How to Build Effective Customer Feedback Surveys

July 10, 2020
Contributor: Andrew Conrad

Effective customer feedback surveys feature many moving parts. Survey question development and distribution need to be just right to accurately interpret survey data and obtain useful insights.

Discovering your customers’ pain points is incredibly important: Gartner research shows that 75% of organizations have proved that customer satisfaction leads to revenue growth through increased retention or lifetime value. But effective customer feedback surveys aren’t easy to create. First, teams need to come up with the right survey questions to ask. Then they need to solve the challenge of how to get the survey into customers’ hands and receive valuable feedback in return. Honest, legitimate feedback is not a given, according to a recent Pew Research Study, which found that 4% to 7% of online survey respondents give bogus responses.

Even when everything goes according to plan, if the timing of distribution and implementation is off, any information gathered won’t be beneficial to your company.

There is no one-size-fits-all timeline for the perfect customer feedback survey. The following guidelines should be adapted to your specific needs, starting with the time required to begin implementing feedback as the baseline. Budget two to four weeks for each phase.

Three months before: Identify survey goals and draft questions.

How to do it: Identify a specific problem to solve or question to answer through survey and feedback collection. Maybe teams need to understand why sales have declined, or customer retention is poor. Use survey feedback to gain a better understanding of overall customer loyalty and customer satisfaction. Determine a focus area to guide the survey, rather than taking a “throw everything at the wall and see what sticks” approach. That will keep the length of the survey down (ideally, five questions or less) and avoid survey abandonment.

Next, consult representatives from different teams in your organization to craft useful questions. When only one individual develops questions, he or she will inevitably have blind spots and you’ll lose potentially important perspectives.

Two months before: Distribute the feedback survey to customers.

How to do it: A great place to start is with the customer email distribution list, which should be easily accessible from a CRM system. Another option is to add a ‘Feedback’ button on your website, but that more passive approach tends to be better suited for collecting ongoing, general feedback.

Remember that customer surveys shouldn’t be a one-time thing. Teams need multiple datasets to identify patterns, trends and outliers. At the same time, don’t annoy your customers. Keep survey distribution to once per quarter, at most; twice per year is a good target. When the customer base is large enough, teams can survey various segments throughout the year to avoid respondent burnout and gain insights into more targeted customer experience.

One month before: Process feedback and responses.

How to do it: For numerical or scale questions (asking customers to rate something on a scale of 1-10, for example), break responses down into segments, such as positive, neutral or negative. Open-ended or Likert scale survey questions require a more nuanced approach: Look for patterns and trends in phrasing and sentiment that teams can act on. For example, if multiple customers complain about the same feature, look into how to improve that feature.

Take this time as an opportunity to intervene and solve urgent negative customer experiences. Escalate time-sensitive responses to customer service teams so that they can begin helping customers immediately rather than implement their feedback in the future.

Final phase: Implement the feedback.

How to do it: The timing for this phase is open-ended, because it could take a week or a year based on the size and complexity of your business and the nature of the changes to be implemented. The important thing is to get the feedback form into the hands of the appropriate response teams. For example, when customers overwhelmingly say that customer support is slow to respond, the marketing team won’t be able to do much to help.

As a business leader, use customer survey feedback as an opportunity to meet with appropriate team leads and improve overall customer experience, customer retention and product development. Just make sure to present the relevant information to them, rather than asking them to reinterpret all of the data on their own.

Learn more about how to analyze customer reviews to uncover buyer needs and software industry trends.

Andrew Conrad

Andrew is a Senior Content Writer for Gartner Digital Markets, where he writes about small business and technology with a focus on retail. He has also covered everything from accounting to church management to project management. Andrew and his wife, Emily, live in Austin with their rescue dog, Piper, who loves hiking on the Greenbelt Trail. Connect with Andrew on LinkedIn.

Get the Gartner Digital Markets Newsletter

We value your privacy. By submitting this form, you agree we may use your information in accordance with the terms of the Gartner Digital Markets Privacy Policy.