Creating a Customer Service Satisfaction Survey: Best Practices

Photo courtesy of liberalmind1012 under Creative Commons Attribution License. 40/
Photo courtesy of liberalmind1012 under Creative Commons Attribution License. 40/ | Source

It's well known that questionnaires are great tools for soliciting feedback from customers and clients. You can find out to what extent you're failing to meet your customers' needs and identify areas for improvement in both the quality of your product and in customer satisfaction. Effective use of well-designed questionnaires or surveys can give you a competitive edge and ultimately ramp up the bottom line for your business. But it's also possible to get false or misleading data. Learn the pros and cons and find tips to help you avoid falling into the pitfalls of badly designed surveys.

Tips for Writing and Administering Customer Feedback Questionnaires

Extreme Focus

Target the questionnaire for a specific research question. Don't try to cover every question you'd like your customers to answer. Know what type of feedback you're looking for and stay on topic.

Easy and Clear

Make the survey easy to understand. Be brief, clear and concise. Don't repeat or reword questions. Use common words. Make the available choices easy to read and easy to mark.

Eliminate Bias

Use unbiased language and watch for leading questions. Don't say, "Are we your favorite company?" Rather, say, "How satisfied are you with our company?"

Increase Trust

Give customers an assurance of privacy and confidentiality in their responses to encourage them it's safe to participate.

Increase Motivation

Give customers an incentive to respond to the questionnaire. The more responses you get, the better your data.

Disclose

If soliciting customer testimonials, let them know if you are requesting their feedback for use in promoting your business.

Watch Out for Samples

Take a look at a sample survey. Find out whether or not it has gotten results. A questionnaire sample might act as an example of what to do...or what not to do, depending on whether it was designed properly.

Advantages of Surveys and Questionnaires

  • Customers feel their voices are heard and understand that pleasing them is part of the company's mission.
  • You can collate pre-set data easily into neat categories that are easily analyzed.
  • In the case of comprehensive, tightly designed questionnaires, you can get numbers to back up your policies or future actions.
  • Questionnaires and surveys are efficient. They can be quickly compiled and administered in a targeted way to customers.
  • Besides collecting data that you define, by including write-in sections you can utilize customer service questionnaires as a valuable means of discovery and brainstorming--essentially letting your customers tell you what they would like to see.

Problems With Feedback Surveys

  • Badly designed surveys are all too common. Bad questionnaire design means the feedback that results is skewed in some way. If you're working off a template, make sure to customize it to get the results you want.
  • Questionnaires may include write-in sections that should be multiple choice questions -such as in the case of questions more quickly and easily answered by marking a checkbox. Or, they may include multiple choice or yes/no questions that should be write-in - such as questions requiring more complex answers or answers that are not part of a pre-set group.
  • Most questionnaires limit respondents to a set of prewritten responses. When the survey questions are ill-formulated, customers are forced to pick answers that only approximate - or may even veer wildly from - the truth, yielding misleading survey results.
  • Survey designers often forget that the survey is itself an interaction with the customer, with the same potential for turning customers on or off.
  • By not including any default fall-back responses - such as "I don't know," "Not applicable," or "Other" - badly designed questionnaires may skew the results of the survey, as customers may fall back on random response choices.
  • You often only get one shot at a questionnaire. If you designed it badly, you can't fix it and re-issue it. This is a good case for testing the questionnaire first on a subgroup.
  • Even when the questionnaire design is fine, the implementation can suffer if the questionnaire is delivered in a way that prevents customers' being truthful. This is especially a problem if a customer is made aware of the surveyor's intentions, interviewed using the wrong media, or otherwise made to feel self-conscious about the survey officials "looking over her shoulder."
  • Even in sound designs and well-administered surveys, interpretation of the data rests on how sophisticated your statistical modeling is. In other words, it's not the data itself that's useful - it's what you do with it.
  • Analyzing valuable write-in sections can be time-consuming.
  • When a loosely designed questionnaire is used as end-stage research, rather than a preliminary "feeling out of the market," its potential is much diminished. Use only balanced, comprehensive questionnaires for backing up action.

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