Survey structure—Making surveys make sense

Franci Erdmann | Aug 2, 2017 Franci Erdmann 08/02/17

Getting a useful feedback sample is more than getting a lot of responses—the quality of those responses matters, too. Structuring your survey appropriately has a huge impact on the usability and depth of the feedback you get. Studies show the order of asks influences how people respond, so it’s important to be strategic in your planning. Questions that come earlier in the survey can provide context to questions that come later, so we recommend paying special attention to these best practices to get the most successful survey sample possible.

Overall Satisfaction belongs at the beginning

Asking about Overall Satisfaction first helps prevent specific moments in the customer’s experience from influencing the overall score too heavily. Asking at the end, after several questions about individual attributes within the overall experience, can mean these individual instances are at the top of their minds when considering the total experience—which may impact the score.  

Intent to Return + Intent to Recommend

To help customers form a more-considered opinion about their Intent to Return and Intent to Recommend, these measures should come after questions about experience-related satisfaction and problem occurrence. Since these are intended behaviors, customers are more likely to generate rationales before they decide to return and recommend.

Simple answers + demographics

Customers tend to tire toward the end of the survey and are less likely to answer questions as thoughtfully and thoroughly as they do at the beginning. If you must gather demographic information from respondents, you should ask them later on in the survey. Demographic questions are low-priority, easy to answer, and more likely to be answered after you’ve used the rest of the survey to build a rapport—so it’s best to save them for the end.

Ask open-ended questions strategically

Open-ended questions are great for gathering descriptive feedback that you can layer on top of the scores you’re getting. Plus, they allow customers to give feedback in their own words about any aspect of the experience they wish. It’s best to limit open-ended questions to one instance near the end of the survey. Putting them early on greatly increases abandon rates—by as much as 15%—since customers tend to assume the entire survey will be comprised of mostly open-ends and are far less likely to want to continue.

To garner even richer responses, open-ended questions should also aim to ask “why” rather than asking “what.” When surveys we tested asked “why,” we noticed responses used 35% more characters and covered 10% more categories than questions asking “what.”

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Employ smart-branching logic

Asking the right questions of the right respondents is key for building a quality pool of feedback. Smart branching uses built-in logic technology to ask the right questions based on that specific customer’s experience. For example, customers who shopped online avoid questions about their in-store experience. Customers who used the drive-thru won’t be asked about the quality of the dining room. This helps reduce abandonment rates and elicits more accurate and knowledgeable responses, too.

Avoid double-barreled questions

Your questions should only ask about one topic at a time—like ease of transaction or friendliness, not ease and friendliness. That helps to ensure your responses are more accurate and keeps customers from exiting your survey out of confusion.

Bottom line

Your surveys are critical for getting insights that drive better business decisions—and you have to put just as much emphasis on your questions as your results. Ordering your questions to avoid bias and frustration, wording them for logic and clarity, and asking for open-ended responses strategically can dramatically increase the quality and depth of your feedback pool. And high-quality feedback is what leads to high-quality insights that create high-quality experiences for your customers. And that’s worth taking a good look at your surveys to make sure you’re getting the most out of your feedback.

Want to learn even more best practices for every aspect of your survey? Get our full guide here.

Franci Erdmann
VP, Client Insights

Customer Experience Update