Customer Service

Proven customer survey tactics for small businesses

Sara Korn

Updated: Apr 06, 2023 · 8 min read

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If you’re a small business owner looking to grow your business, you need reliable and current customer feedback to make data-driven decisions that will ultimately improve your offerings and customer experience.

Customer surveys are great way to get customer feedback because:

  • They can be quickly completed by the customer, which means you can easily get feedback from a lot of customers
  • You’ll get deep insight into what customers and prospects love and what can be improved about your product or service
  • Responses may generate ideas for new offers and content

With this information, you can:

  • Segment your audience and send them more relevant messages
  • Improve existing products and services
  • Develop new offers based on requests

As a bonus, asking customers what they think makes them feel heard and shows them you care.

What to do before you write your customer survey

Before you start writing survey questions, it’s important to get clear on your goals so your survey is super focused. If you skip this step, you risk creating a survey that no one wants to take and that doesn’t give you good data.

Define your survey goals and audience

Here are some questions to consider as you map out your survey questions:

  • What do you want to achieve with your survey?
  • Are you looking to improve your product offerings, customer service or overall customer experience?
  • Who is your target audience?
  • Are you targeting existing customers or potential customers?
  • Will all customers get the same survey, or will you send slightly different surveys to different customer segments?

By defining your goals and target audience, you can tailor your survey questions to collect only the information you need to achieve your objectives, and avoid asking too many questions (or confusing or irrelevant questions).

For example, if you're a restaurant owner, your goal might be to improve your menu offerings. Your target audience would be your existing customers. Your survey questions could focus on what dishes your customers like, what they don't like, and what new dishes they would like to see on the menu.

Identify gaps in your knowledge that a survey will fill

A good practice is to complete a customer journey map and do an empathy mapping exercise. In the process, you may discover gaps in your knowledge — places where you’re just guessing what your prospects and customers think, feel and do.

You can then create survey questions designed to get the data needed to fill those gaps.

Let’s say you provide education and coaching to parents who have difficulty maintaining discipline with their children. So far you’ve been getting business through referrals, and now you want to expand to placing ads — but when you fill out your customer journey map, you realize you don’t know where parents look for the resources you provide. You can ask your current customers where they looked for help before they found you.

Choose the right survey method

There are several survey methods you can use, including online surveys, phone surveys, in-person surveys and email surveys. The right method depends on your goals and target audience.

Online surveys are the most popular survey method because they’re easy to create, distribute and analyze. You can use survey tools like SurveyMonkey, Google Forms or Typeform to create your survey and distribute it via email or social media.

Phone surveys are more personal and allow you to ask follow-up questions, but they can be time-consuming and expensive.

In-person surveys allow you to get real-time feedback, but they can also be time-consuming and require a physical presence.

Email surveys are convenient and cost-effective, but they have a low response rate. To increase the response rate, you can offer an incentive, such as a discount or a chance to win a prize.

Example: If you're a small online retailer, an online survey would be the most appropriate method to collect customer feedback. You can use a survey tool like SurveyMonkey to create your survey and send it via email to your customers.

How to write effective customer survey questions

Creating effective survey questions can be challenging, especially since poorly written questions can lead to inaccurate or incomplete responses. Here’s a checklist of things to keep in mind as you write each survey question.

Be clear and concise

Each question should be easy to understand. Avoid using jargon, complex language or technical terms respondents may not be familiar with. Keep your questions brief and to the point.

Use neutral language

Your questions should not be leading or biased in any way. Avoid using loaded or leading questions that suggest a particular answer. Instead, frame questions in a way that allows respondents to express their true opinions and experiences.

Avoid ambiguity

The questions should not be vague or open to multiple interpretations. Use clear and precise language to avoid confusion. If a question is open to interpretation, it can lead to inaccurate or incomplete responses.

Avoid double-barreled questions

A double-barreled question combines two or more questions in one. These types of questions can be confusing and lead to inaccurate responses. To avoid this, ask one question at a time, and keep it simple.

Use closed-ended questions primarily

Closed-ended questions are questions that provide a list of possible answers for respondents to choose from. They can be in the form of multiple-choice, rating scales, or yes/no questions. They’re effective in gathering specific information and can be used to measure attitudes, behaviors and opinions. They’re best when you want data in numbers and percentages, not in comments.

For example, if you're a small business owner offering online courses, your survey could include a rating scale question such as "How likely are you to recommend our courses to a friend or colleague?" with a scale of 1 to 10.

Use open-ended questions sparingly

Open-ended questions allow respondents to provide their own answers and opinions. These questions can be used to gather more detailed and qualitative feedback. Use open-ended questions sparingly, as they can be time-consuming to answer and can’t be quantified with numbers.

Use a combination of closed- and open-ended questions, with more closed than open. For example, if you're a small business owner selling coaching services, your survey could include closed-ended questions such as “Did you achieve the goal that brought you to us?” and “How would you rate your experience on a scale of 1 to 10?” and an open-ended question such as “What improvements would you like to see in our services?”

Test your questions

Before finalizing your survey questions, test them with a small group of people. This can help you identify any issues with the wording or structure of the questions. Testing can also help you determine whether the questions are appropriate for the target audience.

By keeping these question-crafting tips in mind, you can create surveys that are clear, concise and effective in gathering the information you need.

How long to make your customer survey

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, but as much as possible, keep your survey short and simple.

Customers are more likely to complete your survey if they can do it quickly and easily. In general, you should:

  • Make sure your survey only takes 1-10 minutes to complete
  • Limit your survey to about 10 questions
  • Word questions as simply and clearly as possible so they’re easy to answer
  • Stick to one topic per question

Where to distribute your customer survey

When conducting a customer survey, it's important to choose the right distribution channel to reach your target audience. Here are some of the most popular distribution channels and their pros and cons:

  • Email — Email is a popular choice because it's easy to send and track responses. However, make sure your survey email can stand out in a crowded inbox (check out our Subject Line Generator for ideas) and avoid the spam folder.
  • Website — Embedding the survey directly onto your website can help increase response rates as it's easy for visitors to access. However, it may not be suitable for reaching a wider audience beyond your website visitors.
  • Social Channels — Sharing your survey on social media can help you reach a broader audience and generate more interest. However, it can also attract less relevant responses from people who may not be your target audience.
  • In-app — If you have a mobile app, you can distribute the survey directly to users via in-app notifications. It's an effective way to reach a specific target audience, but it may not be suitable if you’re trying to reach those who haven't downloaded your app.
  • Text message — Sending the survey via text message is an excellent option for reaching your audience quickly and conveniently, especially since text messages get seen and opened more than emails. But keep in mind this may not be suitable for long-form surveys since attention spans are often shorter on mobile.

Put your surveys on autopilot

Armed with more insight into your customers preferences, you can make data-driven decisions to improve your offerings and customer experience.

A better customer experience leads to more sales and growth for your small business, so it’s important to conduct customer surveys on an ongoing basis.

If you need a tool for sending survey emails and text messages, Keap can help. In just a few minutes, you can automate a follow-up survey campaign after every purchase is complete, or send a one-time broadcast. Want to test it out? Start a 14-day free trial of Keap now (no credit card required).

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