Among the research tools used by organizations to gain customer (or employee) feedback, surveys are the most common. The longer they are – and the more questions they contain – the more you can find out. However, long surveys take up more of each customer’s time meaning many won’t participate. In this post we explore the value of one-question surveys – the ultimate in short and snappy customer research tools.
What is a one question survey?
The one-question survey is simply a survey with just a single question. It could be any form of question, from dichotomous (yes/no) to multiple choice and open-ended.
One of the obvious limitations of one question surveys is that organizations tend to want to know many things about their customers. Only having the capacity to ask a single question means other options are closed down and findings left unearthed.
However, this misunderstands the context in which one-question surveys are used. Instead of thinking about surveys as one-time opportunities to collect as much data as possible, organizations should consider how single-question surveys slot into continual customer interactions. Just because you only get one question doesn’t stop you asking other, different questions later.
A good way to think about one question surveys is as ‘one question at a time’ surveys. You could have 100 questions, you just don’t ask them all at once. In this way, organizations don’t have to worry about whether one question is enough. That isn’t the point.
Finally, don’t think of one-question surveys only as a replacement for other kinds of surveys. As we explain later, they are better at eliciting responses than tactics like long-form questionnaires. However, these other approaches still have their place. One question surveys are frequently deployed by leading businesses as a complement to other tactics like focus groups and market research questionnaires.
One question surveys are also sometimes referred to as:
- One-click surveys
- One-click polls
- One-click ratings
- Quick polling questions
- One-second surveys
- Single question surveys
Can you ask more than one question with a one question survey solution?
It sounds sneaky but – technically – yes you can ask two questions in a one question survey. This is when the single question appears whole but is revealed to come in two parts. The second part is effectively “why?” and seeks to uncover response drivers.
For example, the one question could be:
How would you rate our customer service today?
When the respondent gives their answer, the second part of the question requesting further detail can be revealed, like this:
We’d love to know more about why you clicked this rating. Please choose an option below.
Many would argue that this is one question with two parts, rather than two questions. Regardless, this is the furthest extent you can really go with this format. Anything more than that can’t be called a one question survey.
What are the benefits of one question surveys?
Quick to compose
What could be simpler than coming up with a single question? If you want insights into customers, employees, whoever – this is a fast way to get it organized. Remember, think of them as one-question-at-a-time surveys!
Easy to analyze
The flipside of creating your one question survey is analyzing the results. You don’t need to be a survey expert for any of this.
Focuses attention on key insights
Scarcity sharpens the mind. Necessity is the mother of invention. If you’ve only got space for a single question, chances are you’ll make it a good one.
Negates survey fatigue
So many surveys, not enough time. A primary factor in survey failure is survey fatigue and the unwillingness of recipients to participate. One question surveys take virtually no time to complete. It’s almost as quick to answer an emailed one-question survey as it is to delete it.
Optimize response rates
One question surveys are popular because they’re so fast and easy to complete. This leads to the highest response rates of all survey types. Part of the reason is that people know they are only one-question long before they start completing them. In fact, the process of starting a one-question survey is effectively the same as finishing it!
Get honest feedback
The one-question survey is the research equivalent of the TV/radio voxpop where members of the public are confronted for a hot-take on the issue of the day. The result of this is honest, gutfeel feedback. This can be extremely valuable when determining emotional responses to things like recent customer or employee experience.
One-question surveys are small and portable, allowing them to be used in virtually every major text-based communications channel from SMS and email, to social media, chat and in-app sessions. They are frequently embedded into email signatures, making them a non-disruptive way to collect feedback data.
One question surveys come into their own as mechanisms for metrics that you track over time. Examples include NPS and CSAT, where the same question is periodically deployed and trending scores and averages can be measured.
10 reasons why one question surveys are better than multi-question surveys
Multi-question surveys undoubtedly have their place in the rollcall of research and feedback tactics. However, these can quickly grow into lengthy questionnaires issued annually or quarterly that seek to interrogate respondents for as much information as possible. Here, we’re taking aim at long-form questionnaires with lots of questions and showing you 10 ways that one-question surveys are superior.
All organizations have their internal politics and this can come to the fore when compiling questionnaires. Suddenly every department wants to add their own question to the list, for lots of different reasons. Some to gather sales and marketing intelligence, others to detect tolerances in customer expectations, others to genuinely understand the customer experience in order to improve it. One question surveys attract none of this bureaucracy and are far more surgical in their approach.
They don’t decrease customer satisfaction
That’s the peculiar thing about overlong customer satisfaction questionnaires – they can actually contribute to a decrease in customer satisfaction. Why? Because few customers appreciate being asked for so much of their time. Asking a question is like asking a favor. Don’t ask too many of them.
Every question you ask is expensive (in terms of loyalty and goodwill). Don’t ask a question unless you truly care about the answer.
No need to offer incentives to fill them out
The classic approach when issuing a multi-question survey is to offer some kind of incentive or reward for those who complete it. These costs add up, especially when you’re a victim of your success. One question surveys simply don’t justify these incentives. This means you don’t have to budget for X number of Amazon vouchers or X% margin off future sales. And you needn’t spend internal resources on managing it either.
Customers feel more positive about sharing feedback
Want to make customers feel good about sharing their thoughts and feelings? Of course you do; it’s part of providing a positive customer and brand experience? It’s the same with employees, where it’s crucially important they feel empowered to share opinions. One question surveys are fundamentally better at driving engagement than longer-form questionnaires. Part of the reason for this is that quick questions can be acted on faster, and be seen to be acted on. Long questionnaires tend to be viewed as corporately-driven rather than personable. And putting feedback into them can feel like no-one’s listening.
Survey bias is a huge issue which is exacerbated in the presence of low response rates. This is an area where one question surveys have a clear advantage, because response rates are less of a problem than with longer formats. The big problems with questionnaires are typically non-response bias and self-selecting bias.
More targeted insights
Another significant advantage of one question surveys is context. In other words, the context in which the one-question survey is used. By having just a single question, research can focus more intently on a single issue at a single point in time. This is more challenging in a multi-question format that attempts to cover more ground.
More relevant to the customer journey
The cumbersome nature of longer surveys means that timing them correctly can be difficult. With one question surveys, you can ask whatever you like and make it relevant to what the customer is experiencing at this point in time. Want feedback on shipping deliveries? There’s a massive difference in feedback quality between asking a customer 10 minutes after their delivery was made with a 1-click survey, and 3 months later in a big quarterly questionnaire.
React faster to new opportunities and threats
One-question surveys can be assembled and distributed many times faster than longer formats, making them ideal for instant feedback on trending topics. Perhaps a competitor has moved into your area or you need to check sentiment around an urgent product recall. One-question surveys are far more nimble.
Aids more accurate and reliable decision making
There are a combination of factors that make one-question surveys a more reliable basis for decision making than multi-question approaches. One is their ability to mitigate survey bias. Another is the fact that people are happier responding to them in the context of experiences that just happened. Then there’s the real-time aspect, enabled by the speed in which one question surveys can be put into the field, results collated and analysis completed.
Real-time view of customer trends
When senior management want a dashboard view of today’s customer satisfaction or a pulse check on how settled employees are feeling – one-question surveys are the engine driving these constantly changing, easy-to-read metrics.
When to use one question surveys
One question surveys can be applied to practically every instance where feedback is sought from a customer, employee or partner. Any type of question can be asked, which allows for both qualitative and quantitative data to be selected. It is permissible to incorporate a secondary question (effectively the second part of a single two-part question) and still qualify as a one-question survey.
When you want fast feedback
Whether it’s keeping on top of staff issues or fishing for customer insights on your product quality or customer service approach – one question surveys are great for instant feedback. This puts you in the ideal position to take action right away, fixing issues and planning improvements.
When customer journey mapping
It’s best practice to map your customer journeys regularly, and one-question surveys really help with that. Just work out where all your customer touchpoints are, and deploy a one-question survey to find out how it’s performing. Great for identifying points of friction and opportunities to add magic touches to the customer experience.
For detecting churn before it happens
The age-old challenge of customer retention is knowing when customers are about to churn, before it’s too late to stop them. One-question surveys are perfect for this because they’re more likely to cut through and elicit a response. With this approach, customers (and employees) can be more easily encouraged to get into the habit of giving feedback. This makes it easier to spot the signs of churn and take action.
Reporting internally and externally on loyalty and satisfaction metrics
Senior management within organizations are always hungry for data, especially when it concerns customers and employees. Popular metrics like NPS are ideal for measuring customer loyalty which can be vital to good business planning. One-question surveys keep these metrics constantly up-to-date. And they can be used to give a macro picture across cohorts, or to drill down into very specific issues and how they affect individuals.
When would you not want to use one question surveys?
One-question surveys are a powerful tool for understanding customers and gaining feedback, but their Achilles’ Heel is the lack of detailed, qualitative data they can elicit.
Let’s take the example of a product development department at a large hardware retailer. Part of the product development function is to check how customers are using the products, what problems they have and what changes and improvements might be desired. One-question surveys would play a valuable role here.
However, the product development team also wants to come up with new concepts and work with customers to ideate these, make and test prototypes, etc. One-question surveys aren’t appropriate in this context. What’s needed here is a far more detailed and involved engagement with customers who are committed to providing their support. This could involve longer-form questionnaires but would also likely include in-person focus groups, interviews and in-person demonstrations.
10 examples of one question surveys
Here are 10 types of one question surveys:
- CSAT surveys
- NPS surveys
- Customer effort (CES) surveys
- Feedback on products
- Feedback on customer service
- Feedback on agents and sales reps
- Feedback on marketing content
- Smile screen surveys
- Employee pulse surveys
- Post-event surveys
And here are some examples for the different kinds of one-question surveys you can deploy…
The classic NPS one-question survey
There are many variations on the NPS question, but the common features are a 0–10 rating scale and the likelihood of being recommended to a third party. It’s a win-win for the recipient and organization posing the question. The recipient can participate with literally just a single click (plus there’s the option to pose a response driver follow-up question too) so the impact on them is minimal. The organization gets valuable insight they can use to calculate and publish NPS score.
Customer satisfaction one question survey example
There are lots of different ways to ask a CSAT survey question, and a common approach is just like with the NPS example above which uses a 0–10 scale. For this example, however, we’re using a Likert scale question type. This is where customers can choose to select which statement they agree with most, thereby indicating their satisfaction level.
How satisfied were you with your experience today?
- Very satisfied
- Somewhat satisfied
- Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied
- Somewhat dissatisfied
- Very dissatisfied
Customer effort score (CES) one question survey example
Another popular metric that’s often tracked alongside NPS and CSAT is the one that measures customer effort. CES – customer effort score – also relies on scale responses to aid quick-fire analysis and like-for-like comparison. In this example, the question is framed so that customers select a number that represents the statement they agree with. Effectively, a combination of the two examples above for NPS and CSAT.
To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statement: “AcmeCorp made it easy for me to handle my request.”
Select your answer from 1–7 where:
1 = Strongly Disagree and 7 = Strongly Agree.
Feedback on customer support agents one-question survey example
In this example, an IT support representative – Jake – is following up after a ticket resolution. The customer’s response can be used to highlight performance to managers. If it’s good, Jake could get extra rewards, encouraging him to maintain high standards. If it’s bad, the manager can intervene to address the issue and see if Jake needs extra support or retraining.
Smile screen one-question survey example
- Implicit in all our one question survey examples – except this one – is that the delivery medium is email. There are many reasons for this, though as stated above the portability of the one-question survey format makes it possible for practically every digital communications platform. Here we’re taking the pre-digital concept of the ‘bucket survey’ and applying it to a touchscreen format in a public area. In this example, we’re using the simplest question type of all – the dichotomous (or yes/no) question – to our tablet-based smile screen.
Did the cleanliness of our restrooms meet your expectations today?
Employee pulse one question survey example
The pulse survey is used to keep in touch with employees’ changing attitudes and opinions. It’s a great tool for ensuring you’re always in step with prevailing feelings and can spot trends or intervene with individuals. Once again, many different topics can be covered in many different ways. This example demonstrates the use of emojis to increase visual interest and engagement, and includes space for a follow-up question where respondents can elaborate on their answer.
Post event one-question survey example
This example really shows off the contextual value of one-question surveys. Essentially what’s happening here is that the recipient has recently attended an event, and the purpose of the survey is to ascertain their status as sales lead.
Tips for writing one question surveys
Writing one question surveys should be easy but in fact there’s some science to it. Here are the main things to consider:
Keep your objective in mind
Think one step ahead to the goal of your survey question and what you ultimately want to find out. How will the data be used and analyzed? This will influence not only how you word the question, but also your choice of question type.
Know your audience
One question surveys rely heavily on clear communications, and that means knowing who you’re communicating with. Do they know a lot about your product? Will they have any difficulty understanding some of the words you might use? One example where this is really important is when addressing audience groups of different ages. It may be beneficial – for example – to use a more formal tone with older demographics.
Make every word count
The temptation with one question surveys is to pack them so full of meaning that they’re 3 lines long! Be ruthlessly concise. If someone on your team is a really good editor, ask them to help you get your question down to the fewest number of words possible – it could help a few more percent of your audience respond to your survey.
There are a few pitfalls in writing one question survey questions that could lead to survey bias in your results. Check out this dedicated post which details a fearsome foursome of questioning bias: leading questions, loaded questions, double-barreled questions and absolute questions. Most of the time these are created accidentally rather than intentionally.
Choose the appropriate question type
Optimize your one-question survey by picking the style of question that will get you the best insights. Dichotomous, Likert scale and rating scale questions tend to get the highest response rate. Open-end questions are best for rich, qualitative insights. Ranking questions will help respondents ‘get off the fence’.
Be very clear and specific
There are many examples of bad survey questions – many create bias but almost all sow confusion. Be as sensitive as possible to the reality that survey recipients are busy and distracted. They don’t have time to decode your question – it must make sense straight away. Don’t use jargon. Use simple language. Minimize any required thinking and knowledge. Don’t include anything that isn’t 100% relevant.
Test and iterate
Make testing a core element in your one-question survey design process. Take a small sample from your audience and A/B test two variations of the same question and compare response rates and insights. Develop your learnings to build a picture for what works with your audience groups. And keep doing it!
Set up a one question survey today
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