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How to design a customer experience survey

8 min read
When designing a customer experience (CX) survey, your goal is to create happier customers, willing respondents, and ultimately a more successful business. Here’s the ultimate guide to setting up a great CX survey.


What is a customer experience survey?

A customer experience survey is a questionnaire used to explore the customer experience (CX) by asking customers how they feel. It’s typically used by a business to find out how well they are performing, and where they need to improve to achieve or maintain great CX.

Why use customer experience surveys?

Customer experience surveys help you to get an overall measurement of your current CX standards. Experiences are personal and every customer will have different feedback, so it’s important to ask as many people as possible so that you have a representative sample of your customers. From there, you’ll be able to see overall trends like where your CX is strongest and where, and how, you can improve it.

Your customer experience survey can also help you find out what kind of expectations your customers have of you and whether these are being met.

How to choose the right CX survey questions

Your customer experience survey questions should give you enough detail to gather insights you can act on, but not be so exhaustive that respondents are over-taxed and end up zoning out – or even dropping out – of your survey.

Remember, your questionnaire has two functions.

  1. It helps you discover how customers think and feel about your brand
  2. It allows you to measure your progress over time by quantifying your performance in measurable units.

With that in mind, aim to include a mix of metrics-based questions with more exploratory items that give your customers room to express themselves.

These might include:

  • NPS (Net Promoter Score) to measure customer loyalty and brand advocacy
  • CSAT (Customer Satisfaction Score) to measure how well you are meeting customer expectations
  • CES (Customer Effort Score) to find out whether doing business with you is smooth and easy
  • Likert scale questions that allow customers to express degrees of agreement or disagreement with statements
  • Multiple choice questions that allow respondents to select one or more answers from a list
  • Open text fields. These provide insights that you may not have been looking for with closed questions, and with tools such as text analytics software, it’s now easier than ever to analyze them and pull out insights, and actions, from thousands of open-text responses.

Understand the key drivers at every touchpoint

Use customer journey mapping to identify every touchpoint so that you’re clear on what you’re measuring and why. By locating customer experience data within your customer journeys, you’ll start to uncover the key drivers of your customer experience and identify how they affect key business metrics like revenue, customer lifetime value (CLV), or churn.

Follow survey best practices

As with any kind of survey, make sure you follow best practices to make your research as successful as possible. We recommend that you:

Make your survey short

Taking surveys is effortful for respondents, so keep your questionnaire as short and to-the-point as possible. Limit yourself to 10-15 questions maximum.

Tailor to your target population

Adapt the language, examples, and graphics to best suit the people you want to reach.

Use plain language

Keep the language clear and direct. Write in user language, thinking about the people in your respondent pool and their level of education and understanding.

Stick to one topic per question

Never try to pack more than one subject or opinion into a single question – even if you’re feeling the constraints of survey length. Doing this will only muddle your data.

Avoid bias

It’s all too easy to introduce bias when writing survey questionnaires. Check your survey carefully to make sure there are no leading questions or positive/negative wording that could influence the respondent.

Keep distractions to a minimum

Use simple, clear fonts and minimal branding. Don’t use images or illustrations unless they are a meaningful part of a question.

Consider incentives

Offering a small incentive, such as entry into a draw, can improve survey response rates and completion rates.

Test thoroughly before sending it out

And once you’ve tested, test again.

Decide when to send it

Timeframes for survey research can vary depending on your business goals, resources, and audience makeup. Some customer satisfaction surveys only make sense at a certain point in time, while others are more general and can be sent out periodically. For example:

  • Post-purchase evaluation: Feedback from an individual customer at the time a product or service is delivered, or shortly afterward. Again, this will depend on the product. For example, if the recipient bought a pair of trainers then you might send the survey earlier than if the recipient bought a new car.
  • Periodic satisfaction surveys: Feedback from targeted groups of customers to provide periodic snapshots of customer experiences. An annual customer survey is an example of periodic satisfaction surveys.
  • Continuous satisfaction tracking: Regular surveys (daily, monthly, or quarterly) that provide continuous satisfaction feedback on post-purchase evaluations over the entire customer lifecycle. More and more channels are being used for this too, as businesses try to meet the customer where they are in real-time.

Remember, if you’re sending periodic or continuous surveys, the goal is to collect like-for-like data, so make sure your questionnaire is consistent and resist the urge to make any tweaks or changes unless they’re absolutely necessary. Even changing question order can affect your results.

Choose your distribution channels

Where do you want your survey to appear? These days, it’s possible to collect feedback from customers at almost any point in their journey, using a wide range of channels (with more appearing all the time). The range of possible channels might include:

  • Social media
  • Email
  • Website intercept
  • Mobile app
  • SMS
  • Chatbot integration
  • Mail
  • In-person
  • In-store tablet or touchscreen
  • In-store manual push-button terminal
  • Push notification

Essentially, you can easily survey your customers wherever they happen to be.

When you use a survey engine with omnichannel integration, you can distribute your survey almost anywhere, using secure unique links to help track responses back to the individuals you want to reach and avoid unwanted participation.

Wherever and whenever respondents take your survey, the results should always be accessible via a centralized platform where you can pool your responses and carry out analysis of your data.

Analyze your results

The final step in the journey is to analyze your survey results and turn your findings into positive action.

Before you do this, it’s important to clean your survey data. This will help you to remove any responses from ‘satisficers’ – respondents who avoid engaging meaningfully with a survey and can potentially skew your data. They may respond randomly, continually select ‘don’t know,’ or agree with everything.

Then you’re ready to process your data and uncover the insights that will help you improve your CX.

Survey data processing methods range in complexity and depth, from classic methods like crosstab analysis and graphical representation to statistical tests and predictive analytics. To learn more about what’s possible, read our guide on how to analyze survey data

Download your free CX survey template

Developing a CX survey questionnaire isn’t as simple as it might first appear. That’s why we’ve taken some of the hard work out of creating a survey and provided free, downloadable customer experience survey templates you can use with your free Qualtrics account.

Get started building surveys today