8 Tips to Creating the Perfect Email Survey for Customers

  •    Megan is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. ChamberofCommerce.com’s platinum membership program helps small businesses grow on the web.

Great surveys are valuable for many reasons. You can use the data to improve your customer service, improve your marketing, and build your brand. Data-driven reports are valuable assets you can use to generate backlinks and show your expertise.

So what makes a great survey, full of the actionable insight that leads to informed strategy? Here's what you need to know.

1. Define Your Purpose

Before you consider your questions, consider your goals. Your survey should be focused and designed to build a specific data set.

  • What do you hope to learn? Your questions will be different if you're looking to improve your product, gather general industry information, or gauge your customers' satisfaction with your brand.
  • Who will this survey benefit? You may have more than one objective in mind, and as long as the questions are focused and related, your data may be useful to more than one department.
  • What will you do with the data? A survey designed to improve customer service asks about the frequency of emails, the quality and speed of response, and whether your offerings are on-target (which will also benefit marketing). The same survey data could be used in a consumer report of interest to the industry and to industry bloggers. Be sure to keep all your goals firmly in mind.

2. Your Report

Formulating your questions might be easier if you visualize the reports you'll generate. What will your content asset or strategy document look like? An outline gives you clear direction.

3. Keep it Short and Simple

It can be tempting to throw in unnecessary questions. You already have their attention, so why not? More respondents will abandon a long survey that seems pointless.

Each question should add information that suits your purpose. If it doesn't, don’t include it. Even if it's something as innocuous as basic demographics, like age.

One of the most effective type of surveys has only one question, and I'll bet you're familiar with it. Net Promoter Score (NPS) surveys ask only “How likely are you to recommend our company to your friends or associates?” That's it, and the answer can predict the success of your company!

4. Make Your Questions Specific

Open-ended questions can be useful, especially if you're looking for suggestions for improvement. But consider the different ways you can ask questions to get at the answers you're looking for. “From one to ten, how satisfied are you with the quality or our product?” is more focused than “Are you satisfied with your purchase?” You'll never know if the customer is satisfied with the quality but less happy with the cost, or happy with your website ordering process, but not thrilled with the delivery delay.

5. Make Scale Ratings Consistent

Some surveys try to change things up, presumably to make sure respondents are paying attention. Don't. If question one is “on a scale of one to ten where one is terrible and ten is fantastic”, then every question should have the same answer format.

6. Test with a Small Sample

Before you send your completed survey to your entire customer base, try it on a small sample. You may find that respondents only get so far before quitting, are confused by some of the questions, or answer in unexpected ways, which indicates you need to rethink the wording.

7. Offer an Incentive

It's undeniable, people like anything that’s free. Offer them a discount or other incentive for completing your survey, but keep it within reason. If the incentive is too large, it might have a detrimental effect on the data. Respondents might lie about their positions or give false answers to questions they can't answer in order to collect a fat reward.

8. Define the Right Audience

What customers do you want to hear from? Separate out the customer list most useful for your purpose and target those customers. Or send to different groups of customers (new, old, perspective, etc.) and track responses from each different group.

If you craft your survey properly, you'll retrieve a wealth of information you can use, and you'll get to know your customers a little better in the bargain.