Surveys customer surveys

Published on May 13th, 2015 | by Lisa Furgison

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12 Steps to Create an Effective Customer Survey

Whether you’re testing out a new product or want feedback about your customer service, there comes a time when every small business and non-profit can benefit from a customer survey. By asking your customers and donors to answer a few quick questions, you can gain valuable insight.

One of the best ways to conduct a survey is through email. In this post, we’re going to show you how to create a meaningful survey online and compose an invitation email to get customers to participate. Ready to get started?

First things first. Let’s talk about your survey.

1. Define your goals

What do you want your customer survey to accomplish? You need a well-defined goal before you start creating survey questions. Do you want to improve a particular service? Do you want feedback about your new website? In two to three sentences, write down what you want to learn from a survey.

2. Select an online survey tool

There are many online tools that can help you create a customer survey. We use SurveyMonkey. VerticalResponse is integrated with SurveyMonkey, so you can create a survey and email it to your target audience with ease.

3. Select a template

Most online survey tools offer a variety of pre-made templates based on your needs. You’ll be able to edit questions to suit your business and customer survey goals, and you’ll be able to get on with your day quicker if you’re not starting from scratch.

4. Add your own branding

Include your company logo in your survey, and use the colors that are in your logo as well, so your survey is consistent with your brand. 

5. Create clear questions

Now you’re getting down to brass tacks. It’s time to create a set of survey questions. Here are some tips to make sure your questions are efficient and on topic.

  • Revisit your goal. All of your questions should be geared to meet the goal of your survey.
  • Ask about one thing at a time. Don’t try to combine several elements into one question. It’s too difficult to decipher answers in the end.
  • Don’t try to sway your audience. Ask straightforward questions that are free of opinions.
  • Be specific. For example, a question like, “Do you regularly order office supplies online?” is vague. “Do you order printer cartridges from ABC Office Supply at least once a month?” is more specific and gives you more detailed information. 
  • Ask between 5-10 questions. You don’t want the survey to be too long or recipients may stop in the middle of it.
  • Select question types. With most survey tools, you have a variety of question types to select from. You can set up multiple choice, comment boxes, drop down menus and sliding scales. We suggest sticking to one or two question types per survey. You don’t want a hodgepodge of question types; it can be confusing to the participant.
  • Cover all possible answers. If you’re asking multiple-choice questions, make sure there’s an answer that fits for everyone.

6. Review it

Before you send your survey to your recipients, ensure you proofread it, and take a trial test. Have a co-worker do the same to catch any errors. Make adjustments if necessary.

With the customer survey complete, you can now create an email invitation to encourage participation.

7. Create an enticing subject line

In your email subject line, tell recipients that you’d like their help with a survey. The subject line should be concise and use active language. Here are a few examples:

  • We need your help. Take our 3-minute survey.
  • Tell us what you think & win a gift card.
  • Help us by completing our quick survey.
  • Have 2 minutes? We’d love your feedback.

8. Write an effective invitation

The body of your email invites the recipient to take the survey. Think of a birthday invitation. It’s friendly and offers vital details like whom the party is for and how long it will last. A survey invitation is similar. We’ll use the email below as an example of how to write your survey invitation.

12 Steps to Create an Effective Customer Survey

  • Warm greeting. This survey is personalized and thanks the customer for using their service. Try something similar. The point is to begin the email on an appreciative note. 
  • Who and what the survey is for. Tell recipients whom the survey is for and what its purpose is. Explain why this survey is important like the example does.
  • Commitment time. How long will the survey take? This piece of information is a must. Your customers are busy, so if you don’t explain the time commitment they will likely ignore it. To get the best results, shoot for a survey that takes 3-5 minutes to complete. 
  • Possible incentive. You could include an incentive. Enter participants in a drawing for a prize, for example. This is especially helpful if your survey is on the longer side. If you plan to do this, mention it in your email.
  • A quick close. Bring your email to a close by thanking the customer, or if you’ve designed the invitation in a letter-style like the example above, a quick signature line works.

9. Create a call to action

The call to action should be clear. In the example above, the clickable red button takes recipients right to the survey. Make the process as seamless as possible.

10. Segment your list

Who should your survey go to? In some cases, you may want to send the survey to your entire email list. However, you may want to send it to specific segments, or parts of your list like those who recently purchased a product, or those who live in a specific area of the country. Segmenting your list will give you the most relevant responses.

11. Review and send

Review your email. Test the links and double-check your copy. When you’re happy with it, schedule it to go out when you want your recipients to get it. After a few days, consider sending a reminder email to those who haven’t completed the customer survey.

12. Collect and review responses

Collect your responses. Then, take the time to analyze all of the data and use it to make informed business decisions moving forward.

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© 2015 – 2016, Lisa Furgison. All rights reserved.

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Lisa Furgison

is a contributing author.



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