Customer Experience Surveys: A Beginners Guide [Updated 2022]

What is a Customer Experience Survey? Discover how customer feedback surveys can improve your business; learn which questions to ask – and what customer experience (CX) surveys get the best results.

Why are customer experience surveys so important?

Research has shown that 80% of consumers value their experience with a brand as much as the products and services it provides. A further 66% of consumers expect their brands to understand their unique needs, yet 66% feel they’re treated like just another number.

Customer experience has a tangible effect on the bottom line: 73% of consumers state that customer experience is important to their buying decisions. There’s no better way of collecting feedback than straight from the source; 57% of marketing and customer experience professionals agree that the best way to improve customer experience is through feedback.

chart showing the most effective tactics for improving customer experience
Source: www.smartinsights.com

To improve customer satisfaction and loyalty, you need to be systematic in collecting feedback. Customer experience surveys provide valuable information you can use to analyse your performance, collaborate with your team, and highlight areas for improvement.

What does a customer experience survey tell you?

Customer experience is the sum total of what your customer thinks and feels about your brand. They build this experience through direct contact with your brand and indirectly through hearsay and reputation.

A customer experience survey elicits thoughts and feelings about your brand from your customers without suggestion or interference. Customer experience surveys collect feedback at specific touchpoints in the customer journey, such as when they arrive at your venue, leave your website, or complete a purchase.

In short, the aim of a customer experience survey is to collect valuable data that helps improve, well, the customer experience.

How to run a CX survey: A step-by-step guide

As with any valuable business process, make sure to follow customer experience survey best practices when designing your feedback surveys.

1. Understand your customer

Before you begin designing your survey it’s helpful to build a picture of your customers and how they interact with your brand.

A customer journey map highlights all the points at which your customer comes into contact with your brand. This includes your physical locations such as your stores, interactions with your staff such as at call centres or your online properties.. A customer journey map will help you:

  • Map your goals
  • Highlight your customers’ goals
  • Identify your customers’ pain points
  • Target specific buyer personas
  • Identify bottlenecks
  • Become more customer focused

Start with a customer journey template if you’re stuck for ideas.

2. Decide what you want to survey

There’s only so much information you can collect in one survey without overwhelming your customers.

Pick one touchpoint in the customer journey to help you focus your survey questions. These are typically:

  • Before a visit or purchase: How did your customers become aware of your brand, product or offer? Was it through social media, ads, referrals, blogs, or events? How easy was it to follow up?
  • During a visit or purchase:  Is all the information (brochures, reviews etc..) relevant and readily available? Are sales reps helpful at the point of sale?
  • After a visit or purchase: Is there some way to provide feedback? Are customers being enrolled in the newsletter? Are all the opportunities for upselling being explored?

3. Pick the right customer experience survey type

There are several customer experience survey types you can use to collect the information you need. Each will have its best use case scenarios. These include:

Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) surveys gauge the overall level of customer satisfaction with your product or service. They determine how well you’re meeting their expectations. They include questions like “How happy were you with…?” or “How would you rate…?”. There are only two possible answers – such as Yes/No or Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down.

You calculate your CSAT score by dividing the number of satisfied respondents with the total number of  respondents and multiplying by 100:

(#) positive responses / (#) total responses X 100 = (%) CSAT

How to calculate CSAT score

CSAT scores typically help you understand the level of satisfaction on a per transaction basis but may skew results if only a few people respond.

Read more: 24 powerful customer satisfaction survey questions (+ templates)

Customer Effort Score (CES) surveys measure how much effort is required for a customer to engage with your product or service, such as when speaking with customer support to resolve an issue.

You’d send this right after a ticket is closed. You could provide statements such as “The support rep understood my issue” which respondents could answer on a 1 to 5 agreement scale. You’d then calculate your CES score as an average between 1 to 5 from all the answers collected.

The less friction your customers experience in their interactions with your brand, the more likely they’ll stay and recommend you to their network.

Net Promoter Score (NPS) surveys are the most widely used types of customer experience survey. They ask how likely your customers are to recommend your products or services on a 1 to 10 scale. You can also ask qualitative questions to qualify their answers further.

NPS surveys can be used to measure customer experience at specific time intervals (“Relational NPS”) or following specific customer experiences (“Transactional NPS”).

You can then calculate your Net Promoter Score between -100 and +100. The NPS score is an essential measure of customer loyalty and brand advocacy.

4. Ensure your customer experience survey is user-friendly

It’d be a shame if your survey destroyed the very customer experience you were trying to improve. Your customers shouldn’t leave your surveys with a less than stellar customer experience!

A well-designed survey is not simply one that elicits the desired information. It must itself avoid becoming an unfortunate aspect of the customer experience.

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Best practices for CX surveys

Follow these guidelines to avoid running into common survey mistakes:

  • Keep your survey short. Only ask for the information you need. Limit yourself to 10-15 questions where possible
  • Use language familiar to your customers. Write the way they speak. Keep the language simple
  • Stick to one topic per question. Don’t pack several questions into one
  • Avoid expressing opinions or bias in your questions. Do not lead your respondents one way or the other
  • Minimise distractions using clear fonts, keeping images and branding to a minimum
  • Test your customer experience survey before sending it out, preferably with someone who had no part in writing it

How to send a customer experience survey

1. Choose the best timing

Once you’ve built the perfect customer experience survey it’s time to send it to your customers so you can start collecting that valuable feedback. Timing is important when sending your surveys and depends on the type of feedback you’re collecting and your business goals:

  • If you’re collecting customer satisfaction feedback after a customer support issue, for example, send your surveys within 30 minutes of the interaction while it’s still fresh in your customer’s mind.
  • An NPS survey, on the other hand, requires more time because your customer needs time to use your product or service.
  • A periodic customer satisfaction survey collects feedback yearly.
  • Continuous customer satisfaction tracking (daily, monthly, quarterly) provides post-purchase feedback over the lifecycle of your customer.

2. Choose the best distribution channels

In the spirit of improving the customer experience, send your surveys using the channels your customers are most comfortable with. Thankfully, there’s a wide range of channels available to your customers online and offline. These include:

  • Email
  • SMS
  • Chatbots
  • Messaging apps
  • Mobile apps
  • Push notifications
  • Snail mail
  • In-store

How to analyse customer experience survey data

Once you’ve collected all the feedback, it’s time to analyse and share the results.

First, you’ll need to clean the data. Inaccurate customer experience survey data can be caused by deliberate sabotage, not paying attention or other reasons.

Watch out for anomalies for signs indicating survey data is incomplete or inaccurate.

These include:

  • Faster than normal submissions where the respondent has evidently not taken the time to read the questions properly
  • Straight-lining where the respondent has simply selected the first answer to every question
  • Incomplete or nonsense text in open-ended answers
  • Answers that seem unlikely or deviate wildly from other respondents – e.g. How many hours do you work per week? 161 hours.
  • Contradictions where answers don’t correlate – e.g. A vegan who’s favourite dish is pork dumplings.
  • Duplicate submissions where the respondent has inadvertently submitted the survey twice
  • Incomplete surveys

Once you’ve gone through this process, you now have valuable data to analyse, share and act upon:

Perform a high-level analysis of the data: Review closed-ended responses (answers from a predefined set of choices). Intuitive dashboards don’t just show you pretty graphs; they provide an instant analysis of the data underlying your customer feedback to surface trends and insights. This is a quick and convenient way to benchmark your results against previous performance or industry peers.

Perform a deep-dive into the data: This is the time to filter your data and implement rules to get to the information you need. Again, this is an opportunity to benchmark against past performance.

Review open-ended feedback: This is your chance to get some feedback in your customers’ own words. Sentiment analysis tools and word clouds can help you track your performance.

How to use customer feedback surveys to grow your business

Successful customer experience surveys rely on knowing how, when and why to send customer experience surveys.

There are several types of surveys, each serving its own purpose:

Key takeaways

By using the right survey at the right time, you can gain a deeper understanding of your visitors, your customers, and even those who chose not to purchase. With all this feedback and data at your fingertips you will find it easy to make better business decisions – increasing conversion and retention rates, growing revenue, and protecting your brand and reputation.

Net Promoter, Net Promoter System, Net Promoter Score, and NPS are registered trademarks of Bain & Company, Inc., Fred Reichheld and Satmetrix Systems, Inc.

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