Creating Effective Surveys: Six Steps to Relevant Feedback

Creating Effective Surveys: Six Steps to Relevant Feedback

Too often, business leaders today operate in a vacuum, working together yet alone to determine what customers truly want or need. In, the end, there’s no better approach to understanding your customers than simply asking them. One of the most effective ways to keep an open dialogue with customers is to use surveys, which give your customers (and employees, in some cases) a chance to provide the feedback you need to understand what’s important to them.

Designing an Effective Online Survey

So, you’ve wisely decided to survey your customers—and the rest of your company has “bought into” the idea. As is so often the case with new-technology adoption, it pays huge dividends and accelerates ROI to partner with an online survey leader, such as, to benefit from their expertise and experience to help you every step of the way.

With the assistance of such as company, there are just six quick steps to follow in designing effective online customer surveys:

1. Clarify your survey’s objectives.

The first key to a successful survey is to define objectives. Exactly what is it you want to know? Is there a problem (or problems) that needs solving? What actions are you prepared to implement depending on the results of the survey? Put a survey together with less-than-focused objectives, and you almost guarantee a survey with unclear results. List the questions your survey should answer. Do you want to know what your customers’ satisfaction levels are by segment? Do you want to ask if they’d recommend your company to others? Do you want to measure in what format and how often your customers prefer to receive communications from your marketing department? Focus on the big picture, and keep your objectives narrowly scoped; more complex surveys tend to less meaningful results.

2. Select your survey’s target.

Who should you survey? You may want to start with your existing customer base, but consider surveying prospects in other markets, as well. The proper sizes of survey samples depend on budget and the time available to analyze the results and act on them. Statistically, larger sample sizes deliver more accurate results. The good news: today, The Web makes it easier than ever to sample larger groups quickly and cost-efficiently.

3. Prioritize your questions.

Obviously, every survey revolves around a specific set of questions, but with so many options, where do you start? Create questions related to your goals and objectives from Step 1. What customer attitudes or perceptions do you want to measure? What answers might ultimately help you to make more informed decisions? Remember; always provide an option that allows a recipient to say, “I don’t know” or skip a question entirely, especially when you’re asking for subjective opinions vs. quantitative facts. Also, don't ask more questions than necessary; the shorter the survey, the better your chances of success.

4. Test the survey.

It may sound obvious, but before you hit “Send” and broadcast the survey to your selected sample world, test it thoroughly on as many different PC platforms, operating systems, various Web browsers, etc. Try to “break” it in any way you can, because it’s an unpredictable technology world out there.

5. Communicate your purpose.

It’s important to communicate to customers why they’re being surveyed, how you’d appreciate their support and what you intend to do with the information you gather. In other words, what’s in it for THEM? Explain why the survey is relevant to the recipient. Will it help the company create better products and services, improve customer service, seek more competitive pricing, etc.? One proven technique is to send an email announcing the survey to your existing customer base, asking for assistance and highlighting a direct link to the survey within the message. Providing an incentive can greatly increase response rates, especially from your top customer segments; it’s amazing what customers will do for a ballpoint pen, free T-shirt or other promotional items you may have sitting around in boxes anyway.

6. Analyze and ACT upon the results.

As soon as your send a survey and results begin to trickle in, you can begin analyzing the data. Once it’s in your database, it can be sliced, diced and analyzed as needed in spreadsheets, presentation programs and statistical software. Finally, it’s time to act. Compare the results of your survey to your original objectives, recommending specific business responses as a result. After all, isn’t that the reason you surveyed customers in the first place?

So, which is better: Email or Web-based surveys?

Email-based Surveys

Email surveys are both quick and cost-effective. While more of your customers will use email than have full Internet access, email surveys are limited to simple questionnaires.


  • Speed—an email questionnaire can deliver several thousand responses in days.
  • Cost—after initial setup, there’s practically none.
  • Media flexibility—you can attach pictures and sound files in HTML emails.
  • Higher response rates —compared to ordinary “snail” mail surveys.


  • You must have (or purchase) a list of email addresses.
  • Many people dislike unsolicited email even more than unsolicited regular mail.
  • You cannot use email surveys to generalize findings to the whole populations.
  • Email surveys can’t automatically skip questions, randomize questions or change answer-choice order as needed.

Web-based Surveys

Web surveys are becoming more popular every day, as they offer significant advantages in speed, cost and flexibility to perform more complex logic. Still, choosing the right survey solutions provider and software is absolutely critical.


  • Extremely fast—a survey posted on a popular Web site can gather several thousand responses within a few hours.
  • Cost—again, after initial setup, there’s practically none.
  • Media flexibility—some survey software allow you to display pictures, video and play sound.
  • Complex Logic—questionnaires can use complex question-skipping logic, randomizations and other features that can deliver better data.
  • Graphics—questionnaires can include colors, fonts and other formatting options not available in most email surveys.
  • The Honesty Factor—Most people will give more honest answers to a computer rather than to a person or sheet of paper.
  • More details—Respondents typically provide longer answers to open-ended questions on the Web than they do on other kinds of self-administered surveys.
  • Superior analysis— provides you with easy to use analysis tools that enable you to conduct group analysis, segmentation analysis and more.


  • People can easily quit mid-questionnaire online.
  • If your survey “pops up” on a web page, you often have no idea who’s replying – in such a case ensure you ask questions about the person’s background, demographics, etc.


Surveys are by no means new. But today, conducting a survey with a substantial sample is substantially much more efficient and affordable with new technologies and the support of online survey industry leaders, such as the proven experts It’s no longer necessary to assume or guess what your customers’ needs and expectations might be. Ask them yourself—with a quick, cost-efficient online survey. You might be surprised what you learn!

If you need help in creating and implementing your online research strategy, contact us today at