what will make the biggest difference moving forward.
Sometimes what your company has planned can provide a bigger impact on your clients and sometimes something that your customer needs or wants may paint a powerful image in your head in order to steer you in a better direction. Someone that does not understand the details will not be able to do that for you.
Gaining feedback also shouldn’t be hard. Ask them what they like and what they don’t like. Then, tell them what others like and see how they like it. Also, tell them what others struggle with and ask if they struggle with it too.
11. Conduct Multiple Survey “Check-Ins”
At Fitspot, we use surveys in multiple stages of the customer lifecycle. This starts in the sales process, where the sales team surveys prospects to find out what they are looking for in a wellness program.
Because we create customized wellness programs, once we have signed a customer, we conduct multiple check-in surveys that start after their first Fitspot experience and continue monthly. This helps us to track results, adjust our programs based on participation, and provide customers with the most engaging programming based on their needs.
Fitspot works with companies and properties, and each customer has different needs, so surveying customers throughout the life cycle helps us to stay on top of customer happiness and engagement.
Co-founder and COO at FitSpot
The Winner Is…
As you could probably tell by going through this article, there really isn’t a definitive top choice for the best survey method. Really, it comes down to your company, your product or service, and the data you want to collect.
Conducting online surveys, calculating NPS, calling customers directly, and even keeping questions as simple as possible are all effective methods when used properly. Like most things, there is no one size fits all. It will take a bit of trial-and-error to find the method that works for you.
At Wonderflow, instead of using long surveys, we recommend that brands only ask customers one, open-ended question. This allows them the freedom to say what they really care about and how it relates to your product, good or bad.
With traditional surveys, customers may be lead towards providing an answer that may not be what they truly feel. With one open-ended question, though, like “How was your experience with our product?”, customers can take the response in any direction they want.
The challenge with this approach for most companies is the time and experience it takes to comb through responses and extract valuable feedback. This is where Wonderflow’s “Wonderboard” comes in.
The Wonderboard analyzes feedback from surveys, internal data, and reviews from sites like Amazon, Walmart.com, Target.com, and even your own website. This data is then presented in a user interface that makes sense of this information and helps you evaluate why customers say certain things about your products or services, allowing you to focus your improvement efforts on the features that matter the most.