How to conduct the perfect survey

Illustration by Ana Duje.

You’ve got access to Google analytics, information about customer buying habits and purchasing orders, but one of the most effective ways to understand and improve customer experience (CX) is by conducting a survey. 

Creating a survey is more than putting together a series of questions. It’s a delicate balance of understanding your business, knowing what you want out of the survey, and then crafting the right questions to give you actionable insights about your customers. 

Crafting the right survey questions gives you actionable insights about your customers.

It’s a more complicated process than people realize, says Rick Lempera, a partner at Burak Jacobson Research Partners, Inc. “I would agree that people generally don’t really understand market research. They don’t understand what the purpose of it is or what kind of value it can play in guiding the company’s strategy. And so there’s a lot of misconceptions around what is and what is not market research.”

What is a survey?

A survey, according to the University of Kansas, “is a way of collecting information that you hope represents the views of the whole community or group in which you are interested.” There are three main types of surveys: a census, which asks everyone in a designated population questions. This will give you the most accurate information but can be tedious and time-consuming to administer. The second is a sample survey, which samples a selection of the selected group. If the survey is done well, it should give the same results as surveying the entire group. The third is a case study which collects information from a part of a group or community, without trying to choose them for overall representation of the larger population.

Why surveys are key to a company’s growth

Done right, a survey can tell a company a lot about the motivations, actions, behaviours, client satisfaction and needs of its customers, according to Lempera. It also gives you the opportunity to be proactive instead of reactive. “There are companies that start off with thinking, ‘What can we design? Okay, now that we’ve designed this, how can we try to fit it into what a consumer needs and how can we try to market and sell it to people?’” he says. Instead, when informed with proper consumer insights, companies can design products around those needs rather than designing products that they hope they’ll find a need that they can sell against.

Surveys used to be time consuming and tedious to administer but with technology that allows for digital surveys, mobile access, low cost platforms, greater reach across different platforms, flexibility to create and administer, and the use of artificial intelligence to collate the results, a survey can be dispersed and the data analyzed in minutes versus weeks or months. 

A robust, AI-powered customer feedback analysis platform can read sentiment, uncover actionable insights and dive deep into demographics and segmentation.

A robust, AI-powered customer feedback analysis platform can read sentiment, uncover actionable insights and dive deep into demographics and segmentation. It can also provide accurate insights and provide key correlations into sentiments expressed by survey participants. 

When should you conduct a survey?

While a company can create a survey about anything, there are some key stages in a company’s strategy which can be supported by properly conducted market research. According to the Government of Canada, these stages include: 

Determining the sales potential of your products and services, which would include:

  • Identifying the demographic characteristics of your customers
  • Selecting the appropriate business location
  • Setting the price for your products and services

Attracting customers to your business:

  • Establishing your company image
  • Setting prices for your products and services
  • Ensuring advertising is on target

Selling to customers and earning repeat business.

How to create a survey 

A survey—which fosters interaction between a customer and the company—is still one of the best ways to know exactly what customers are thinking.

Once you’ve decided a survey is the best way to conduct market research, how do you create one that will provide useable data? Here’s what the University of Kansas suggests: 

  • Decide on the purpose of the survey, including which questions you want answered.
  • Choose the demographic that can best answer your questions.
  • Choose your sample. This one depends on the size of your demographic. Sites like the Survey System can help you create sample sizes including margins of error.
  • Decide on the type of survey: will it be oral (a phone call, people in a room, etc.), mailed-in, or digital?  
  • Choose the type of questions: Yes/No, open-ended or multiple choice?
  • Determine how you will distribute and collect surveys.
  • Post-survey, analysis and disseminate survey results to key stakeholders. 

Data analysis is one of the best tools a company has when planning their strategy and business plans. While most of this data can be gathered in indirect ways—a survey, which fosters interaction between a customer and the company—is still one of the best ways to know exactly what customers are thinking. Leveraging customer feedback by incorporating survey feedback is a smart, strategic tool to track, measure and improve customer experience, and offers companies the opportunity to capture a bigger market share and increase sales and revenue.

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