7 Awkward Questions You Need to Ask Your Customers

The best customer feedback questions are not always pleasant, but they will provide you with the insights you need to really improve the customer experience

Michael Brenner
August 02 2017

What’s the key to long-term business success? The answer is Customer Satisfaction, of course!

How do you know your customer base is satisfied? You just have to ask them. Sounds simple enough. Right? Like this:

“Hey, Mr. You-Just-Made-a-Purchase,

You satisfied?”


Another happy, satisfied customer. Back to business?

Well we all know it’s not this simple. Not even close. This myopic view is where many brands get their customer feedback programs dead wrong.

It is important to ask the right questions in order to get a multi-dimensional view of your buyers. You don’t just want to know if they like a product or service.

Based on their cognitive, behavioral, and emotional tone of their responses, you want to get an understanding of their overall perception of what you’re selling and how well, or not, their needs are being met.

This means the quality of your questions matters much more than the quantity. In fact, most consumers are not interested in spending their precious time filling out your questionnaires and feedback surveys.

Research shows that once a customer begins answering a survey, the drop-off rate is dramatic with each additional question, particularly for the first 15 asked. This means you want to keep your surveys to a 10 question maximum.

Don’t expect a customer to spend more than a minute answering your questions, even with a good incentive for filling out your questionnaire.

What Is the Goal of Your Customer Feedback Surveys?

Short, sweet and to the point. You need to make every question count. In fact, the best customer feedback questions will bear unique insights into the psychology behind how your customer base interacts with your brand.

When deciding what questions to ask you first need a very clear objective. What do you hope to achieve? What data are you after? What do you expect to understand about your customer base from the survey?

Make sure the questions you ask offer up answers to the most fundamental questions about what makes your buyers tick:

  • Do they understand the benefits of your product or service, do they realize how it can improve their life/work/health?
  • Are they motivated to talk about your product with other people – are they passionate about your brand?
  • How do they feel about your product?
  • Do you have specific demographic data you need to gather, such as income range, age, or personal preferences?

You can’t just ask your customers if they are satisfied. But with a clear picture of your intentions, it’s time to choose the potentially awkward questions that are going to dig up useful customer information to help you improve the customer experience and boost your retention rates.

The Questions You Should Be Asking

#1 How frequently do you use our product?

(Assuming you can’t measure average daily users. If you can read this.)

A customer may like something. That doesn’t mean they care about it, are motivated in any way to use it, or have the least interest in letting a friend know how much they like it.

Think of it this way. You like chocolate, right? (If you’re one of those vanilla people, just substitute in). So, you are probably generally satisfied with any company that sells chocolate. In fact, a chocolatier would have to whip up some really unsavory sweets to prompt you to say, ‘nope, not satisfied’.

When you ask how often a customer actually uses your product, you get a much deeper insight into how much they value it. If someone eats your particular chocolate product every day, it’s safe to say you’ve got a loyal customer on your hands.

Someone who only buys your chocolate two or three times a year, on the other hand, may only purchase it because their favorite chocolate bar is out of stock, not because they are excited about your product.

 #2 What is your greatest challenge?

This one is actually my favorite because we all love to chat on and on about our problems. But the insights you can gain here are invaluable. The answers can be used to define your product roadmap, to refine your messaging, to inform your content strategy, to drive your whole strategy.

Ask your executives, your sales team, your customer service group, and your product people the same question. Do the responses from your customers match?

If not, what can be done in your marketing to help better inform your customers and stakeholders about how they can benefit from buying from your brand?

#3 Have you shared our posts on social media before? If so, how many times and on what social media sites?

Here’s a customer engagement question that will gauge your customer’s behavioral response to your content. It also provides insight into the likeliness that your customers are also your social media followers – a strong step on the path to iron-clad loyalty.

The answer to this question will help you segment your customers to determine what type of nurturing they need to either become more engaged or to feel rewarded and appreciated for their loyalty.

#4 What’s your priority – reducing costs or increasing productivity?

This is a core question for B2B marketers. It’s a must on any general customer feedback survey as it will reveal how happy (or frustrated) your buyers are with industry pricing.

The trick to this question is that increasing productivity is always a priority. B2B buyers traditionally value the quality of a product or service over price. When a high proportion of respondents choose ‘reducing costs’ as a priority, you’ve identified price as an emerging market pain point.

By lowering prices or offering a discount to existing customers on their next purchase or next subscription renewal, you’re more likely to keep the customers you have. On the other hand, not responding to this feedback through some type of price incentive could lead to a higher churn rate.

You don’t want to subsidize those who would renew anyway so make sure you test different incentives. One way that has worked for some of my own clients is an incentive tied to referrals. That way you cover the costs of any incentive offer.

#5 What could we do to help you meet your goals?

This is the, ‘how could we improve?’ question. It’s just framed differently. Of course, you want to know what issues your buyers have with your product or service.

However, some customers are not going to jump at the chance to complain about a product (unless they are truly dissatisfied). It’s just part of our social conditioning.

By focusing on their needs and objectives instead of your brand’s, you’re more likely to get an honest response.

It also gives you more insight into your buyer personas and what is likely to motivate them. This information is customer nurturing gold.

#6 Do you have any questions for us?

You may get a ‘no’ response here. That’s alright. This is where you can open up the lines of communication to uncover any individual issues your current customers may have.

When a customer does pose a question, be sure it’s answered promptly. Here’s your chance to impress your customers. Give them a taste of your brand authenticity.

Meanwhile, you can leverage your survey as a tool for building brand loyalty in addition to getting the invaluable insights on your customers’ needs, perceptions, and expectations. Getting a direct response will make a customer feel valued by your brand. More importantly, they will walk away feeling like spending their time to answer your questions was five minutes well spent.

#7 Why did you choose us over our competitors?

I’m not the biggest fan of this question because it always makes me uncomfortable whenever a company asks me this. This is probably the trickiest and most awkward question on the list so ask it sparingly. And I would also ask it last.

But this question will reveal what your buyers perceive as the unique value of your brand. And more importantly, why they may be sticking with you.

You may also find that some of your customers don’t perceive any strong distinguishing features with your brand. They may purchase your product or sign up for your service because you had a good promotional offer or because you were the first brand that showed up in their Google search (nice SEO work, by the way!).

Use this information to determine if your marketing needs to focus more on your brand’s unique value proposition (UVP). It will also reveal what strengths you may want to highlight more to attract new customers.

Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner is a globally-recognized keynote speaker, author of The Content Formula and the CEO of Marketing Insider Group. He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael shares his passion on leadership and marketing strategies that deliver customer value and business impact. He is recognized by the Huffington Post as a Top Business Keynote Speaker and a top CMO influencer by Forbes.

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