Take the Customer Survey Challenge

Benchmark your current approach against CSAT survey best practice

To improve your customer surveys, remove biases and get bigger response rates, you need to understand where you’re currently at.

This self-audit survey checklist will help you quickly analyze and score where you stand against customer survey best practice, with tips to apply before embarking on improvements.

First, a warning. This only works if you are honest and candid about your present mindset, survey tools and achievements!

Survey Questionnaire Format

Are your surveys using the right media and formats for your customers?

Consumers use technology to exercise their communications preferences, particularly around how they want to be contacted by suppliers of goods and services. Brands need to respond to the modern world. Are you:

A) Still using predominantly phone and/or mail to conduct feedback surveys?
B) Using some combination of phone, mail, email and survey app?
C) Focusing mainly on electronic formats like email and survey apps?

With the overwhelming prevalence of smartphone usage for reading email and using apps, brands need to be mindful of how electronic communications come across. Are you:

A) Not really using electronic communications for customer surveys?
B) Using electronic communications for customer surveys, but not optimizing them for readability and usability on smartphone devices?
C) Using customer surveys that are optimized to the smartphone experience?

Customer Thermometer feedback banner

Optimum Survey Length

Are your surveys the right size?

As Seth Godin once said, “every question you ask is expensive…in terms of loyalty and goodwill.” Hence it makes sense to ask the smallest number of questions possible. Are you asking:

A) 10+ questions per customer survey?
B) 2–10 questions per customer survey?
C) Just one question per customer survey?

Regardless of the number of survey questions, is it really the minimum number you could be asking, or are you losing sight of the disruptive impact you are having on customers that don’t want to spend time filling out surveys? Specifically, are you:

A) Asking the maximum number of questions that suit the curiosity and ‘big data’ appetite of your organisation?
B) Asking a relatively restricted number of questions that remains the same over time so you can track trends?
C) Being disciplined to ask single questions, and then adjusting these to find out more based on the response you get?

Customer Satisfaction Survey Frequency

How often are you surveying your customers?

Very few people think it’s a good idea to pester customers for lots of information all the time, but this needs to be balanced against the organization’s need to have good business intelligence. Are you sending out customer surveys:

A) Annually?
B) Fewer than 10 times a year?
C) Monthly or more?

Customer Thermometer feedback banner

Survey Response Formulation

Are your surveys simple for customers?

Customers need to know how to respond to requests for feedback, and that needs to be made as simple and intuitive as possible. If you’re really honest about your surveys, are you asking:

A) Complex questions that require customers to talk through write or type out their responses?
B) Relatively simple questions that require customers to check boxes?
C) Simple questions that allow customers to mark their responses on purpose-made graphics?


When is the best time to send a customer survey?

Customer surveys need to be relevant to the customer in question, or the response rates are low and inaccurate. A huge part of achieving that is timing. Are you:

A) Sending out bulk customer surveys with little/no regard for their individual transaction or engagement histories?
B) Triggering feedback surveys to individual customers within 24-48 hours of a relevant ‘event’?
C) Triggering feedback surveys to individual customers in real-time (i.e. within 1-2 minutes of a relevant ‘event’)?

Complete Surveys

Do you holistically survey all relevant people?

Many people consider good practice to be sending out non-obtrusive customer surveys to people who buy things, in relation to things they’ve bought, soon after they’ve bought them. But what about customers and other decision makers when they deal with your products/services outside of the sales transaction process? Are you:

A) Only focusing on periodically surveying customer feedback from purchasing contacts?
B) Focusing on surveying customer feedback from all applicable contacts, only after transactions are made?
C) Focusing on the surveying customer feedback throughout the customer lifecycle, over and above transactions and payment renewals etc. (e.g. support calls, claims etc.)?

Customer Thermometer feedback banner

Taking Action

How to use customer feedback.

What you can actually do with your customer feedback data – it’s value – speaks volumes about the approach you take. Are you:

A) Able to discern very little about customer satisfaction, other than a general sense of whether individual customers are happy or not?
B) Accumulating a large quantity of data that doesn’t immediately lend itself to a direct business application without further time-consuming analysis?
C) Able to rapidly and accurately influence critical business functions such as product design, operational support, pricing and marketing based on real-time customer feedback data?

How did you do?


Alas, it seems you need significant change to bring your customer survey approach up to date with modern best practice. It is extremely likely that your current approach is bringing you such low response rates and engagement that it does more harm than good. Any responses you do receive are probably affected by ‘self-selecting bias’, and you may be investing in platforms that simply don’t work.

Start by bringing your entire customer feedback operation to an immediate halt. Then begin experimenting with far smaller and more pointed customer surveys designed to elicit real-time insights into your business and how it is perceived.


Far from being cut adrift from customer satisfaction survey best practices, you’ve consciously taken steps to arrest the disruption caused by long questionnaires and outmoded communications approaches, and want to accelerate the business value derived from your CSAT data. Your challenge is to continue this direction of travel to its logical conclusion: a shorter, more frequent and real-time mechanism for determining customer feedback to response levels twice or even ten times higher than today.

A good initial approach is to conduct a full audit of your current survey approach and consider the entire lifecycle of customer engagements and associated workflows to arrive at a new model of surveying customers.


Congratulations! You are doing most, if not all, things really well when it comes to customer surveying. Chances are, your survey response rates are at high levels because customers are engaged, rather than alienated, by your approach. And your business is experiencing real value from the data it collects, as well as achieving an accurate, real-time picture of CSAT that all business departments can adapt to over time.

The next action should be to avoid complacency at all costs, as customer preferences change and your business develops new markets and launches new products and services. To maximize value, ensure your customer survey tool is reliable and well integrated with your existing business infrastructure, such as service management platforms and BI dashboards.

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