Customer surveys are a highly-effective method for gathering feedback to improve your product. But, this customer feedback channel comes with its own set of challenges. How do you get quality responses from surveys? How do you increase your survey response rate? How do you know whether you’re surveying the right people? In this article we’ll share some best practices for customer surveys to help you answer these difficult questions once and for all. 

Why Product Feedback Surveys Are Essential To Your Product Strategy

As a product owner, it’s important to establish listening posts and collect product feedback from your customer base to inform the prioritization of feature requests and product improvements. Skip this step, and you run the risk of building a product people don’t enjoy using. 

A survey can be just the thing to get your customers to open up and provide the insights your internal teams need to build out a successful product roadmap. In fact, “87 percent of survey-takers want to have a say in a company’s future products and services,” according to customer survey research by VisionCritical. 

Now if only it was easy to create a survey that people actually want to take—when you follow these best practices, your surveys will be both effective and productive.

Best Practices For Creating Customer Feedback Surveys

Use these five proven techniques to create a better customer survey experience and increase your survey response rate.

#1. Explain What’s In It For Them

Did you know that people are more likely to help when they know why their help is needed? 

The Xerox Mindfulness Experiment studied the power of the word “because.” The results of the study showed that when others understand the reason behind a request they’re more likely to comply:

    • “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine?” Received a positive response of 60%
    • “May I use the Xerox machine, because I’m in a rush?” yielded a positive response of 94%

Robert Cialdini discusses the effect the word “because” has on our willingness to help and participate in his book, Influence. Referring to the Xerox Mindfulness Experiment, Cialdini concludes that “…When we ask someone to do us a favor we will be more successful if we provide a reason. People simply like to have reasons for what they do.”

To further increase your survey completion rates, make the reason for your survey relevant to the person taking it. When people know what’s in it for them and have a sense that they’ll benefit through future product enhancements or development, they’re more likely to take a few minutes out of their busy day to participate in your survey.

#2. Set Expectations On How Long The Survey Will Take

The rate of survey completion increases when you provide an estimate of the time commitment needed to respond to all survey questions.

Amazon does a good job of setting survey respondent expectations on how long it takes to complete their product survey, as well as explaining why they need the feedback:

Example of Amazon customer feedback survey

If your survey includes several questions, consider using progress indicators or in-survey notifications to help participants understand their progress along the way.

Also, keep in mind that the number of questions can also be daunting and lead to survey fatigue. Most customer feedback surveys be 10-20 questions.

#3. Avoid Skewing Your Results By Asking Questions Without Bias

If you’re not careful, you can build an inclination to answer a certain way by how you write survey questions. It’s more important to get unbiased and honest feedback from customers than it is to get skewed product feedback

Avoid questions like this:

“Would you rate this product as good, or great?”

Instead ask questions like this: 

“On a scale of 1 to 5, how do you rate this product?”

Remember that the goal of a customer feedback survey is to listen to collect feedback to inform your product strategy, and accurate market research is critical to the success of your product.

#4. Always Provide An “Other” Option on Multiple Choice Questions

To get the best insights and most honest input from customers on product surveys, leave room for the unexpected answer. An easy way to do this is to include an “Other” answer option on all multiple choice style questions in your questionnaire. It’s a good idea to include some space for additional comments where it makes sense for other types of questions, as well.

You’ll not only open your team up to the possibility of learning something new about the customer perspective of your product, but you’ll also remove the potential for unintentional bias toward another answer option that customers would have felt obligated to choose because providing their best answer wasn’t possible. 

Make sure that you keep all questions simple, brief, and direct. You can feel free to be playful, as long as you don’t distract participants from the overall goal of the survey.

Also, acknowledge any particularly difficult questions. Encourage participants to leave a detailed answer and thank them in advance for doing so.

#5. Include At Least One Open-Ended Question

The best customer feedback surveys include open-ended questions that seek candid input from surveyed customers on what can be better, or how a company’s doing on a particular aspect of a product. Some great qualitative questions include “How can we improve?” and “What would make this product better?” 

Answers to these kinds of questions provide insights that can inspire product enhancements, new features—or even new products for your roadmap. Always provide the space for your target audience to share what’s on their mind.

#6. Capture Partial Responses

When setting up your survey, make sure the survey software or provider records partially completed customer feedback. If a survey respondent isn’t able to answer all of your questions for some reason, you don’t want to lose the valuable feedback they were able to share. 

If you’re asking more than two questions, place the highest priority questions at the beginning of the survey to increase your chances of getting customer responses to them.

#7. Test Your Product Survey With Customer Advocates First

Finally, never launch a survey without pilot-testing it on 5-10 respondents, first. When you test your survey with a small group, you’ll be able to assess the quality of the respondents’ answers and determine whether you need to rephrase some of your questions to get actionable feedback and insights. A pilot test can also help you make sure:

    • Users understand what you expect them to do.
    • Questions are clear and don’t deter users from completing the survey.
    • Technology doesn’t prevent participants from taking part.

Review and analyze the response rate and responses themselves. If you’re not getting good results, or realize that the way your questions are worded isn’t returning the kinds of insights you can work with, rework the questions to improve clarity and comprehension.

You can also ask for survey feedback from respondents, finding out if there are any confusing questions or barriers to complete the survey.

Repeat this process of testing your survey with small-batch sends until you’re certain the survey is easy to use and the reason why you’re asking for feedback is clear.

How to Use All Of That Customer Feedback

Customer feedback surveys provide an opportunity to get a deep understanding of user needs, pain points, expectations. Capitalize on the insights you gather from conducting product feedback surveys by prioritizing requested product improvements and enhancements.

Repeat the process until you’re 100% sure the survey is easy to use and that you’re making a compelling case for participating.