Guide to Customer Satisfaction Surveys

Tracking and Responding to Feedback

Dissatisfied customers have lots of outlets for negative experiences. They can vent their fury on review sites, in conversations with friends, or on social media.

It can seem daunting to try and intercept this behavior before it damages your brand, but with a robust customer feedback system centered around a well designed customer satisfaction survey you can make this task manageable.

The goals of getting regular customer feedback are to mitigate negative experiences and ensure evangelism by continuously measuring customer satisfaction and acting on the results.

Surveys that collect the right data at the right time and deliver it to the right people make all of this possible. This guide will walk you through the benefits of measuring customer satisfaction, setting up your survey, and creating a company-wide system to handle the feedback you receive.

Benefits of Customer Satisfaction Surveys

Conversations from sales, customer support, or random customers you meet at the coffee shop all create stories of problems or successes with your product. You could try to act on every single one of these, but you’d have no way of tracking your progress or knowing how many problems you were really solving.

Running customer satisfaction surveys, however, gives you hard data to work with. This means you’re not stuck acting on anecdotal evidence and you can measure improvements over time.

To get you started, we’ve created a survey template that you can download using the pink button in the top right portion of this page.

If you’re still on the fence about whether or not to give the survey a try, here are a few of the data-driven benefits.

Measure Your Customer Satisfaction

USE OUR Customer Satisfaction Survey TEMPLATE

Higher Customer Satisfaction Improves Customer Lifetime Value

The correlation between happy customers and revenue isn’t exactly breaking news. Satisfied customers tend to spend more money with your product and brand.

By using a customer satisfaction survey that allows you to track changes in average customer sentiment over time, you can establish direct links between revenue changes and shifts in your responses.

Additionally, it’s considerably more cost effective to keep an existing customer than to try and earn a new one. That means carefully tracking your customers’ satisfaction scores can help you keep your hard-won customer base and prevent you from trying to replace those who left for a competitor.

In both cases the objective data that a customer satisfaction survey generates will let you clearly establish how more satisfied customers affect your business goals.

Satisfied Customers Become Brand Evangelists

One of the most important questions you can ask in a customer satisfaction survey is how likely someone would be to recommend your product or service to a friend. By tracking this over time, you can see whether or not you’re consistently creating brand evangelists.

Remember, exceptionally satisfied customers are more likely to spread the name of your products and sing your praises than customers who have an average experience, so striving for outstanding scores on your survey is well worth the effort.

Additionally, when customers become evangelists they act as outsourced marketing, reducing your costs for acquiring new customers.

Reduce Negative Customer Reviews

By offering dissatisfied customers the opportunity to vent immediately, customer satisfaction surveys can also mitigate the risk of customers leaving negative online reviews.

Creating a mechanism for alerting your support staff or customer service team when negative comments come in they can attempt to address the situation is another great step in managing the customer experience.

When done sensitively, this can turn a problematic encounter into an opportunity for outstanding service.

Whatever method you choose, if you can increase the overall satisfaction of your customer base and reduce the number of bad experiences customers have, then you'll see fewer detractors in your survey responses.

This improvement should directly affect the number of less-than-glowing online reviews that you see.

Creating a Customer Satisfaction Feedback System

Using a survey is one of the best ways to measure satisfaction, but without a system in place to review and act on the data that you gather the survey won’t be as powerful as it could.

Keep in mind that your customers want to feel heard. The hyperconnectivity of the 21st century has accustomed them to instant fixes and feedback. If they fill out a survey venting about their problem and it doesn’t generate a response, you’ve compounded one negative experience with another.

Instead you need to setup a system to handle the customer feedback that you receive, with the customer satisfaction survey at its core. For the most accurate results, satisfaction needs to be measured as close as possible to the point of interaction. Ideally, this would be right after a service interaction or sale, and certainly no later than a few days.

The only way to do this and maintain sanity is to create a scalable system that is as automated as possible.

To complete this system you'll need:

  • A survey to collect data from the customer (our template is a great way to get this done quickly!).
  • A delivery mechanism to get the survey in the hands of your customers.
  • A process to review customer feedback regularly and act on it.

Designing a Customer Satisfaction Survey

Although it works out of the box, the template you can download on this page is designed as a starting point for your own customer satisfaction survey.

Don’t worry about overdoing the style of your survey, however. It doesn't need to be fancy.

In fact, you'll get better more actionable data if you keep the survey direct and to the point.

Here are the key questions that you should be asking. You can always add a few more, but these are the critical ones:

  • Based on your past experience with our business, how satisfied are you with our products and services? (Scale 0-10, where 0 is Not Satisfied and 10 is Very Satisfied).
  • What were you the most satisfied with in your last experience with us?
  • What were you the least satisfied with in your last experience with us?
  • What could we improve in order to increase your satisfaction with our products and services?

These questions get at the heart of customer satisfaction (or dissatisfaction), and they also give your customers the opportunity to offer you unscripted suggestions for improvement.

Some organizations may also want to add some demographic questions to the survey, but this isn't usually necessary for improving customer satisfaction. More questions can also decrease your response rates.

In addition, demographics can make it a little too easy to ignore unpleasant feedback because the customer "doesn't fit our ideal customer demographic.”

Avoid that mindset at all costs. Nobody cares if the author of a highly negative online review was part of your core demographic or not.

Final Tips for Survey Design

  1. Keep it short. Don’t ruin a positive customer experience with a negative survey. Aim for an average completion time of under two minutes.
  2. Use email notifications. Setup your survey to email a copy of each response as it comes in. Someone should review these emails regularly whenever possible, although this particular review method breaks down when the volume of responses gets too high.
  3. Respond quickly. Reply to customers who had a terrible experience immediately. There's a chance that you can perform some customer service recovery and stop a potential negative review.

Delivering Your Customer Satisfaction Survey

As we mentioned above, getting your customer satisfaction survey to your customers in a timely manner can have a huge impact on your response rates and data quality.

Ideally, you want to send the survey to your customers electronically by text or email either right after a customer experience or a set number of hours afterward.

For example, at SurveyGizmo, there's a 10% chance that a customer will get a satisfaction survey after they log into our application. We've also setup a rule to avoid over-surveying our customers, meaning they won't get another survey for at least four months once they complete one.

Our situation is easier than some because we’re a software company, but there are lots of ways to get your customer satisfaction survey in front of people when they’re ready to complete it.

Here are some ideas:

  • Put a link to the survey on your purchase receipt.
  • End all customer service chats with a survey link.
  • Put a link to your satisfaction survey in your email signatures.
  • Email a random selection of recent customers each week.
  • Include the survey in the "thank you" message after an online purchase.
  • Add the survey link to every customer service ticket you reply to.
  • Follow up with a mailed survey after a purchase.
  • Use tablets, apps, or text messages to reach out to customers while they’re in your stores.

Reviewing the Results of a Customer Satisfaction Survey

The individual responses your survey receives are great material for making incremental improvements, but to effectively measure satisfaction over time you'll need to set a review period and establish an internal process for looking at your data as a whole.

If your survey generates email notifications, performing some open text analysis on the results can give you insight into patterns that might not be obvious to a human reviewer.

This method reads all the text that customers type in and then tells you how often particular words or phrases are repeated. Our team, for example, keeps an eye out for phrases like “bugs” or “errors.”

Each company will have their own flags, but the data you get from surveys will make it far easier to figure out what the trigger words are for serious problems with your own customers.

If one person is keeping an eye on the day-to-day responses to your survey, make sure you establish a regular meeting when these results get shared across the rest of the team or company.

Customer satisfaction should be a priority for everyone in an organization, and shared data is great way to empower everyone to take action.

Proactively Improving Customer Satisfaction

These regular meetings are vital, but they shouldn’t be an excuse to ignore the feedback that you get on a daily basis. Particularly if you see a negative survey response, you need to be prepared to proactively take care of problems as they arise.

Maybe your customer satisfaction survey results are revealing a flaw in a product line, alerting you to an unknown bug, or just letting you know that your customers don’t like your latest ad. Whatever the message that you’re getting, don’t ignore it if you can fix it.

As mentioned earlier, instant action is not only expected by your customers, it can go a long way toward turning a negative experience into a more positive one.

Reacting to Input From Customers

Last but not least, you need to be prepared to analyze your data to identify trends and make more systemic adjustments that will impact multiple customers at once.

Fixing the problems of a single customer is important, but addressing issues that are creating poor customer satisfaction scores for multiple people is a big win.

Survey tools like SurveyGizmo will do the heavy analytics lifting for you, calling out connections in your data that might otherwise go unnoticed. By taking a look not only at individual responses but at the story that they tell as a whole you’ll be able to tackle the problems that are affecting your customers the most, giving you more significant returns on the effort you put in.

Ready to get started? Download our Customer Satisfaction Survey template and start seeing more smiles on your customers’ faces.

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