How to Conduct a Customer Satisfaction Survey

woman fills out survey in a mall
••• Peathegee Inc / Getty Images

We all know that customer satisfaction is essential to the survival of our businesses, but how can we find out whether our customers are satisfied? The best way is simply to ask them.

What you ask your customers is important when you conduct a customer satisfaction survey. How, when and how often you ask the questions is also important. But what you do with their answers is the most critical component of conducting a customer satisfaction survey.

How to Ask Whether Customers Are Satisfied

You have several options for asking your customers whether they're satisfied with your company, your products and the service they've received. You can do it face-to-face as they're about to leave your store or office. You can call them on the phone after their visits ​if you have their phone numbers and permission. You can also email or snail-mail a questionnaire or survey, but if you use email, take care not to violate spam laws. You might email an invitation to take a survey instead. Mail-in survey results tend to be predictable.

When to Conduct a Customer Satisfaction Survey

The best time to conduct a satisfaction survey is when the experience is fresh in your customer's minds. A customer's response may be less accurate if you wait. It is easy for any customer to forget some details over time, or respond regarding a later event.

What to Ask in a Customer Satisfaction Survey

There's a school of thought that says you only have to ask a single question in a customer satisfaction survey: "Will you buy from me again?" Although it can be tempting to reduce your customer satisfaction survey to this supposed "essence," you'll miss a lot of valuable information and can easily be misled. It's too easy for a customer to simply answer "Yes." Instead, ask questions to get closer to the expected behavior and to collect information about what to change and what to keep doing.

By all means, ask the basic customer satisfaction questions:

  • How satisfied are you with the purchase you made of a product or service?
  • How satisfied are you with the service you received?
  • How satisfied are you with our company overall?

And ask customer loyalty questions, too:

  • How likely are you to buy from us again?
  • How likely are you to recommend our product/service to others?
  • How likely are you to recommend our company to others?

Don't neglect to ask what the customer liked or didn't like about the product, your service or your company.

How Often Should You Conduct a Customer Satisfaction Survey?

The best answer is "often enough to get the most information, but not so often as to irritate the customer." In reality, the frequency with which you conduct customer satisfaction surveys depends on the frequency with which you interact with your customers. For instance, in a state that renews drivers licenses for five-year periods, it would be silly a survey to be conducted annually. Conversely, it can be easy to miss important changes that may be driven by seasonal or weather-related events if you only survey customers of a rapid transit system once a year.

What to Do With the Answers

The most important aspect of the customer satisfaction survey is what you do with their answers.

It is important to compile the answers from different customers, keeping an eye out for trends, differences by region or product. However, the most important thing is to act on the information you get from your customers through the survey. Take the time to fix the things the customers have complained about and to investigate their suggestions. That way, you will improve your company and product in the areas that they mean the most to your customers, all while avoiding changing the things that they like.

It's also important to let them know that their answers were appreciated and that they're being acted upon. That feedback can be individual responses to the customers if this is appropriate, or it can simply be fixing the things they've told you need to be fixed.