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Marketing - Aug 18, 2017

How to conduct a customer survey

Tips for polling to take the pulse of your business’s patrons

According to William Schatten, vice-president of Research & Analytics for Toronto’s Forum Research Inc., customer surveys help you gain valuable insight about your customers’ likes and dislikes. Whether you’re launching a new product or service, or just want to gauge customer satisfaction, Schatten offers some dos and don’ts for getting the most out of your Qs and As.

1. Opt for online.

For small-business owners, online questionnaires – as opposed to paper, in-person or phone surveys – are the easiest and most economical, says Schatten. “With paper, you could have them fill it out [at your business], otherwise you have to mail it to them and then they would somehow have to get it back to you,” he says. “Then you have to transfer the results into a computer, and there’s a cost associated with that.”

Easy, efficient (and often free) online tools such as SurveyGizmo, Checkbox or SurveyMonkey will help you design your survey and analyze the results yourself.

2. Formulate your questions carefully.

“There’s a science and an art that goes into questionnaire development,” says Schatten, whose company employs an entire team devoted to formulating questions. “The science is about getting the correct data [for analysis]. The art is the language needs to be worded very precisely to ensure you’re not biasing someone, you’re not misleading, [that] it’s not a loaded or double-barrelled question. Those [results] could potentially mislead you and cause you to make incorrect decisions.”

Open-ended questions (requiring more than a yes/no) encourage more detail, whereas multiple-choice or ranking questions (e.g., “on a scale of 1 to 10”) give you quick hits of data useful for demographic or percentage-calculation information.

Regardless of the format, keep your survey short. “The longer it is, the less likely people will respond. Five minutes [of their time] is not a big request,” says Schatten, who also cautions against offering incentives, which could affect the validity of the responses. “[Respondents] may take the survey only for the incentive.”

3. Consult the results.

The clearer your objective with your survey, the easier the analysis (e.g., did customers love or hate your new product?). Equally important is that you act on the responses. Use that valuable feedback to gauge customer satisfaction, foster customer loyalty and return visits, launch the right products and services, or even just start staying open later on Fridays.

Likewise, it’s smart to follow up – with your respondents or with another customer survey – after you’ve implemented any changes or improvements, so you can confirm you’re on the right track.