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Successful businesses share a number of common characteristics, but one of the most important is satisfied customers. Luckily, you don’t have to be a mindreader to discover what your customers want — you simply have to ask them. One of the best ways to do this is by using surveys.

Customer satisfaction surveys are always beneficial to businesses. If the responses are overwhelmingly positive, you can stick with what works. On the flip side, negative responses point the way toward improving your customers’ experience.

Here we examine what goes into effective customer satisfaction surveys, including the types of questions you should ask and how to use survey results to make your business better.

What makes an effective customer satisfaction survey?

Customer satisfaction surveys can be used to help you get feedback on a new product or service, determine how your customers feel about your level of service, or even to gather testimonials. To set up an effective survey, follow this 12-step checklist:

  1. Define your goals. Decide what you hope to accomplish with your survey.
  2. Select a survey tool. There are many to choose from online, including the this survey creator.
  3. Choose a template. Most survey tools offer templates that you can choose based on your type of business and your survey goals.
  4. Make it uniquely your own. Use your company logo and colors to make the survey mirror your branding.
  5. Include clear questions. The types of customer satisfaction survey questions you ask are key to this process. We’ll dive into this more later.
  6. Review before sending. Be sure to proofread your survey before sending it to customers. Better yet, ask a colleague to proofread it for you. Mistakes or typos look unprofessional.
  7. Make your survey email subject line enticing. You may even consider offering a reward for completed surveys with a subject line such as “Share your feedback for a chance to win a gift card.”
  8. Write an effective email invitation. Surveys are generally sent via email, and the contents of that email are important. Try to keep it short and sweet and let the reader know how long the survey will take (shorter is typically better).
  9. Include a call to action (CTA). This is a simple link or button that directs readers to your online survey. Be sure it stands out to your reader. If they can’t find the survey, they won’t take the survey.
  10. Decide who to send your survey to. Sometimes you may want a broad survey that includes all customers on your mailing list, and at other times you may want to be more specific, such as customers who have bought a product or service in the past 30 days.
  11. Give your email a final review and send. Make sure there are no grammatical errors in your email and that all the links work correctly.
  12. Collect and review responses. This is where the valuable data begins to flow. We’ll take a deeper look at what to do with your results below.

Which questions should you ask? These will get you started.

When putting together a survey, try to keep it relatively short. The sweet spot is generally 5-10 questions. Anything longer, and you risk customers losing interest and abandoning the survey halfway through. The questions you ask may vary based on the type of business you run, but here is a short list of sample customer satisfaction survey questions for three different types of businesses to get you thinking:

Service businesses

  • How would you rate your satisfaction with your appointment?
  • Is there anything we could have done to improve your experience?
  • How likely are you to recommend our service to others?
  • What was your favorite aspect of our service?
  • Did you consider any other providers before choosing us? If so, why did you choose us?

Retail businesses

  • How often have you visited our store within the last three months?
  • Were you able to find the products you were looking for?
  • How likely are you to purchase our products again?
  • Is there anything we could have done to improve your experience?
  • What’s the most recent example of how we have exceeded your expectations?
  • What other types of products might you be interested in?


  • Was your meal prepared to your satisfaction?
  • How would you rate the overall service?
  • How did you find out about us?
  • How likely are you to dine at our restaurant again?
  • How was your online ordering/reservation experience?

These examples are meant to serve as a guide. Consider adjusting them to match your business type and goals, and adding questions that may be relevant to your specific business, products or services.

Avoid asking these questions

There are also certain types of questions you should avoid asking. Here are some examples to avoid:

  • Negative questions: Avoid setting up a question so a customer has to respond “yes” to agree with a negative statement.
  • Leading questions: Try not to create questions that lead your customers to a specific answer. If you give customers a list of options to choose from, list them in alphabetical order rather than in order of perceived importance.
  • Vague or unclear questions: Make your questions as clear and concise as possible to avoid any possible confusion. If you’re giving respondents a list of options to choose from, make sure they’re mutually exclusive.
  • Questions that are irrelevant: Remember to make sure your questions align with your goals, and avoid including questions that won’t help you meet those goals.
  • Long questions: Generally speaking, shorter questions are more effective, while longer questions risk confusing respondents.

Your survey is done — here’s what you can do with the results

Once you’ve sent out your customer satisfaction survey, it’s time to collect and analyze the results. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to analyzing and acting on the results, as that will depend on the type of business you run and the goals you set prior to the survey.

That said, there are some insights you’ll learn that generally apply to most businesses. For example, many surveys will include a question such as “How did you hear about our business?” If a majority of the responses indicate customers heard about your business through online advertising, it’s a sign that your online ads are working. Conversely, if you placed a radio ad, but customers didn’t indicate that’s how they heard about you, you might consider cutting radio advertising out of your budget.

Every business wants to receive positive results from their survey. These results give you a sense of what your business does well and what your customers like about it. Meanwhile, negative responses may be somewhat discouraging, but it’s important not to let them get you down. Instead, use negative responses as motivation and an opportunity to improve your business and grow it even further. If a particular survey is glaringly negative, the customer may appreciate a follow-up call or email to resolve their issue.

Customer satisfaction surveys set your business up for success

Every owner knows how challenging it is to run a small business, and busywork is the last thing an entrepreneur wants to focus on. Customer surveys shouldn’t be viewed as tedious, though. They’re valuable tools that give you insight into how customers view your business, including what they like and what you may need to improve on.

Creating a customer satisfaction survey does require a time investment, but luckily there are many tools available to make the process as simple as possible. Making customer surveys a part of your regular routine will set you up for success because you’ll have your finger on the pulse of what should be considered the lifeblood of your business: your customers.

Read more: Are Your Customer Satisfaction Surveys Dissatisfying Customers?