Conduct a survey to find out what your customers are really thinking

6 min read
Judith Kallos

When you are running your own business, you can gain a significant edge by having the inside scoop on what current and potential customers are thinking about your products or services. How do you find out what your customers are really thinking? All you have to do is ask. Many people are willing to fill out an after-order survey or occasional questionnaire to give you that important data to grow your business and customer base. So let’s take them up on that, shall we? We will explore various ways to conduct a survey so you can choose the right one for your business.

Just remember, if  you're collecting personal information, you'll need to ensure that you do so in a way that complies with GDPR.

How to conduct a survey using website forms and survey builders

Form scripts allow you to build your own forms. There are many scripts to choose from. WordPress, for example, has several feature-rich form plugins that help you easily create specific forms to conduct a survey.

I use Ninja Forms on all my websites. There are also plugins that help you create surveys (and quizzes) such as Quiz And Survey Master and Poll, Survey, Quiz, Slideshow & Form Builder. You can also conduct a survey by having a poll on your WordPress site for all site visitors to offer their input: WP-Polls.

Check out a step-by-step walkthrough for installing the Ninja Forms plugin on your WordPress site, and then putting the plugin to work for your business.

If you do not use WordPress, check out Google Forms, which is easy to set up and customize for your needs.

How to conduct a survey using a service

PC Magazine’s list of The Best Online Survey Tools of 2018 gives you a window into 10 survey services to choose from. Eight of these are great for small- to medium-size businesses, giving you the features and functionality necessary to get the data you need to grow and improve.

What’s great about these services is that they are focused on offering the best features, survey experience and resources to guide you in your ongoing efforts to conduct a survey.

One of the services reviewed in the PC Magazine article is SurveyMonkey. GoDaddy’s Email Marketing tool offers a SurveyMonkey add-on for those who have a SurveyMonkey Account.

SurveyMonkey also offers a helpful service called Audience. This unique service gives you the ability to purchase access to an audience of users who have shown an interest in completing surveys and meet a specific demographic criterion for your survey.

It’s a great way to get targeted responses from a specific group of folks if you are still in the decision-making process and do not have an email list or customer base to tap into yet.

How to conduct a survey for best results

To get actionable results that you can really put to work, keep a few things in mind when you conduct a survey. The first thing you want to do is have a framework for why you are initiating a survey in the first place. What do you hope to accomplish with your survey — precisely?

You should only choose one goal per survey.

Have that goal clearly in mind before you develop your structure and questions.

Survey tips and considerations

To start, jot down the primary topic you want to cover per survey. Craft 10 questions to get the specific data you seek.

Surveys that are short and focused on one topic tend to provide the benefit of actionable results.

Research by Vovici shows that the more questions asked, the higher the potential abandon rate. Less is more. When possible you want to try to record partial responses or incomplete surveys so you do not lose that data. If a pattern of abandonment starts forming you will definitely want to simplify and restructure your survey.

Structuring closed-ended questions will give you precise responses. Yes or no, multiple choice or sliding scale questions are examples of closed-ended questions. Using this approach makes it easier to analyze your results. Use opened-ended questions (with a text box where participants can offer additional input) as a follow-up to get additional details based on a previously asked closed-ended question.

Stay away from industry jargon or terms that your customers may not be familiar with. Use the language that your customers would use when discussing or describing your product or service.

Keep question rating scales consistent. If you use 1-5, with 1 = Strongly Disagree and 5 = Strongly Disagree, stick with that system throughout to maintain consistency in feedback. Use the same number of points and wording for your high and low ratings throughout.

Do your best to not lead survey participants in the direction of the answer you would prefer to receive. Honest critical feedback should be your goal. Asking “Our exceptional customer service is something we work very hard at. How do you think we can improve upon that?” is leading. Instead, refrain from adding adjectives and simply ask: “How can we improve our customer service?” Simple and direct.

Always include a final opportunity for customers to type in additional comments or feedback on the topic at hand.

Place sensitive questions or questions seeking demographic data at the end of the surveyStatistics show  this placement plays better with survey takers. This includes asking for contact information.

Include the opportunity for your customers to get the survey results. That gives you an opportunity to share what you’ve learned and how you are going to integrate that information moving forward.

Always test your survey yourself by doing a run-through to make sure the flow and order of questions are logical and that the survey works as it should.

Test, tune and apply

The type, format and number of questions asked can determine the response rate when you conduct a survey. Testing various questions, formats and structures to find out what works best for your survey and audience is a necessary part of the process.

Your customers are busy folks and they are being inundated with requests for information, including surveys.

By having an introduction explaining the value of their opinions, matched with some sort of incentive (a free download, eBook, discount, etc.), you can increase participation by as much as 50 percent.

The final step is to put that valuable information received from your survey to work. Use what you discover to improve, grow and plan your next steps!