Experts Share Best Practices for Survey Design

It can be tough to set up a survey. After all, there are many factors that prevent or encourage customers to share their experiences.

Our experts at MaritzCX have pinpointed the tips and best practices that will effectively guide you to be successful when building and administering surveys. In this blog, we will be going over two of the most frequently asked questions our experts receive:

  • How short should you make your survey?
  • What can I do to improve surveys and increase response rates?

Frequently Asked Question #1

“How Short Should You Make Your Survey?”

Most customer experience (CX) surveys are designed to be about five minutes in length or shorter. Recently we have seen a trend toward companies requesting even shorter customer experience surveys, often due to the impression that shorter surveys increase response rates.

Their assumption is that customers are overwhelmed with surveys and therefore will only answer short ones. But is there empirical evidence to back up this perception?

What People Are Saying About Taking Surveys

In 2019 MaritzCX conducted a study of 1002 randomly sampled U.S. participants. (The margin of error for this study is approximately +/- 3 percentage points).

What the Data Says About Participant Views of Survey Taking

Survey respondents acknowledge that the frequency of receiving surveys has gone up (42%) or stayed about the same (50%) over the last three years.

However, this increase doesn’t seem to have lessened customers’ willingness to respond to surveys. 58% say their willingness to complete surveys has stayed about the same over the last three years, 30% say their willingness to respond has increased, and only 12% say their willingness to respond has decreased.

Also, the increase in surveying doesn’t seem to be overwhelming for most customers. 71% say they receive two or fewer customer feedback survey requests per month, 18% receive three or four, and 11% say they receive five or more.

Customers also seem to prefer surveys as a mechanism to provide negative feedback to companies.

A Shorter Survey Isn’t Always Better

While “shorter is better” seems to be the mantra of the survey industry recently, shorter for shortness sake is not a good thing. As our research has shown, there is little evidence that response rates and abandonment rates differ for surveys up to five or six minutes in length.

Also, survey respondents show us by both what they say and what they do that they are willing to take surveys of a reasonable length.

It is our opinion that failure to capture important and useful information just to shorten a survey is a disservice to both your company and your customers.

Make sure there are ample opportunities in the survey for your customers to leave their unique responses, as you might not be asking the right questions to solicit responses that can enable your business to act.

Frequently Asked Question #2

“What Can I do to Improve Surveys and Increase Response Rates?”

As we work with organizations from different industries, and different sizes there are some best practices we encourage all our customers to do when trying to increase response rates. We’ve outlined a few for you below:

Personalize Survey Invitations

Customers are more likely to take a survey if the invitation references interactions they had with your company or an employee, that you want to specifically ask them about. This shows that your company knows what service they provided, and that you’re keen on following up with customers.

We also encourage using their name, if possible, instead of using something like “Dear Valued Customer” Again, this will personalize your invitation even more.

Using signatures from an employee they may have interacted with will also spark their interest, as it appears someone is reaching out directly, feeling more personal.

Include a Call to Action

It’s important to use words carefully in surveys, and to keep it brief. Saying something along the lines of, “Help us improve!” instead of “Customer Survey” is a good place to start. Engaging the customer is the key, and you want them to know you have reached out because you want to hear from that individual so you can ensure their experiences are the best they can be.

Make Your Survey Short, But Complete

Usually CX surveys should be five minutes in length or shorter. Ask as few questions as you can while also being sure to ask all the questions (within reason) that you need.

When deciding what is “needed” use a backward research process and take into account the needs of all survey stakeholders including various corporate departments and frontline units.

Optimize Survey Design

Aesthetically speaking, there are simple things that you can do to increase response rates, by making your survey visually appealing. This includes using graphics in the survey to captivate interest and introduce new topics, utilizing the right amount of white space to not make the survey appear overwhelming, and using smaller text where appropriate.

To go into more detail, white space can make a survey seem shorter by having more space and less wording. Being brief is effective, as customers usually want to complete the survey quickly. This is where the smaller text comes into play.

Certain parts of the survey, like the compliance message or “fine print” can be overwhelming to see. By minimizing the amount of space that the technical terms take up, the survey will appear clear and concise throughout the entire duration.

Keep in mind that many customers take surveys on a mobile device, and that the survey design will look different. Optimize the mobile design to be simple, short and sweet. As discussed above, shorter is not always better. A smaller screen may make the words look more crowded on the page, so make sure to adjust the mobile survey as needed.

Sample Hygiene and Litmus Testing

It is crucial to ensure your sample database is accurate and up-to-date. Customers do not like to be contacted by the wrong name, and you may not even make contact at all if the email list is not updated.

Duplicates and opt-outs need special attention, as you do not want to anger anyone by contacting them multiple times or contacting them after they have chosen to opt-out.

To confirm deliverability, Litmus Testing can determine what survey invitations are being delivered and opened successfully. Using this data, your organization can determine how many people successfully take the survey after opening the email invitation.

ISP Monitoring

ISP Monitoring is like seeing the path customers take once they open your survey. Using this data, your organization can determine how many people successfully take the survey after opening the email invitation, and even figure out how to cater email invitations through the response trends.

Show Customers That You Value Their Responses

Ask meaningful questions and convey to respondents why you are asking these questions and how the information will be used. Respondents want to know that their responses are important.

In the 2019 study referred to above we asked customers why they respond to CX surveys. The most frequently chosen reason, even above receiving a financial incentive, was “Belief that the company values my input.”

Reach Out to Customers in a Meaningful Way

In addition to showing customers that their responses are valued, it is important to follow up with survey responses in an appropriate manner.

Was there a problem that occurred with a customer, that needs to be resolved? Are there follow up questions that need to be asked? Did they have any feedback on the survey itself?

Making positive contact with customers will show them that your business acts on their feedback, and they will be more likely to share their experiences in the future.