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Dos and Don’ts for Creating Great Surveys

Getting customer feedback is imperative for staying on top of what you’re doing right and what you’re doing wrong. When you ask your customers to complete a survey you are asking them to believe enough in you to invest their most valuable resource – their time.

1. What do you need to know?
Don’t use a survey to go fishing. Decide what information you truly need and then keep the questions targeted to that area. As you develop your survey don’t forget to make sure it actually makes sense – that one question leads to the next. In other words, don’t ask them why they don’t like white corn until you’ve first asked their feelings about white corn.

2. Tell them how long it will take – really
If you’ve ever answered the phone and reluctantly agreed to answer a “few short questions,” only to find yourself still on the phone 15 minutes later and hating the company more by the minute, you know how important it is to give accurate time estimates up front. It might feel tempting to give a low ball time estimate but that can end up doing more harm than good.

3. Make is simple1
No one likes to feel stupid, so don’t clutter your survey with jargon and hard to understand phrases. If you can, have someone not in your industry read the questions and give you feedback.

4. Put your most crucial information first
Get what you truly need at the beginning of the survey, and then toward the end ask for some of that demographic information.

5. Make is usable
The purpose of a survey is usually to get usable information. This means you need to design the questions so that the answers can be utilized in a productive manner. If you’re asking them to rate something on a scale from 1 to 5, with 5 being very satisfactory, make sure you always use 5 as very satisfactory so you can easily compare results.

6. Provide clear instructions
No matter how simple your survey, include clear instructions for completing the survey.

7. Test the survey
Recruit some of your fellow workers or a small sample of people to test the survey to get any kinks out.

8. Offer rewards
If you can, offer some incentive as a reward for time spent answering your survey.

9. Timing3
Timing as they say, is everything. Try and avoid the pitfall of conducting that, “Hey, how are we doing?” yearly survey. A better time to ask customer’s for their input is shortly after they’ve interacted with the company3 when things are fresh and so you can respond to issues in a timely manner.

10. Delivery method
Surveys can be given via a number of methods – for instance by direct mail, telephone, in person, or online. There are advantages and disadvantages to each. If you’d like to read a summarized breakdown of pros and cons for each method check out What Are the Pros and Cons of Data Collection Methods.

And when all is said and done, don’t forget to share the information you receive from your surveys with team and company members.


  1. Twelve Tips for Conducting Effective Surveys
  2. Two Survey Questionnaire Flaws to Avoid: Scary Matrix Questions and Unbalanced Scales
  3. Do Your Customer Surveys Measure Up?
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