Survey Says… Here’s What Actually Works

Not all questions are born equal. Discover what types of questions will help you understand how to keep your customers loyal

Lauren Dowdle
May 19 2018

You can only get so far with a simple NPS question like, “How likely are you to recommend our services to a friend?” Sometimes you want to dig deeper into how they feel about the customer service and experience your brand is providing, and for times like that, you’ll need to create a survey. A survey will give you a better sense of the customer’s concerns, values, needs and interests — the perfect mix of information to improve your retention and loyalty strategies. You just need to take a systematic approach to garner the right kind of feedback, and that starts with the types of questions you ask in the survey.

As a quick refresher, these are some survey best practices to help you get the results you’re after:

  • Avoid ambiguous questions. What you’re asking should be clear to your customers and not up for interpretation
  • Use close-ended questions. You can stray from this tip some, but it’s going to make more work for you and the customer
  • Create targeted questions. To avoid getting a lot of N/A responses, use skip logic to tailor the survey to the customer
  • Have a goal. Each of your questions should have a purpose and be created to collect a specific piece of information
  • Keep them short and sweet. Don’t ask about more than one thing per question, or your results may be skewed

Beyond how you ask, what you ask is just as important when crafting a customer loyalty survey. Here are some topics and questions you’ll want to cover.

How would you rate our customer service?

The customer’s perception of service and satisfaction are two major contributors to their level of loyalty to your brand. And what they think matters. So, base some of your questions around discovering if you’re excelling in these areas:

  • Were you pleased with our product/service?
  • Would you recommend us to a friend?
  • Have you ever contacted customer service? Did we meet or exceed your expectations?
  • How would you describe great service?

These questions will help you figure out how happy your customers are with your service and what they value, which can directly impact their loyalty. You have to figure out what’s important to them before you can improve your business model. One example of a company who took their survey data to the next level is Arvida. Now owned by real estate developer St. Joe Company, Arvida conducted a survey to research its customers’ perspectives about the home-buying experience with their company. The results showed them the key to customer satisfaction was good communication, while poor communication had a negative impact on their entire experience.

To remedy the issue and keep communication in the forefront, Arvida instructed its construction supervisors to call its customers weekly during the construction phase to give them reports on their house. After implementing that process, they saw an improvement in every customer satisfaction measure from one quarter to the next.

How can we improve?

No one likes getting negative feedback, but that’s where you’re going to learn the most about how you can improve the customer’s experience and loyalty. According to one theoretical analysis, “customer loyalty can be increased by encouraging consumers to complain.” You need to provide customers with an outlet to share their frustrations so that you can resolve any issues and earn back their trust. For this type of question, you’ll need to include some type of “Other” response option since it’s impossible to include every possible issue with a multiple-choice answer.

You can also use skip logic here to dive in more to their specific issue. For example, if they indicate they’ve had an issue with billing, follow up with questions to see what the problem may have been. Or, start off with an NPS-like question, and if they answer with anything lower than a 9 or 10, give them follow-up questions to see where you went wrong in their opinion.

Some questions that will show you care — while also getting those vital complaints — include:

  • How could we have made your experience better?
  • What’s one thing you’d like for us to know about your experience?
  • Would you do business with us again? Why/why not?

Once you identify their issue, you need to respond to help resolve it — because how you handle the complaint makes all the difference. According to the 2018 Consumer Action Monitor report, 75 percent of consumers will make a return purchase if the complaint is handled well, while only 11 percent will return if the complaint was handled poorly.

What do you think about our loyalty program?

Loyalty programs are the perfect way to reward customers for their support, business and engagement, while also giving you vital data on their purchasing habits. Consumers have proven they want to join them, with 77 percent participating in a retail loyalty program.

To figure out what they want and expect from your loyalty program, ask questions that will give you a clearer picture of how they use it:

  • What’s your favorite feature of the program?
  • What’s your least favorite part about the program (ex. takes too long to earn points)?
  • What’s most important to you (ex. earning points, discounts, exclusive deals/updates)?
  • Do you choose a business based on whether it offers a loyalty program?

You’ll be able to learn whether your customers value a loyalty program, and if so, which features are most important to them. That will allow you to tailor their loyalty experience, improving their overall satisfaction and engagement.

Create targeted customer loyalty surveys

Go into the survey knowing how your company defines customer loyalty (what aspects are especially important to your brand) and any goals your team has to help you further personalize your questions.

Since consumers have such short attention spans, keep the survey short — requiring about five minutes (roughly 10 questions) to take. If it needs to be longer, offer them some sort of reward for their time. Remember: They’re doing you a favor by taking your survey, so at the very least, send them a thank you email. Motivating them with an incentive and creating a well-executed survey can boost response rates to more than 85 percent, compared to the average 10 to 15 percent for external surveys. Collecting survey feedback is one major way your team can learn more about your customers and what it takes to keep them loyal to your brand — and isn’t that what it’s all about?

“Loyal customers, they don’t just come back, they don’t simply recommend you, they insist that their friends do business with you.” — Chip Bell, customer loyalty expert


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