As marketers, we often try to predict the future – such as “will our customers like the new features that we’re planning to add”. If they like it, we rationalize it to ourselves that we knew this was going to happen, and that our deep customer knowledge was the reason for it. If they don’t, we justify ourselves that today’s markets consist of random events, unrelated variables and impossible-to-predict customer behavior.
The truth is, we all fall victim to our biases, whether we admit it or not. These biases are part of our nature and for us to be good at what we do, we have to be aware of them and actively search for alternative points of view. If we don’t, our biases can easily distort our view and lead us to wrong conclusions.
What better way to get rid of our biases than to ask those who matter the most – your customers. And what better way to ask them than with a survey?
Done correctly, a single survey can give you eye-opening information that will not only give you answers to your most pressing questions but will also go a long way towards maintaining your customer satisfaction. Done poorly, you will end up with tons of useless data and with a bunch of frustrated customers.
In our previous posts, we already busted the myth that customers don’t like surveys, and how they can give you a competitive edge you need. Now it’s time to lay out some tips on how to create a survey in a way that will yield real data, and create a positive customer experience.
#1 Speak in your customers’ language
There are several reasons why customer surveys can fail, but most of them have the same cause – not knowing your customers.
Ed Borgato, investor and Co-Founder of Capital Standard LLC, recently said that “One of the most persistent fallacies is the reflexive association of wealth with wisdom.”
Another is the association of our biases and good decisions. Often, marketers fall into a trap of focusing solely on their own need for answers, and not on the experience their surveys will create for their customers. When this happens, nobody wins. Your respondents don't finish the survey (if they take it at all) and you get poor data (if any).
When that occurs, respondents sometimes take shortcuts through the survey (if they finish it at all), and neither party wins.
Regardless of who your customers are, always ensure that you’re using clear, concise, and simple language that your customers will understand. For example, if you’re in a software industry and your audience are C-suite decision makers, avoid language that is too technical. But, if your respondents are software developers, feel free to use technical vocabulary and more specific technical questions.
#2 Keep it simple
Have you ever taken a 30-minute survey? Me neither. What makes you think your customers will?
As soon as marketers realize the power of customer surveys, most of them make the mistake of creating a survey that is too long and too complex. Most customers will simply abandon such a survey which will give you a very low response rate. Those who go through the trouble, will give you stingy or partial information.
By keeping your surveys short and simple, you will ensure both the quantity of responses and their quality. A good portion of marketers will try to fill two needs with one deed, but it is always better to focus on a single objective for each survey. According to research, survey abandonment rate appears to increase with the length of the survey, so in order to avoid a high abandonment rate, consider the following best practices:
- Keep your survey below 10 questions.
- If you need to have a text box, keep it at the end of the survey.
- Use clearly defined response labels.
#3 Motivate your customers to reply
Another way to increase your survey completion rate is to give your customers a reason to complete the survey.
As Peter Gibbons in Office Space said, “It’s not that I’m lazy; it’s that I just don’t care.“
Same as marketers, customers don't have time to waste and if you want them to spend some on your survey, make them know what they'll get in return.
We're not saying that you should offer them some low-value merchandise or coupons as these don't go far in increasing response rates. Instead, communicate to your customers how their feedback will be put into action. Customers will appreciate that ther opinion matters and, since they're already your customers, they will provide you with real and detailed information what they don't like, what they like, and what they want.
#4 [Optional] Take your own survey
You’ve taken into account all of the above into account and you are about to click “send” on your killer survey. Well, before you do that, take a step back, grab yourself some coffee, invite some of your colleagues and then take your own survey. By pre-testing your survey with your team members, you can identify glitches and unexpected question interpretations, as well as determine for one last time that your survey goes hand-in-hand with the above best practices.