How customer surveys are performed has changed radically for businesses.
And this trend will continue long into the future.
Fillable, mailed surveys, the progenitors of all survey campaigns, now cling on to existence, while online modalities multiply on what feels like a daily basis.
Why should this matter?
Distributing the right type of survey to your target demographic is crucial because it both a) ensures your team gets the answer to their survey campaign's 'big question', and b) verifies that your results are both accurate and usable.
This article will guide you through the basics and best practices for choosing the right fit survey type for your business - click through to the section most relevant to you at your leisure.
Customer survey types are the various manners by which customer surveys can be performed. Picking the right survey method, or type, ensures that your business gets the most insights possible from your customers.
By surveying your customers, aka asking questions, you ideally uncover not only how they feel (in the form of customer metrics NPS, CSAT, etc), but also why they feel the way they do - qualitative feedback that can be mined for deep insights.
Market research shows that customer experience, above any other factor, will prove to be the number one differentiator between competitors going forward.
So, to keep up with the pack, keeping track of and actively managing your customers' satisfaction is mission critical for any business with their eyes on the horizon.
But It's not enough to sit around and wait for customer feedback, you have to go out and seek opinions by requesting it in the form of surveys.
Below are the various methods by which customer surveys can be performed.
We'll go through the notable characteristics of each so you can decide which survey type is best for you.
In with the new, out with the old. Online surveys have quickly risen to the top when it comes to customer feedback strategy.
This makes sense as, contrary to what some naysayers might assume, internet usage is reaching remarkable highs across all age groups.
A study by Statista found that 99% of 18-29 year olds used the internet, 97% of 30 to 49 year olds, and 88% percent of 50-60 year olds.
And usage will only go up in the future. So, businesses have found online surveys to be broad-reaching, relatively cheap, and useful both for instantaneous and benchmarked-over-time feedback.
What remains important for all online surveys, whether they are simple NPS questions following a purchase or larger satisfaction insight campaigns, is the need to lay out a clear approach before distribution.
Deciding on an embedded button asking you to complete a survey on your landing page, versus an in-app pop-up survey after an interaction, versus a delayed follow-up survey makes all the difference when it comes to response rate, and thus campaign success.
Making sure your team has nailed down its survey strategy, from initial question to desired result, is key to obtaining clear results, ideally with room for open-ended follow ups.
If you have the budget, time, and can accommodate meeting your target demographic constituents directly, interviews can provide incredibly nuanced, deep, and even personal survey results.
Nothing beats a trained interviewer, whose demeanor can calm the customer being surveyed, and who can dig deep into topics they sense the customer has more to say about. With recording and audio transcription now easier than ever, a good interview can give some of the deepest data possible.
However, there are cost and time factors to consider. The customer will likely have to be compensated for their time, the interview location and equipment secured and rented, and the interviewer paid. Finally, whoever reviews the footage and/or interview notes will have to be cautious of interviewer bias and their own bias while interpreting the data.
Email survey campaigns go hand-in-hand with online survey campaigns, and sometimes the two can even be worked synchronistically for excellent results. Sending surveys en masse by email is prohibitively cheap - in fact it's free.
With the low cost of distribution, timing above all else is essential to have success, especially when it comes to response rate.
Let's face it, all our inboxes are overcrowded and that's with email software becoming increasingly adept at automatically categorizing and pre-sorting spam and promotional emails.
So, for your email survey to make it through it will have to be personalized and well timed, meaning not too soon after the purchase, not too long after, and certainly not too many emails. It's good practice to follow up with a 'Thank You' if the customer does go on to fill out your survey (maybe even with an incentive or an option for further feedback), but a barrage of emails will have you sent to the spam folder post-haste.
To call or to text, that is the question - and the answer is take a look at how old your target demographic is, then decide.
Traditional phone surveys have evolved. Now, surveyors have the help of real-time computer software to aid them as they work their way through their call.
Acronymized as 'CATI' or Computer-Assisted Telephone Interviewing, this method can bear great success in drawing out both quantitative and qualitative answers from customers.
The surveyor, aided by an adaptive list of questions and easy interfaces to record and transcribe the customers' answers, can accurately capture all data points.
However, the downsides to CATI surveying relate to inconvenience and timing. Most people do not like to pick up the phone, especially if it's an unknown number. Time is valuable and telemarketers and scam callers have created a difficult wall for would-be legitimate surveyors to climb.
Secondly, with busy schedules and short-attention spans, the modern working age person lacks 'chunk time', meaning consecutive minutes off in a row, and if they do it they likely have more preferred ways to spend it than answering questions.
So, to get your CATI campaign even slightly off the ground, make sure your number does not come up as unlisted, but rather as the company that the customer knows they have done business with. Next, make sure the survey is as brief as possible. Lastly, you may have to incentivize the caller to stay on the line - make the potential reward for completion and time required clear at the top of your call.
SMS, aka text, surveys, have little in common besides the fact that they come through the same device. They are typically brief, blunt, and draw high response rates, particularly with passionate customers.
The Statista study found that, "The use of a smartphone by age group was as follows: 18-29 years old 94%, 30-49 years old 89%, 50-60 years old 73%, and 49% for those 65 years or older."
That's still very high, but the older the person, the less likely they are to respond to an unsolicited text, even if it is from a clearly identifiable business that they know. This in mind, the only other major downside to SMS campaigns is that they often are formatted to receive short, quantified answers (which helps boost their response rate). Because of this, if the customer does respond, try following up with a link to a website where they can write out more of their opinions (an incentive wouldn't hurt here either).
Focus groups share all the advantages of face-to-face interviews and then some.
Implementing a focus group survey takes into account the need for statistical diversity when it comes to demographics. As you can select the members of the focus group by their customer cohort (age, nationality, wage, etc), you will be able to build a diverse group that can nullify the self-selection present in other survey modalities.
Your selected group, under the supervision of a moderator, can then discuss your key questions. The honesty quotient is often upped here as participants are wont to defend their opinions, debating them relative to those of other participants.
Focus groups can now fully be done online, revolutionizing the practice.
They, however, remain an expensive option, comparatively. Participants have to be compensated, a monitor paid, and data scientists employed to sort the data collected.
In our increasingly digital world, people do actually go out and do things still. So, best to be prepared to help and/or survey them when they do. If your business has brick and mortar locations, implementing kiosks where customers can be surveyed in-store can be convenient.
Customers are more likely to use a kiosk rather than dictate their opinion of their visit to an employee who served them, and for obvious reasons, are more likely to be more honest at an anonymous kiosk.
Kiosk data can then be amassed from a variety of locations, and analyzed for effective practices and satisfaction (or lack thereof) outliers.
Before any of this fancy tech came about, there were 'How Was Your Visit' papers at stores, that could be filled out by clipboard, and slipped in a slot.
Now, not all paper surveys have to be this way, as this draws a large amount of emotional (and usually polarized) customers to respond.
Paper surveys can be mailed, which adds a personal touch. Be sure to make sure any incentives of responding are clear, as the recipient will have to mail the survey back. Also, make sure the time frame for the survey is clear. Shorter time frames are tough because of postage time, and inadvisable because one of the advantages of paper surveys is that they give the recipients time to fill them out at their leisure.
Lastly, paper surveys offer accessibility to remote areas. Although access is increasing, the fact remains that not everyone has access to the internet. If you have a significant customer base without access, or if your customer base skews towards the elderly who might not be inclined to fill out online surveys (or necessarily understand how), paper is the way to go.
With all those methods to choose from, making a decision can be tough. Fortunately, you don't have to only choose one. Try a couple that seem like they might work the best for you, then dial in on the type that garners the most (and most useful) responses.
While doing so, here are some factors to consider when choosing a survey type:
This draws us back to the 'big question' that your team decided they wanted the answer to before beginning to shape their survey campaign. Your big question should already be steering you towards the kind of customers you should be targeting with your survey --- these are your 'target customers'.
If who these customers are is unclear, it might be time to revisit your initial question. If that doesn't help, try running the survey anyways and see who responds. If some responses are not what you are looking for, discard them, isolate those that are, see who wrote the helpful ones, and proceed from there.
As we touched on in the 'Focus Group' section above, having a proper sample size can prevent statistical error. Some methods, such as online surveying and text surveying, draw naturally higher response rates, thus granting them statistical diversity and thus validity.
For others, such as face-to-face interviewing and focus groups, making sure you have a big enough sample size to be 'statistically significant', meaning that your results will be legitimate, is crucial
According to survey data researchers, in general, "a minimum population sample of 200 is the industry standard for reliable data about any population segment".
Samples of 200+ provide an error range of +/- 7%, thus providing a 95% confidence rate.
Your customer experience team, or whoever is designing your survey, should make both your distribution timeline and your benchmarking roadmap a priority from the start.
A distribution timeline is the amount of time you plan on sending the survey out for. This is all about getting the amount of responses you need, without letting the survey drag on so long that variables change and thus compromise your results. Making sure you design a survey that draws a high response rate ensures that you can meet your goals and perform a survey that meets your timeline goals.
Similarly, it is important to know from the outset whether your survey will be an on-off, or be examined as a benchmark in contrast to future surveys. As expanded upon in the sections above, the data that you get back varies in form by type of survey. Making sure you maintain a consistent data type across any series of surveys is critical for your team to continue to derive insights.
Your choice of survey type will undoubtedly be swayed somewhat by your budget. The survey types above vary in regards to material cost, labor cost and some may even require incentives. Check out the survey summaries in the section above to learn what the case is for each type and decide which is right for you.
Check both of these alongside your picks and you are well on your way to pressing send on that campaign.
Once your types are chosen, your surveys sent, you can sit back --- but only for a minute. Your next step will come sooner than you think.
Next, you'll need to analyze your survey responses.
Don't panic, feedback analysis can be easy when you have the right tools in place.
With an all-in-one text analysis and data visualization to take in, sort, and classify all your survey data as it comes in, you can get the most out of both your quantitative and qualitative data.
To find out how MonkeyLearn can help you analyze your survey data once you've collected it, schedule a free demo with one of our data analysis specialists.
April 20th, 2022