10 Rules of Customer-Survey Design Blog Header

Designing effective customer surveys that meet with widespread appeal and provide your business with truly actionable insight is not a trivial task. There are a multitude of considerations that many find bewildering and off-putting. So we have created this summary list of 10 rules of customer survey design which, when followed, will significantly improve your survey response rates and the quality of data collected.

10 rules customer survey design

1) Define the Survey Purpose

  • Clearly define exactly why you want to survey your customers.
  • What is the goal of the survey?
  • What do you aim to learn from the survey?
  • How will the collected data influence and affect your business decisions?

2) Identify the Target Population

  • Define the target demographic:
    • Who are they?
    • Where are they?
    • How old are they?
  • What survey format is best for them?
  • When are the best times to approach them?
  • Consider segmenting your target survey population.
  • What language is best for the defined population?

3) Ensure Adequate Sample Size

  • The number of customers surveyed needs to be representative of the population.
  • How many customers exist in the total target population?
  • How accurate do your survey results need to be?
    • Aim for a margin-of-error of around 5% (1% to 10% is typical).
      • This indicates the likelihood that the answers derived from the sample set reflect the answers of the total target audience.
    • Aim for a confidence level of 95%.
      • This is a measure of how likely it is to get the same survey results from another sample set from the same target audience.
      • Typically confidence levels of from 90% to 99% are used.
      • Low confidence levels below 90% are not recommended.
  • What response rate is required?
    • The anticipated response rate determines the number of surveys that need to be sent in order to achieve the required number of responses.

4) Be Brief

  • Keep surveys short.
    • Keep the number of questions to as few as possible, ideally just one.
    • One simple question is often the most effective.
  • Keep the survey questions short.
  • Keep the number of selectable responses to as few as possible.

5) Considerately Compose the Survey

  • Be clear and specific – exploring one simple idea at a time.
  • Be aware that binary questions will not provide the options that many respondents would like to provide (there is no nuance).
  • Avoid bias (self-selection bias, also known as non-response bias or participation bias).
    • Higher response rates lower the impact of self-selection-bias.
  • Avoid personal questions.
    • If necessary, ask such questions at the end.
  • Avoid misinterpretation by being absolutely clear and unambiguous.
  • Ensure questions are easy to understand.
  • Don’t ask irrelevant questions.
  • Use words rather than numbers in survey response options. E.g. Using ‘Extremely likely’, ‘Slightly likely’ etc. will provide more representative answers than numbers.
  • Consider anticipated responses when composing questions:
    • Is the respondent required to think or remember something?
    • Will the question make the respondent feel uncomfortable?
  • Where appropriate, provide the facility for respondents to enter text responses.
  • In order to compare survey responses over time – do not change any aspect of the survey.

6) Incentivise Responses

  • Use small incentives to encourage survey responses.
    • Enter respondents into a free prize draw.
    • Offer discounts to respondents.
    • Offer access to premium content.
    • Offer other privileges to survey respondents.

7) Select the Right Format

  • What is the best format for your survey audience?
    • Paper questionnaire?
    • Personal interview?
    • Online poll?
    • Email survey?
    • Email signature survey?
  • Do you need to use multiple formats?
  • Will your selected formats provide the required response rates?

8) Test Your Survey

  • Test before deploying your survey.
  • Send your survey to yourself.
  • Evaluate your survey by sending to a test group (e.g. friends & colleagues).
  • Verify question clarity.
  • Ensure the survey presentation and format is optimal for the target audience.
  • Carry out a practice run using real respondents from the sample set.
  • Test the reliability of the survey
    • Does your survey return consistent results?
  • Make adjustments based upon the test results.

9) Choose the Right Time

  • Appropriate survey timing is essential.
  • Survey launch time must be right for the respondents.
  • Collect responses over time to gather a broad range of responses from various people (one week minimum is recommended).
  • Be aware of timing influences on survey responses (e.g. morning / evening – Monday / Friday).
  • Most meaningful surveys are carried out soon after the customer experience.
  • Consider surveying customers at various stages of their journey to assess how their satisfaction changes.
  • Do not hassle customers for responses.
  • Remind people just once.

10) Respond to Respondents

  • Acknowledge and thank every survey respondent.
  • Identify and respond to negative feedback immediately.
  • Always make personal responses to any negative feedback.
  • Personally thank respondents for any praise.

These 10 rules of effective customer survey design provide some usable guidelines that will help ensure that your surveys are effective, provide excellent response rates and give you the information you need to improve your customer experience.