How to make customer satisfaction surveys work for you

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The purpose of customer satisfaction surveys

CSAT questionnaires and surveys are essential for capturing what customers think about your product or services. With a well-timed, well-crafted CSAT survey, you can uncover reasons why your customers might be about to churn, or why they’re considering renewing their business with you.

You can develop a clearer picture of the needs, wants, and drives of your customers, which in turn can inform product/service improvements. The key is to collect timely feedback, so you can act on it quickly. If changes are made correctly, you drastically improve your odds of building up customer lifetime value.

But there are caveats to be aware of:

  1. Before you start asking your customers about their satisfaction levels, it’s critical to establish why you’re doing it.
  2. You need to have a plan in place for what to do with the data you collect.

If you haven’t already, check out how to measure customer satisfaction effectively  for the full story (it also applies an industry-specific lens to customer satisfaction measurement).

So how can you practically use questionnaires and surveys to uncover insights around the benefits and drawbacks of your product or service? Or to identify power users and customers most likely to be brand advocates?

The key is using the correct survey for the job.

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Key types of customer satisfaction surveys

Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) surveys measure how satisfied your customers are—often on a scale of 1-3, 1-5 or 1-7 (there’s no hard and fast industry standard). To get the full lowdown on CSAT scores, check out our CSAT scores 101 page.

Net Promoter Score (NPS) surveys measure the likelihood of a customer recommending a product/service/or business to another potential customer. This makes it a great upsell or cross-sell opportunity indicator. It’s usually measured on an 11-point scale, with 0 being Extremely Unlikely and 10 being Extremely Likely.

For more on this, jump to our Spotlight on NPS.

Customer Effort Score (CES) surveys measure how easy your customers find using your product or service. Unsurprisingly, low-effort experiences increase satisfaction. There’s no official scale for this—if you want to check out the benefits and drawbacks of different scales, we’ve outlined them on our Measuring CSAT  page.

For the best way to capture and calculate the scores associated with these surveys, head over to our KPIs & Metrics for customer satisfaction page . It also includes the essential non-survey based metrics you need to be aware of, too.

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When to send a CSAT survey

The right time to seek customer satisfaction feedback depends on the type of survey, its goal, and the distribution channel it’s intended for. For example, if you’re emailing a CSAT survey to assess how satisfied a customer was with a retail order, 3-5 days after delivery is the best time to engage. But if you’re looking to assess how satisfied a customer was with a call with your contact center via SMS, it’s better to seek that feedback immediately.

You can view a detailed breakdown of the different channels and their optimal timings on our Measuring CSAT page .

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What to include in a customer satisfaction survey

Different question types are best suited to eliciting different types of feedback:

  • Single questions such as “How satisfied are you with [insert name of service/product/brand]” tend to be the most common in CSAT questionnaires. They can also be used to drill into specifics e.g., “How satisfied were you with the level of knowledge shown by our service agents?”
  • Follow-up questions combined with simple questions allow you to get more context around customer feedback. This can be used to inform product or service improvements.
  • Simple emoji-based questions are great for capturing immediate feedback with minimal effort for the customer, and can boost participation rates in the right context. You might ask “How satisfied are you with [insert name of service/product/brand].” Customers are then given clearly identifiable emoji indicators to provide their answer.
  • Open-ended questions allow you to get context-rich customer feedback, which is key to adding nuance to any customer satisfaction improvements. This can be as simple as asking “Are there any additional comments you would like to leave?” Or you can get into specifics such as “What was your least favorite part of your experience?”. As customers have more freedom to express their feelings, open-ended questions can often lead to some unexpected and useful discoveries.

Top tips for better results

  1. Ask non-leading questions: Many businesses use CSAT surveys to confirm they’re doing the right thing, rather than to seek insight about what they could improve.
    Leading questions such as “How great was our service?” imply that the service was great, and can create misleading results. A non-leading alternative like “How would you rate our service?” is far more useful.
  2. Keep surveys under 5 mins: Be respectful of your users’ time. If your survey takes more than 5 minutes, you’ll see a big drop off in completion rates.
  3. Perform survey immediately: Good experiences have limited “shelf” life in customers consciousness.
  4. Use the same channel: The survey should follow up a phone call with an interactive phone survey; a chat interaction with a chat survey; etc.
  5. Pay attention to AHT outliers: Shorter Average Handle Times are not always good news for your CSAT scores. You can examine this tradeoff by asking “Did the agent understand your question or concern?”
  6. Conduct A/B tests: Trialing different questions, survey types, and reachout timings is a great way to investigate how your customers want to engage with your CSAT program. It’s also vital to use a variety of channels to see which drives the greatest completion rate.
  7. Don’t change questions too frequently: It’s difficult to accurately measure progress toward a target goal if the benchmark results were measured with different questions.

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    What to ask in a customer satisfaction survey

    There will always be a business and industry-specific angle for exactly what should be in a CSAT survey. But there are some universal questions you should always consider:

    • Demographics: These include: age, location, employment status, industry and job title, level of education, income/salary, etc.

      Demographic questions need to be used sparingly with accuracy and sensitivity. Interrogate how useful the data actually is for your business. Asking respondents for their age and salary is a quick way to reduce completion rates, especially if it’s not directly relevant to the product or service they’re being asked to assess.

      • Psychographics: This can include shopping habits, customer priorities when buying products, or channel preferences. Example questions could be “Do you prefer to shop on social media or via a website?”. Here the respondent would be given a dropdown box with two options to choose from.
        Psychographic questions can be particularly useful for retail business as they can highlight trends and be combined with demographic questions to segment audiences.
      • Numerical satisfaction scales: There are positives and negatives to each scale. We cover them in detail on our Measuring CSAT page.
      • Open-ended or free text questions: This includes questions like: “What can we improve?”; “How do you feel about [brand] / [product]?“; “What changes would you like to see to the product/service?”;  “How do you feel about the overall buying experience?”. As you’ve seen, open-ended questions are great for getting context-rich feedback and, if worded in a non-leading manner, can provide vital insight.

    Want to dive deeper into CSAT measurement? Check out our page on KPIs & metrics for customer satisfaction.