Customer service surveys. It seems like every interaction I have with a company’s customer service department, I’m being asked for my opinion. I feel a mix of flattery and frustration with these requests:

  1. “Great, my opinion is important and you want to incorporate my thoughts into improving customer service.”
  2. “I am not getting back the twenty minutes I’ve committed so far into your survey of unknown length…”

Do you ever experience one or both of these exact same feelings? Be honest.

But I don’t always experience this emotional roller coaster when it comes to customer service surveys. In those cases, it’s because the vendor has nailed the survey experience. From my own experience in crafting surveys and in participating in others, I’ve come to realize a few best practices that not only make people more interested in sharing but also result in more insightful responses.


Surveying in customer service is a must. There’s much to learn from a customer service interaction, such as:

  • How well did the agent perform?
  • Was the customer responded to in a timely manner?
  • Was the problem ultimately solved?

Ultimately, it’s about determining if you are meeting and hopefully exceeding expectations. But surveying every customer after every interaction isn’t the answer and may not be practical. And honestly, will you really be able to make use of that volume of data?

Instead, consider a more targeted surveying strategy. Are there particular customers to target, because they use a particular product or service? Are you surveying customers of newer agents more often than veteran agents? Is a random sampling an option?

Set Expectations

Customers want to enjoy your product or service without issues. When they do have problems, it takes time out of their busy lives to find a solution. And now, on top of that, you want to ask for feedback, requiring yet more time.

It’s a big ask.

So give them an idea of how long your survey will take. Share the estimated time necessary. This will also help you recognize if you’re really asking for too much of their time: are you asking the right number of questions that will provide the actionable data you need–no more and no less? And if it seems on the long side, consider reducing the number of questions to get under the three-minute mark or make them an offer…


You may be doing everything to honor your customers’ time but the survey is still coming in over five minutes. Or perhaps you’re experiencing a high drop-off rate or a complete lack of participation. What’s going on?

Customers are asking “what’s in it for me?” and not finding value in participating. So give them a reason to provide feedback. Short of providing direct compensation (which is possible, but can get expensive), consider a weekly or monthly prize drawing, free or discounted products or services, or other low-cost incentives to increase response and completion rates. This is a small investment to raise participation.

Reduce Effort

Survey design plays a big part in the time needed to complete it and in minimizing the amount of frustration involved. This is more than just the number of questions to ask, this is about the survey experience for the person being surveyed. Some techniques to consider here are:

  • Build your surveys to be device-aware. While you might be able to get away with a mobile experience on a desktop or laptop, the reverse is not true.
  • Display all possible answers when asking single-response or multiple-choice questions. Hiding answers in drop-downs might make for a cleaner look, but requires additional clicks or taps.
  • Clearly mark required questions. I still encounter surveys that do not mark them and I am unable to continue without answering.
  • Make data entry as easy as possible. I am a big fan of changing the keyboard input to numeric and similar shortcuts to simplify data entry. Again, this is a thoughtful time saver you can provide to the customer that will help reduce effort (as well as drop-offs).
  • Minimize the open response text boxes. While quantitative data is great, it also takes more time on the part of the responder to type or tap out. If you really want to include this option (since they do make good “voice of the customer” quotes), these are candidates to set as optional responses.
  • Minimize the range. People struggle with large ranges. A 10-point scale? What’s the difference between 7 and 8? When a range is necessary, regardless of the size, include descriptive language that clearly differentiates each point to ensure consistency across respondents.

While we’re on the topic of ranged responses, I am not a fan of offering a neutral option. It is difficult to understand the importance of a topic and how a customer truly feels with this non-commital response. Consider omitting it.

The Results

Surveys are necessary to get clear insight into how well customer service is meeting customer expectations. I appreciate every company’s desire to capture this invaluable information and am happy to participate when the process is fast, simple, and values my time.

Whether you’ve been conducting them for years, or are just getting started, recognize that your customers are doing you a huge favor by spending the time to respond. Honor that time by taking a more thoughtful approach. You’ll be rewarded with a higher volume of meaningful, actionable responses.