Designing the Perfect Survey

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How you can find out what your customers really want

Understanding your customers is an incredibly crucial part of succeeding in business - being able to know what they like, what they’re looking for next, and what they’re unhappy with is golden information. But how do you get it? It’s often a long process that takes quite a lot of work, as your customers and their tastes change over time. A great place to start is a survey.

What surveys can do for your business

Find out why your customers are happy (or not)

Surveys can help you see how well a particular tactic or product worked, and how committed they are to your brand. Using a survey, you can find out what your customers are mainly concerned with - whether it be the quality of your products, the convenience of your service or the integrity of your brand. This kind of info gives you insight as to what might make a customer fall off your loyalty list if your business goes in a different direction.

Figure out a direction for your products

You might have a great idea for a product, but without testing and doing some market research, it might fall off the wagon right away. Using surveys can help you test how much demand you have for a particular type of product, or get feedback on how it can be improved after you’ve released a sample of it. Find out how to successfully achieve product-market fit in this article.

Find out who’s shopping

One important thing you can gauge from surveys is demographic information or other indicative information about who your shoppers are. Demographic information like age and location can help tell you the price range your customer base is looking for, where they consume media and how they prefer to communicate.

Learn more about how your employees are doing

Surveys aren’t necessarily just for customers. You can also use surveys to get an in-depth look at employee well-being and company culture. Understanding what kind of engagement and support your workers have can help you make better internal organisation decisions and retain your talent.

Principles of writing a good customer survey

Keep it short

Consumers who are taking a survey for you are doing it in between their own tasks. They’re standing in the queue at the grocery store and figure, “why not? I’ve got a minute”. A minute. If you make your survey too cumbersome with too many questions or a slow-loading site, your survey respondents will drop off and you might not get any info from them at all.

Tell your participants right off the bat how long it should take - generally 30 seconds, up to two minutes. Knowing what they’re in for can help retain respondents to follow through to the end.

If there is too much that you want to ask, narrow it down by group. You can target specific groups that you already know some info about to see their opinion. For example, instead of emailing everybody on your list and asking product and demographic questions, make a segment targeting new subscribers from a certain place. You’ll already have some demographic info on them, so you can focus straight onto the product questions.

Give an incentive for completing your survey

Although all of the information you get will be useful, as it’s coming straight from the mouths of your customer base, the more respondents you have, the more valid your results. That means you can base future decisions off of meaningful data, rather than a handful of opinions. You can use creative mechanisms to try to gather more results from your customers.

One popular way to get more responses is to give an incentive for completion of the survey. You can offer a discount code to all participants, reward returning customers for referring their friends to take the survey, or perhaps enter them into a giveaway drawing if they see it through to the end.

Figure out what you want to get from your survey

One important principle to start with is figuring out your objective. Do you want to find out why your customers signed up, or what makes them turn away? Do you want to figure out what your customers may be willing to pay for other products? Are you trying to see how well a new service you’re offering is meeting their expectations?

Surveys should be specific, so first decide exactly what it is you’re looking to find out. Then write a couple of questions that will help get you your answers directly.

Write questions that give you answers

The art of the survey is to write questions that are clear and direct but not off-putting. It’s tricky, for example, to write “would you be willing to spend an extra $10 on basically the same product you’ve already bought”. But that might be something that’s quite interesting for your business. Instead, you could write “All other things equal, do you prefer having a high quality X item, or grabbing a bargain?”

These kinds of questions can help you understand whether or not your customers might be willing to throw down a bit extra if there’s added value -- or if your product line is already pushing what they’re willing to pay and higher-end products might actually turn them away.

Your basic themes could be questions around:

  • What is your company doing that your customers like? (Branding)
  • What could your company be doing better (products, services and customer support)
  • What could you offer your customers in the future? (customer retention)

You’ll need to find a balance between getting as much info as possible from one survey, and making your survey easy to complete. This probably means having mainly closed questions (multiple choice, yes/no, or tick boxes) and one or two open-ended options (including an “anything we missed” category).

Keep it interesting and on-brand

Surveys, like any other content you put out there, is branded. Write in the same tone your company takes on your website and blogs, and use this opportunity to show how much you appreciate your customers.

You’ll have the chance to write an automatic thank you note when your customer completes their survey. Definitely don’t leave it as the default “thank you for completing this survey” message. Write something more specific about how you’ll use the survey, why you appreciate them taking the time to complete it, and what they can look forward to next from your company.

How to send out your survey

Via email

Longer surveys

You can use a free service called SurveyMonkey to design a survey and send to your email lists on MailChimp.

Start by creating a survey from scratch or choosing a pre-made template on SurveyMonkey. After you’ve saved it, at the bottom of the page will be a link for MailChimp.

Take a look at this step-by-step video for follow-along instructions.

Though not as commonly used as SurveyMonkey, another survey-creator is Typeform. This one’s super interactive and really mobile-friendly. They have a bunch of templates for all sorts of business surveys, too.

A shortcut

Another option is to use one-click surveys with ClickInsights. These let you ask just one question, and your customers can answer with a multiple-choice list. You set up the question and up to ten possible responses, then stick it directly in your email service, like MailChimp.

The advantage of using ClickInsights or similar services is that it’s super convenient for your customers because it takes only a matter of seconds and allows for an open-ended response if your multiple choice options don’t cover everything. The disadvantage is that you only get to ask one question, so you might be missing out on the opportunity to collect more data. However, if you think your respondents are unlikely to spend much time on a survey or have been unresponsive in the past, this could be a way to get some insight.

As a popup or on your website

One way to get a quick question in to people who have not necessarily already bought yet is to put a survey directly on your website. This can be done on your landing page, for example in a side bar or as a section. It can also be done as a popup.

For example, you can use an exit-intent popup (a window that appears when your viewer seems to be on their way out of your site) to ask a question that might get them to stay. You can also use a popup to advertise your survey, offering a discount code for those that take it.

Want help designing a survey for your store?

Elkfox can help you put together a marketing plan that helps you understand your customers. Give us a shout today to find out more about how to use surveys for insight into your business.