Create a Killer Customer Experience with Effective Customer Surveys

For startups, an integral part of branding your business is designing a customer experience that draws new buyers in and keeps existing ones coming back for more. This is tricky in a startup situation, though. You don’t have a long track record, so you’re still finding your way and figuring out what you need to do to gain a foothold in the market.

It’s impossible to know if your startup’s customer experience is hitting the mark unless you can collect a lot of user feedback. There are a number of great ways to do this, but one of the most popular and effective is the survey. The reasons for this are fairly obvioussurveys are much cheaper than, say, an in-person customer interview or focus groups; they take less time; and they can reach a wide array of people with little effort.

But it’s not just a matter of slapping some questions together and expecting to get a lot out of them. You have to know what kind of survey you need, and from there, design your survey to get the most valuable customer insights you can. With the information you gather, you’ll be able to make high-level strategic decisions as well as do some more fine-grained tactical maneuvering to tweak every aspect of your customer experience.

Here’s what you need to know about customer surveys, and how to create and implement the most effective survey for learning about your customer experience.

The Two Types of Surveys

Start by figuring out what you need to measure and which kind of survey would be best suited to your needs. In “The Strategic and Tactical Roles of Customer Surveys,” Business Over Broadway’s Bob Hayes explains that there are two types of customer surveys: relationship and transactional surveys.

“Relationship surveys allow customers to indicate their satisfaction about their overall relationship with the company/brand,” says Hayes. Generally, businesses send these surveys out at a fixed time interval, like once a year or every six months. They measure things like customer loyalty, satisfaction with specific touchpoints (like post-purchase customer support) and the overall level of satisfaction. They can also include some open-ended questions to dig a little deeper into why customers feel the way they do.

Transactional surveys, on the other hand, tell you how you need to improve your customer experience. As the name implies, these surveys measure your customers’ satisfaction with a specific transaction. Hayes recommends using your relationship surveys as a starting point for your transactional ones. For example, if your customers said they weren’t happy with the installation or onboarding of your product, you can make a transactional survey that focuses specifically on that touchpoint.

Both relationship and transactional surveys have their place, but as Hayes points out, you’ll get the best results when you use them together. While relationship surveys tell you where to improve, Hayes says, transactional surveys tell you how to improve. If you implement the feedback you get on your transactional surveys, you can surely expect better results on your next relationship survey.

How Do I Know When to Use a Survey?

Surveys are powerful tools, but they aren’t a catch-all solution for all things pertaining to your customer experience. They aren’t the right tool for every situation. Elizabeth Ferrall-Nunge of Google Ventures explains when surveys work best in “Improve Your Startup’s Surveys and Get Even Better Data.”

You should use a survey if you want to track certain changes over time, such as seeing what changes with your customers after a big feature launch, says Ferrall-Nunge. They can also be used to augment user studies. For example, if your test users had a problem with a specific feature, you can use a survey to quantify just how many users had the same issue.

But you should also understand the limits of what surveys can tell you. They’re great at quantifying certain aspects of your customers’ attitudes, but it’s tough to get a good read on the underlying user motivations and needs with just a survey—you’ll need a good user study for that. Additionally, most people are bad at self-reporting, especially when it comes to products they use on their own. Ferrall-Nunge notes that if you want to understand on actual user behavior and see what their real sticking points are with your product or service, you will have to analyze logs to determine what users are doing in reality, not what they say they’re doing.

Tips for Creating Great Customer Surveys

Now that you know what kinds of surveys are available to you and how you can decide when to use them, here are a few tips for creating surveys that will help you hone your customer experience to be the best it can be.

  • Keep it short. Ferrall-Nunge writes that if your survey takes longer than five minutes, most people aren’t going to finish it. The best way to keep it short is to only ask essential questions. Don’t bog your customers down with questions that have no practical application to you.
  • Be mindful of how you order your questions. Start with broad questions about the overall experience and then move into the specifics as the survey goes on.
  • Don’t use leading questions. For example, don’t ask something like, “Would you be interested in using an improved version of this product?” This is a leading question because it leads the person taking the survey to answer in a certain way. Would anyone be against using an improved product?
  • Avoid double-barreled questions. A double-barreled question is one that asks two things at once. In this case, avoid asking questions like “How do you feel about our payment options and our post-purchase support?” These are two totally separate things, and customers may feel differently about each one. Each question should be about one specific topic.
  • Test your survey before you send it. If you’re an early-stage startup, chances are your customer base and resources are limited. Make sure your survey is effective before you send it out, since you likely won’t have the opportunity to send another one soon. Show your survey to colleagues and friends and ask them to explain what each question is asking of them. This will ensure that the survey-taker can easily understand everythingcritical when you can only perform a few surveys a year.
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