Customer experience

Customer surveys: Writing a customer satisfaction survey

- July 24, 2007 3 MIN READ

Measuring customer satisfaction is a great way to focus your business development on the areas that will really make a difference to your customers. So how do you go about writing a customer satisfaction survey?

Here are some established customer satisfaction survey methods used by professional surveyors.

Number based scales

Numerical scales are useful in a customer satisfaction survey because you can work out averages and use these to track whether customer satisfaction is going up or down over time. Make sure you define the end points of the scale: lowest = very dissatisfied, highest = very satisfied. People generally think in low to high ways, so it is better to do scales from low to high.

Ten point scale

A scale out of 10 is useful when you want your customers to think in terms of percentages, because they can easily convert the number. Eg: 5/10 = 50%.

This can also be helpful when you are comparing two ways of asking about an aspect of your business, such as importance and satisfaction. Eg: if importance is 8/10 and satisfaction is 6/10, you can easily tell the percentage difference is 2/10 = 20%.

However, there are some disadvantages to using such a long scale, discussed next.

Seven point scale

Long scales can look a bit overwhelming for customer satisfaction survey participants, resulting in a limited range of responses. Because of this, they can be misleading.

For example, 7.5 out of 10 might sound like a good result, but most people will only range between 6 and 9 unless they feel very strongly about the issue. This is unlikely in a customer feedback survey. Taking this into account, a rating of 6 actually indicates they are somewhat dissatisfied, 9 is satisfied, and the mid point of 7.5 is only neutral. Not so good.

So if you don’t need the percentage information provided by a 10 point scale, then a scale from 1 to 7 could be a better choice. The mid point of 4 is clearly visible and you get more differentiation than a 5 point scale, which can be too short to be useful.

Want more articles like this? Check out the using surveys section.

Word based scales

An alternative to numerical scales is to provide verbal response options. Rather than looking at the average, you compare the percentage of responses in each category. For example:

very dissatisfied | dissatisfied | neutral | satisfied | very satisfied

You can remove the neutral option from your customer surveys if you want to prevent your participants from sitting on the fence. Just make sure the scale is balanced. I covered the reasons for this in my last article on customer feedback surveys.

If you are looking to improve customer satisfaction over time, focus on the top and bottom categories – aim to increase the percentage of “very satisfied” responses and decrease the percentage of “very dissatisfied” responses.

An alternative to rating scales

Maybe you had problems with rating scales because everyone rated your services so similarly that you couldn’t differentiate between them. Here are two alternatives.

Best and worst selection

One alternative is to list the range of services or other business aspects and ask your customers to choose their top three and bottom three, or just the best and worst if it is a short list. This will establish both the areas your customers approve of and those they feel you need to work on improving.

Ranking from highest to lowest

Another option is to ask participants to rank the aspects from highest to lowest satisfaction. This approach should not be used with very long lists as it can get too confusing.

A final word of advice: be consistent!

Regardless of the customer satisfaction measure you choose when writing customer surveys, the most important thing is to be consistent so you can track how customer satisfaction changes over time.

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  • Andrew Caska

    Caska IP Patent Attorneys

    'Flying Solo opened up so many doors for us - I honestly don't know where I'd be without it"