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Written by Gillion Vaughn
on November 22, 2017

tips for better customer surveys

So, you're ready to start collecting customer data. Congratulations! Data collection is key to knowing your customers and getting feedback. Getting answers and data the right way can lead to boosts in sales, rising profits, smarter product development and higher customer satisfaction.

If you're new to the game there are a few important things to keep in mind before you jump in. Data collection is crucial to a healthy business, and you want to get it right for the maximum results. Follow these simple tips, and you’ll be on the road to collecting accurate data and maintaining a trusting relationship with your customer.

Here's your starter's road map to collecting quality data that makes a difference.

1. Know Your Target Audience

Tailored content is more important than ever these days, because people are bombarded by so much content. We all know how overwhelming this can be.

If you want customers to take the time to answer your questions honestly, then it's important to personalize data collection. Always send your surveys to the right people at the right time. For example, you'll have a better response rate if you identify where your customer is in the buyer’s journey, and send out tailored questions to them.

Blasting everyone on your mailing list with generic questions that may not apply to them can hurt the valuable trust that you have built with your customers. Asking for feedback about a specific product that someone recently used is a great way to get fresh and relevant feedback. So keep the trust, and ask the right questions from the right people at the right time.

2. Let the Customer Know Why You Need Their Valued Feedback

People have to know that you're not wasting their time. When sending out a customer survey, Make it clear that that you’ll listen to your customer and that you value their feedback. Sometimes simply reminding your customer that the collected data will be used to improve or tailor your service in the future is enough. If their answers will help develop a new product or initiative, then share that information with your customer.

Just be sure to let them know that they are a part of the decision making process, and that their vote is valuable. You may be looking at the numbers, but you're dealing with humans, and the need to feel valued is central to human psychology.

Always show that you honestly value your customer's opinion, and make sure they know why their individual voice makes a difference.

3. Make it Clear That the Customer Benefits

Studies like this one from the journal of Medical Researh Methodology show that giving a modest yet encouraging incentive to customers increases response rates. Customers are going out of their way to help you, so show them that you recognize the value of their participation and offer something in exchange. Don’t go overboard, but consider offering a small discount or a valuable piece of content that you know will interest them. Often, just offering to share the results with participants is an effective incentive. You don’t generally want to offer big money or fancy rewards to everyone who takes a simple survey. That might skew your data in itself. The idea is that you can consider offering something in exchange that will interest your customer.

Whatever you decide, think your incentive through carefully. It’s important that your incentive isn’t the main goal for completing the survey, because you don’t want people to rush through it just for the reward. There's no use in offering an incentive that is more expensive than the cost benefit of someone's participation. There's also no use in offering an incentive that won't interest your customers. So be thoughtful, strategic and purposeful in what you offer. The bottom line is that they're scratching your back. Returning the favor is a great way to build loyalty and enthusiasm. Find an appropriate way to make it worth their time, and always remember to follow up with an appropriate thank you.

4. Ask About One Topic at a Time

This is a simple one, but it's easy to mess up. Unless you are using a special 2D question that is designed to have two separate variables, be sure that you are only asking about one subject per survey question. When we speak, we tend to combine sentences and ideas, so it's easy to write a two part question. For example, “I'm pleased with the quality and consistency of the service.”

What if someone loves your quality, but finds the consistency needs work and there is only a basic 1-5 answer scale for the question? These types of two part questions can confuse people and skew your data, and skewed data doesn't help your business. Ask simple straightforward questions, and receive simple, straightforward answers.

5. Keep it Short and Simple

One of the most common mistakes you can make is creating a survey that is just too long and time-consuming. Remember that your customer is always busy, and respecting their time is key to maintaining trust. A meta study of almost 300,000 participants which looked at a whopping 292 trials supports these simple findings pretty clearly, “Response was more likely when short questionaires were used.”

So while it might be tempting to create your next mega masterpiece of a survey, don’t go there. If you have a lot of questions to ask, you can consider breaking them down into easy to digest “mini-surveys” with only 5 or 6 questions each. You can also considder whether you really need all those questions, or if you can simplify things and still get quality results. 

This isn’t to say that every survey has to be extremely short. Hey, maybe you know that particular customer groups will be willing to answer something that takes more time because they are particularly invested in the product or the results. Just don’t make your survey any longer or more complicated than it needs to be, because people are very busy.

Bottom Line: It’s all About Respecting time, Being Clear and Maintaining Trust

If you can follow these five basic tips, then you're already on the road to collecting quality data. The key theme here is to respect your customer's time and energy, be clear in your questions and show that you value their feedback. Remember that behind every statistic lies a real person, so it's important that your surveys are geared towards building and keeping trust. If you can do these things, then you will have better response rates and build up an awesome bank of insightful data.

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