How to Conduct a Customer Satisfaction Survey

Lori Soard
Customer survey

According to the RightNow Customer Experience Impact Report 2011, after experiencing poor customer service from a company, a whopping 80 percent of customers simply went to a competitor. The study also found that 86 percent of those customers didn't mind paying more if the customer experience was better. With statistics like that, it is easy to argue the importance of companies regularly conducting customer satisfaction surveys. Customer satisfaction surveys help a company keep abreast of how satisfied customers are and what changes need to be made to keep current customers happy and coming back for more.

Conducting a Survey

Goals

The first step to putting together a customer service survey is to outline your goals. Ask some questions, such as:

  • What kind of information is the company seeking?
  • How can we best ascertain what the customer's most recent service experience was like?
  • What does the company hope to achieve by gathering this information? Better customer service? More customer retention/loyalty? More referrals?

Setting the goals for the survey first is an important step because it will impact everything from:

  • The type of survey you conduct
  • Who you target the survey
  • How the data is reported back

For example, suppose Department A in your company hasn't had any complaints from customers and seems to be doing well. However, you recall that 80 percent of unsatisfied customers from that RightNow survey didn't complain but simply went to a competitor. With this in mind, you want to get a true gauge of how well Department A is doing, so you set the goal of finding out just how satisfied customers are and if the company can do anything differently to make their experience better.

Who to Include

Once you have set a goal or two for the survey, you'll want to choose who to include in that survey. For smaller companies, it might be possible to include all customers in the survey. However, companies with a large customer base may find including every customer to be too costly and time consuming. Even analyzing the massive amounts of data, with or without data visualizations to help out, can become a full-time task.

There are several ways you can go about choosing a specific demographic within your customer base to survey:

  • Surveying customers immediately after a customer service call
  • Surveying new customers within a month of them coming on board
  • Surveying the oldest customers who've stuck around the longest to find out what they like and don't like
  • Randomly selecting customers based on assigned numbers, dates of service or letters of last name (A, M, S and W for example)

Again, who you choose to survey may also depend on the goals for your company. In the example mentioned above, the company might choose to only survey customers handled by Department A. Later, other departments might be surveyed.

Creating Questions

The questions that are asked for the survey can make a big difference in how valuable the information is to your company. According to Survey Monkey, an online survey service for companies, you should first let the customer know what your goal is. Don't make them guess why you're asking these questions.

If you want to improve the customer's experience, state that up front. If you want to see how their last service call was to make improvements, then state that as well.

  • Questions should be specific. Don't ask if the customer was happy with the last experience, but what they were happiest about. Or, ask them to rate their satisfaction on a scale of 1 to 10.
  • Try to break each question down as much as possible. If the general question is their satisfaction on a scale of 1 to 10, then break that down and ask how satisfied they were with the friendliness of the person they dealt with (1 to 10), how long it took to receive a solution to their problem, how happy they were with the solution and if they were satisfied with the way the call ended. Be very specific and ask a series of questions for each general idea.
  • Avoid "yes/no" questions. If the question can be answered with yes or no, then reword it so that customer must be specific. For example, instead of asking "was your issue resolved?" ask "how was your issue resolved?"

Choosing a Format

Your next step is to decide on the format for the survey. There are several options for conducting a survey:

  • Phoning customers
  • Emailing customers
  • Mailing a card with a response card and envelope included
  • Online survey
  • In person

Deciding which survey type to use can be a challenge in itself. Your first step is to figure out how many customers even use email and Internet regularly. If your demographic is the younger generation of 20 to 30-somethings, then emailing customers with an online survey link is probably your best and quickest way to get the survey completed. On the other hand, if most of your customers are senior citizens, some may not be Internet-savvy and telephone calls or snail mail may be your best bet for getting a response.

Another idea is to create a multi-faceted campaign that allows the customer to respond in a variety of ways (online or by mailing in the card, for example).

Timing of Survey

When you're ready to start the survey, it's a good idea to have an end date in mind. Otherwise, your data will no longer be fresh and you'll have to begin again. If you plan to survey all your customers at once, set a goal of two or three weeks to get responses back. Let the customers know that you need the responses by then so you can analyze them and improve customer service.

While not everyone will respond, many will. You'll need to decide:

  • Length of the survey and when it will end
  • How often you plan to repeat the survey

Using Collected Information

Once the survey is completed and you've gathered all that information, you'll want to plug the responses into a database and create some visual data, such as charts and tables to make sense of it all. By looking at percentages, you will quickly get the big picture of areas that need improved as well as what your company is already doing well.

It is also a good idea to put someone in charge of following up with customers who stated they had a particularly poor experience to find out what you can do to make it right for them. While there will be occasions where you simply can't please a customer, you will have the assurance of knowing you did everything you possibly could to make him happy and keep him on board.

How to Conduct a Customer Satisfaction Survey