It’s no longer a secret that excellent customer service is the new competitive advantage. When you’re looking for ways to improve your business’s customer service, there’s no better resource than customer feedback. In order to get the insights you need to provide better service and increase retention, you need the right surveys, in the right places, at the right times.

Not all surveys are created equal. While it might be tempting to rely on your intuition when it comes to creating and placing surveys, this could end up costing you and your business. Customer surveys are not unlike cake ingredients: which things you add, where you add them, and when you add them, matters.

Surveys are only as good as their:

  1. Design,
  2. Alignment with business goals, and
  3. Placement.

With better surveys, you’ll learn how to provide better service. Here, we’ll go over the design, business goals, and placement that makes for better customer surveys.

1. Customer survey design 101

One of the reasons businesses use GetFeedback for surveys is the ability to make surveys user-centric. The better designed the surveys are for your customers, the higher survey completion rates will be. For instance, hearing aid company Eargo saw a 20% increase in survey completion rate when they switched to GetFeedback.

The quality of your surveys also determines the usability of your customer feedback data. To make sure your efforts—and your customers’ efforts—are being put to good use, you’ll need to ensure that your surveys are balanced and easy to work with later on.

Here are some customer survey design basics to keep in mind.

Stick to 5 questions or fewer.

Some of the most effective surveys are only two questions: the first asking them to rate a statement (i.e. 1 – 10), and the second question asking them to explain the reason for their rating in a short, open-ended answer. With targeted questions, less is more.

Include at least one quantitative question.

If you’re collecting feedback with a survey that only has qualitative questions, it will be difficult to sort through and make useful. Some quantitative questions include answer options like a 1 – 10 rating, a Strongly Agree to Strongly Disagree scale, or an Extremely Satisfied to a Not Satisfied scale. By including at least one quantitative question, you’ll have a metric to organize, filter, and compare qualitative responses by.

Keep it short and sweet.

The more concise you can be, the better. You’ll get more accurate responses, more satisfied survey respondents, and more usable data.

Give balanced answers.

When asking quantitative questions, think symmetrically. For instance, Extremely Satisfied, Very Satisfied, Neutral, Somewhat Satisfied, and Not Satisfied is a symmetrical scale of possible answers customers could choose from, with Neutral in the middle. For accurate data and satisfied customers, give balanced answer options.

Use unbiased language.

Keep language unbiased for more viable data and more satisfied survey respondents. There’s a reason a good Net Promoter Score (NPS) question is more along the lines of, How likely would you be to recommend us to a family or friend? and less like How likely are you to tell a family member or friend about how amazing we are? Learn more about how to avoid biasing survey questions.

Make it beautiful and on brand.

Customize your survey with your brand’s colors and imagery. You can use a background image that speaks to your brand without detracting from the survey. You can also plug images into certain survey questions, such as the image of a recently purchased item. Images and color done right can make your survey highly engaging and assist in conveying a message or question.

Make it readable.

Check the contrast level to make sure it’s easy for survey respondents to read your survey. It’s become increasingly fashionable in web design to include very thin fonts with low contrast coloring compared to the background. The last thing you want to do is frustrate a customer who is volunteering their time to give you feedback because they can’t read your survey!

Make it mobile-friendly.

With Google switching to mobile-first indexing, it’s no surprise that more and more surveys are being completed on mobile. Create and test the mobile version of your survey, checking for readability, tap target sizes, and general functionality.

2. Matching surveys to your business goals

Before choosing the type of survey for a certain place in your customer’s journey, ask yourself, What is my goal here? What kind of feedback am I looking for from my customers?

Case in point: decreasing customer churn

For instance, if you want to decrease customer churn, the best survey questions to ask your customers are the Customer Effort Score (CES) survey and the Net Promoter Score (NPS) survey.

Of all of the types of survey questions, CES is by far the best predictor of repeat purchase and increased spending. This is because customers care more about how easy it was to solve their problem than self-identifying their level of satisfaction in a given context. The CES survey question asks, Did we make it easy for you to resolve your issue today? Because CES focuses on customer effort, it only works in certain contexts, such as after a support chat, call, or accessing online help resources.

Customer Effort Score Survey Example

To contrast, the NPS survey question has more options for placement since it’s less situation-dependent than the CES survey question. The NPS survey question is often used to gauge customer loyalty. It asks, How likely are you to recommend us? As you can imagine, a NPS survey can be applied to many stages of the customer journey, such as before or after a purchase, sign-up, or relationship milestones down the road.

Net Promoter Score Survey Example

Think about your business goals first. You can use that mindset to find the right types of surveys, and then determine where they fit in your customer journey. If you do this process in the reverse order, you’ll end up with data that doesn’t fully align with your needs.

3. The full recipe: the customer journey map

Figuring out where you want to put your customer surveys is the last piece of the survey puzzle. When thinking about placement, you want to make sure surveys are in the right context for your customers. You also want to make sure you don’t have redundant surveys, or too many surveys. It’s important that surveys are placed with intent and that you’re selective with them to prevent survey fatigue.

That’s where the customer journey map comes in. It makes finding where to strategically place surveys much easier than an ad-hoc approach.

Find the most strategic places for customer surveys

Creating a customer journey map is the best solution for identifying optimal customer survey placement. Because all of your potential options are laid out in front of you—and from the customer’s perspective—you’ll have a bird’s eye view, and will be able to find the most strategic placement for your surveys.

Uncover the weak links in your customer journey, and fix them

A weakness that plagues many businesses is the customer hand-off from one department to another. A customer journey map can help you determine if your customers are being affected by disjointed departments, or if they’re experiencing the seamless customer experience that they expect. By viewing your business from the customer’s point of view, you can make internal integrations that positively affect both your customers and your teams.

Your customer journey map can also help you improve the performance of specific departments. For instance, if you think there’s room for improvement in the sales department, a win-loss survey after a sales interaction can help you gather customer feedback on what went right and what went wrong during the sales process. This feedback can help you improve that specific area in your business.

Using your customer journey map as a tool for continuous improvement

Each stage of the customer journey map includes qualitative information (what they are thinking, asking, and feeling at this stage) as well as quantitative information (percent of customers dropping off, key business metrics).

By strategically adding surveys to the customer journey, you can make it more and more difficult to prospects and customers to leave it. Collecting customer feedback gives you the data you need to improve your customer service at each stage of the customer journey. Once you’ve used your insights to improve your business, you can update your customer journey map to reflect this new reality, and repeat the process.

The customer journey map is a powerful, iterative tool that can help you remain competitive in a market competing on service. Learn how to create your own customer journey map to impress your customers and improve your business.