How to get customer Survey results you can count on and make sure you are not trapped into survey response bias.
Heidi is a writer and content creator based in New York City. When she isn’t covering tech, business, and leadership topics, you can usually find her at a new coffee shop or hanging out with her bearded dragon. You can view more of Heidi’s work here.
Great customer surveys mimic the scientific method of constructing surveys using open-ended questions and other proven formats. The best survey questions are brief, relevant, easy to understand, objective, and as specific as possible.
Bad customer surveys often start with a preferred conclusion and work backward. Approaching your customer surveys from this viewpoint influences the wording and design of your survey questions.
Remember your primary goal—the truth. Accurate, insightful survey responses depend on understanding response biases and presenting questions that don’t influence your customers’ feedback.
Watch Your Wording
How you ask questions can be just as important as the question itself. The wording of a question can steer your customers’ towards answers that may not give you accurate feedback. Because of acquiescence and desirability bias, many of your customers will choose positive survey answers more often. An example of this would be a multiple-choice question with three positive answers and only one negative response.
For questions designed to gauge customers’ satisfaction with a particular product or service, it’s important to offer a sufficient range of responses. If you want accurate data, you want the good and the bad. Instead of a range of answers with only positive responses, for example, “extremely satisfied, very satisfied and satisfied,” your available responses should also include “dissatisfied and very dissatisfied.”
Who’s Answering Your Customer Surveys?
According to Health Services Research, customers who are more satisfied tend to be the ones who respond to surveys. While common beliefs might imply that customers who are dissatisfied would be the most inclined to respond, in the customer survey arena it can be the opposite. The results of a customer survey, even if accurate, may be misleading because of a biased survey pool.
Are Your Customers Qualified to Answer Your Survey Questions?
While that may seem like an odd question, there are too many customer surveys that include unfamiliar content. It’s natural to want to get the most bang for your survey buck, but your questions must be specific, easy to understand, and easy to answer. When you use industry-specific jargon, acronyms, or even “trendy” catchwords, you’re assuming your customers share your level of understanding. When customers must interpret what you’re asking, you’re asking for too much!
When you send your customer surveys can also affect your customers’ “qualifications” for providing accurate responses. Depending on your product or service, send a survey once you feel your customer has had enough time to make an informed opinion. One solution would be to offer your customers answers like “I don’t know” or “I’m unsure” and similar options.
If you send a survey too soon, you risk alienating a customer by seeming pushy. If you wait too long, your customer may not remember key elements of their experience. Not only will you need to gauge the time between purchase and survey, but you also need to understand the best days and times to send your customer surveys.
Take a look at the visual guide from Chattermill below to learn more about preventing survey response bias.