The Ultimate Guide to Customer Satisfaction Surveys for 2021

ultimate guide to customer surveys

Of all of the different types of market research projects an organization can pursue, a customer satisfaction (CSAT) survey is likely the most widely used.

Why? The process is simple, informative, and offers a high return on investment

At its core, customer satisfaction is the essence of market research. It involves formally reaching out to customers, asking for feedback, and taking action with the results.

When you say survey, it’s what everyone thinks about: customer feedback.

In this guide, we’ll cover everything from the benefits of measuring customer satisfaction to a step-by-step process for getting started and maximizing your ROI.

Start from the beginning, or click a title below to navigate to a specific section.

Are you looking for a market research company to execute a customer survey on behalf of your organization? We can help with that too. 

Email us at [email protected] or call us at (315) 303-2040 to get started.

Defining customer satisfaction

A customer satisfaction survey is one of the most basic types of market research studies a business can implement. 

The concept is simple, you as a business want to understand how you are performing by scaling your customers' satisfaction.

In order to achieve this goal, a survey is created - whether it be online, paper, or by mail - and sent to a list of customers. The results from a customer satisfaction survey are used to drive improvements and measure performance.

Getting started with a customer satisfaction survey

The first step for any market research is to define your objectives. 

Ask your team these 3 simple questions: 

  1. What do you want to learn from the customer satisfaction survey?
  2. What are your expectations of the customer satisfaction survey?
  3. How do you plan to use the customer satisfaction survey results?

Once you have answers to these, you'll have a more clearly defined vision and end-goal. 

By taking the time to determine your overall goals and objectives, you can work backward to set up a process and work plan to get you there. 

Make sure you define your objectives here fully. 

If you do not, your customer satisfaction might be set up to fail. Garbage in. Garbage out.

One more thing before taking the next steps...

Aside from your objectives, it can also be helpful to determine how frequently you’d like to survey your customers before jumping in.

It’s important to understand measuring customer satisfaction is not a one and done study. To truly evolve our business practices, we must continuously engage with our target audiences and seek their feedback.

Measure 📏

Take action 🏃‍♂️

Re-measure 📐

Take action 🏃‍♂️🏃‍♂️

And so on...

Your first CSAT survey typically acts as a baseline or benchmark study with subsequent follow-up waves. Depending on your type of business and the industry you serve, this may be every day, every week, every month, every quarter, or every year.

Let’s dive into the benefits of continuous measurement and tracking.

Your first CSAT survey typically acts as a  baseline or benchmark study with  subsequent follow-up waves.

Deciding how often to run a customer survey

No one will argue conducting a CSAT survey gives organizations an edge over their competitors. Right? 

However, I think you’ll agree that this edge is sharpened even more by conducting customer satisfaction surveys on a regular basis.

Don’t get me wrong, conducting customer satisfaction research in the first place is a critical step for all organizations that helps orient and drive the customer-centric mentality forward. 

But! In our competitive and ever-evolving world, truly understanding what drives customer happiness and pain points allows organizations to consistently adapt and mold themselves into a better company day by day.

This is a lot tougher to do when customer satisfaction surveys are conducted once every 12-months or 24-months. It's much easier to manage the customer experience (CX) by obtaining regular feedback.

In this section, we’ll discuss the benefits of obtaining regular customer feedback.

1. Better Monitor Performance 📈

So maybe you’ve conducted your first customer satisfaction research study and received in-depth data about what your customers think and feel about your brand. What's next?

Let’s say, for example, respondents were asked to rate their satisfaction with Example Company ABC on several different factors. 

'Ease of working with the company' scored neutral among customers, meaning most think the ease of working with the company is neither easy nor hard.

Here you were thinking working with your organization was easy, right? 🤦🤦🤦

By conducting customer satisfaction research on a regular basis, internal teams are able to create strategies and initiatives that address ease of doing business on the fly. 

Customer satisfaction survey data eliminates the guesswork. With the data, you know exactly why customers stated your organization was difficult to work with.

Customer satisfaction survey data  eliminates the guesswork. With the data, you  know exactly why customers stated your organization was difficult to work with.

Knowing what needs to be improved is powerful and gives organizations an ongoing competitive edge.

Having consistent customer data rolling in allows your team to measure and benchmark performance on a regular basis to see what tactics improved the score and which did not.

2. Evolving Customer Personas 😃😥🤩😨

One of the unique differentiators of a Drive Research customer satisfaction report is our ability to create customer personas which adds a face and personal touch to data.

What is a customer persona? You’ve come to the right place.

To put it simply, instead of looking at results in a traditional executive summary format or using (sometimes boring) charts and graphs, a customer persona brings your data to life.

Let's face it, not all of us are research nerds who enjoy looking at spreadsheets and mounds of data.

Here’s a quick example of a customer persona from our customer satisfaction surveys:

“When Alexis first sees the Example Company ABC logo, she immediately thinks of the good service and the customer service representative she works with, Garrett. Alexis has been working with Example Company ABC for nearly 5 years and likes to do business with the firm because it’s local and has a quick turn-around.

Her business relationship with Garrett is a critical factor in her satisfaction. In the past 5 years, Alexis has reached out to competitors for services she didn’t know were offered by Example Company ABC. Alexis prefers to communicate via email, but is also an avid user of LinkedIn.”

Once a customer persona is crafted based on key results, organizations can focus on making the customer experience better for "Alexis". While Alexis is not an actual customer, teams are able to tie strategies to something more tangible rather than a simple chart or an executive summary.

Some places like Amazon and CEO Jeff Bezos go as far as saving a seat at all meetings for their "Alexis".

Now, take this a step further to think about how you can tie these customer satisfaction survey results to recent marketing and advertising efforts

The ability to have up-to-date and regular data helps organizations identify how well a campaign is working, if customers are aware of it, whether or not they are talking to colleagues, friends, or family about it, etc.

This data becomes much more real-time and actionable than one major study completed every few years, right?

As your customer personas evolve and change, your customer satisfaction surveys need to keep up the pace. Surveying every year or 2 years is not frequent enough to keep up with changing behavior.

3. Change and Adapt, Change and Adapt, Repeat 🔁

The sooner you collect data, the better. Also, the faster you react to the data, the better.

Customer satisfaction reports may include an executive summary, which could include several different pieces of information like a persona, infographic, and question by question results.

In a fast-paced world, access to this consistent customer satisfaction data arms your team with an evidence-based and fact-based strategy on a regular basis.

For example, results could come back and say that instead of focusing on XYZ, customers would really love it if you could do ABC.

Creating strategies based on feedback from your customers makes complete sense. It's not rocket science. If you know what customers want, it's easier to keep customers happy which keeps customer retention high.

If you know what customers want,  it's easier to keep customers happy which  keeps customer retention high.

4. Stay Tuned In With Your Customers 👂👂

Let’s face it, things change. When they do, you need to know about it.

If you conduct an annual customer satisfaction study, and results come back mainly positive with a few areas of improvement and your teams are geared up for some enhancements, who’s to say the customer needs may change in 3 months or 6 months?

Or what if several customers begin to have new problems? Wouldn’t you prefer to know about these issues sooner than 12 months from now? 

My gut is telling me you’re nodding your head yes 😉😉

Regular customer satisfaction surveys open up a whole new channel to stay tuned in to the customer journey. In a digital age, the customer experience happens 24-7-365. You need a customer satisfaction program that produces frequent feedback.

Conducting a customer survey in-house vs. outsourced

After determining your objectives and how frequently the research will be conducted, the next step is to decide whether the research will be conducted in-house or outsourced to a third-party. 

This is a key step in your process.

We’ll cover the key advantages of both options in this section.

Benefits of DIY (Do It Yourself)

The most commonly mentioned benefit of in-house client satisfaction surveying is the perceived cost savings. 

I say perceived because if you have little experience with customer satisfaction surveys you'll likely take a lot more time than an expert. 

If you make any mistakes, it will also take a lot more time to fix and straighten out.

As we continue through this guide, our customer survey research firm will share a few insider tips to try and alleviate these concerns.

In short, the fact that you are not paying to outsource your customer survey may lower your allotted budget for research up-front - but what other priorities won't you be able to accomplish if you are spending all of your time on the market research project? 

Something to think about. 🤔🤔

Benefits of Outsourcing

Customer satisfaction is market research in its purest form. For this reason, it is in an organization's best interest to avoid collecting customer feedback in-house or through an online survey platform.

The value of partnering with a market research company goes beyond percentages and statistics. They can provide context, comparisons, and interpretations of the data for your organization to easily take action with the results. 

We outline five of these benefits below.

The value of partnering with a market  research company goes beyond  percentages and statistics.

1. Utilize the expertise of a third-party. 🧠

A CSAT survey comes in many forms. Perhaps it is a formal email inviting customers to complete an online feedback survey. 

Or, collecting customer feedback can be as simple as a comment card for consumers to fill out after they have finished their meal at a restaurant. Every customer survey is different because every organization is different.

With online survey platforms, you are left to create and field a survey on your own. There is not a trusted partner to help you with each step of the way.

Unfortunately, DIY market research often results in organizations making common mistakes that ruin the survey experience for customers, resulting in poor quality data and feedback.

A customer feedback survey company can help your team build and field a survey that is specific to your objectives, goals, and budget. 

Based on these factors, a third-party can recommend: 

  • What channel to use (online, phone, mail)
  • What customer survey questions to include
  • How long the survey should take customers to complete

A customer feedback survey company  can help your team build and  field a survey that is specific to  your objectives, goals, and budget.

2. Asking customers the right questions.❓❓

Regardless of the method for collecting customer feedback, a key component of any survey is what questions are included. 

If you’re not asking the right questions, or even not phrasing the questions in the right way, the results will likely not align with the objectives and goals you’ve set forth, to begin with.

A customer satisfaction survey company will consider your goals, industry, audience, and methodology when writing your customized survey. They know exactly what does and does not work because they have great experience in this realm.  

Survey writing is truly a science. 

By working with a customer satisfaction survey firm rather than executing the research in-house, you can rely on a partner who has a background in survey writing, design, and programming.

3. Honest feedback = high-quality data. 💎

Customer satisfaction plays an important role in your business. It is a leading indicator of measuring customer loyalty and retention

The feedback collected from customer satisfaction surveys allows organizations to make data-driven decisions regarding many business, operations, and marketing strategies.

However, relying on data to drive business decisions is only effective if the market research data is vetted and trusted. 

In regards to customer feedback surveys, it is important that respondents be completely and brutally honest when sharing their experiences of working with your organization.

By using a third-party, customers will be more up-front about their feedback. If you conduct the survey on your own, customers may not be willing to share the whole truth if they know you'll be reviewing the specifics.

Customer satisfaction is a leading  indicator of measuring customer  loyalty and retention.

Let’s take a look at two different scenarios. 

Scenario #1: Using a DIY customer satisfaction tool ❌

When conducting a customer satisfaction survey in-house or through an online survey platform, the survey is likely sent from a company email and branded with a company logo. In doing so, the feedback received from the survey is already tainted.

People have a hard time being honest or sharing negative commentary for many different reasons. For example, customers often try to be polite or not to over criticize a representative they’ve worked closely with.

Customers fear their name or personal information will be tied to criticism and will impact their future relationship moving forward.

While everyone loves hearing positive feedback, there is a lot an organization can learn and take away from receiving negative feedback in a customer survey.  

Scenario #2: Partnering with a third-party market research company ✅

When conducting a customer satisfaction survey with a market research company, all customer information remains confidential with the third-party firm. Typically there is messaging in both the email invitation and the actual customer survey that speaks to this benefit.

When Drive Research executes a customer satisfaction study (whether it be online, by phone, or by email) respondents never speak directly with the organization seeking feedback.

For example, if conducting an online customer survey, respondents will only first receive an email from the client with messaging such as:

“[Company Name] has partnered with Drive Research, an independent market research company in Upstate New York, to conduct an important survey.

Within the next week, you may be randomly selected by the market research company to participate in a short 5-minute survey to request feedback on your relationship with our organization.”

The customer survey email invitation is then sent by our enterprise online survey software to be completed. By sending a feedback survey through a third-party, customers are much more likely to provide their honest feedback because their information always remains confidential.

Their direct responses are never tied to their names or other identifiable information.

This also gives our clients peace of mind knowing the data collected from our customer research is accurate, high-quality, and reliable – especially when deciding how to improve their customer relationships.

4. Easily interpret customer feedback. 🗣️🗣️

Building and fielding custom surveys is just the beginning of a customer satisfaction company. You see, the real value in collecting customer feedback is interpreting the data in a way that makes sense and can easily be taken into action.

Online survey platforms like SurveyMonkey provide high-level results and leave you to make sense of the numbers. 

If you are looking for more of an in-depth analysis you are either asked to pay for a higher subscription monthly fee or download a third-party app. It doesn’t have to be this complicated.

Using a third-party helps with perspective and context, meaning the customer satisfaction company can share how your results compare to other organizations they have worked with. 

They will tell you if a 52% satisfaction rating is good or bad. ✅

They will offer recommendations and next steps for using this data to improve customer loyalty, protect profitability, and grow revenue. ✅

They will use industry preferred metrics such as Net Promoter Score (NPS), Customer Effort Score (CES), and other key performance indicators. ✅

Customer satisfaction surveys do not only benefit an organization for understanding the views of their current customers but taking this feedback and strategically using it to grow their book of business.

This starts with understanding what the data means and how it compares to others in your industry.

5. Benchmarking results. 🏁

Benchmarking is another key factor in using a third-party. Our customer satisfaction survey firm often talks through 4 common benchmarks with our clients all the time. 

These include comparing your CSAT scores to: 

  • Best-in-class companies (Amazon, Apple, JetBlue, etc.)
  • Industry peers (other companies in your industry across the country)
  • Key competitors (your local or regional competitors)
  • Your own company (comparing CSAT scores wave-over-wave)

A good customer satisfaction survey firm can help you structure these into your analysis.

Interested in learning more about benchmarks in market research? Watch this 60-second video.

Cost of a customer survey with a third-party

Right now you’re probably thinking, “Okay, so outsourcing my customer survey sounds great - but what is it going to cost me?” 💸💸

Customer surveys are one of the best, if not the most valuable type of market research study your organization can conduct. The return on investment (ROI) on a survey is extremely high, especially if you have access to a customer contact list.

With that being said, the cost of a customer survey is not always an apples-to-apples comparison if you compare one bid to another. This is because there are many variables and unknowns with market research.

If we had to give a rough estimate, our market research company would say the price of a customer survey is $3,000 to $10,000.

In order to get a clearer understanding of how much your specific customer survey will cost, it will help to provide the following information when requesting a quote.

Offering up some of this information on the front-end can help you obtain a more accurate estimate of your customer survey. 

If you are unsure about any of these factors, that’s okay too!

A great market research company will work with you as a consultant from Day 1 to help guide you down the right path and find a cost-effective, quality, and timely option for your customer survey. 

What Methodology Would You Like to Use? 📧☎️📫

This one you may need a recommendation or suggestion for. However, some organizations already have a methodology in mind. 

As we’ve discussed, this could mean an email survey to customers, a link on your order form or website, a mailed postcard survey, or a traditional phone survey.

Whatever option you choose or would like a recommendation for, the costs will vary. Online surveys are the most cost-effective and timely. But you will likely not get as much depth in responses as a phone survey. 

Each methodology has its own pros and cons. If you are interested in reading a comprehensive guide to market research methodologies, go here.

What is the Frequency of the Fieldwork? 📅

Another major factor that impacts costs is the frequency of the fieldwork.

If you want to run the survey once a year, once every 18 months, or once every 2 years, this will likely cost less than running a longitudinal survey. What I mean by longitudinal is conducting the survey regularly and repeatedly.

This might entail a customer survey conducted after every sale takes place (i.e. an email is sent after an order is placed online inviting the customer to a survey). 

Or this could mean our customer survey company sending a mail survey each month to credit union members who recently opened up a home equity loan.

How often you conduct the research and the setup costs involved with making it a one-and-done or ongoing project will impact your estimate.

Do You Have Access to a Customer Database? 🗂️

Regardless if you choose to run a customer email, phone, or mail survey - you need contacts!

While not having access to a customer database does not mean you cannot conduct market research, it does mean increased costs. 

If needed, a market research company can find your customers to take a survey through third-party panels and social media. This task will be an additional line item on a proposal, therefore it is helpful to share with the third-party up-front.

If needed, a market research company can find your customers to take a survey through third-party panels and social media.

How Many Questions Would You Like to Ask? 💭

Our customer survey firm is a big fan of short, concise, and engaging surveys. We always view our market research from the perspective of the respondent. 

Would we love to ask 80 questions and keep them online for 45 minutes to take a survey? Yes. Think about the amount of data you could collect from this design. However, it is not realistic.

We work with our clients to find the perfect number of questions for a customer survey. In many cases, this ranges between 15 and 20. This is a 3 to 5-minute survey for most which we consider an optimal length. 

It strikes the perfect balance of addressing key objectives but at the same time not overwhelming the participant or customer.

The other benefit of a shorter survey is it reduces the cost of the project: smaller setup costs, smaller programming costs, and fewer reporting fees because it is a shorter survey.

What Level of Reporting Do You Need? 📊

Lastly, if budget is a concern you do have some options for a customer survey report. The gold standard is a comprehensive report with recommendations. 

The way we see it as a customer survey firm, it is our job to really dig into the findings and provide you with insights, recommendations, and action items to employ. If you cut back on the report, you may not get the ROI you desire.

Still, you have options. A basic reporting option might include an export of the data file in Excel with some banners (charts and graphs with frequencies and percentages). 

When working with our customer survey firm, we provide our clients with a live dashboard free of charge. This gives our partners instant access to results as soon as a question is answered. Check it out, here.

A second option might include an infographic which graphically highlights key insights and takeaways from the customer survey.

Infographic example of a customer survey

Will You Offer Customers an Incentive for Taking the Survey? 💸

The last consideration which will impact the cost for your customer survey is incentives. These are not mandatory for your customer survey but help with response rates. 

This could even be something as simple as cash or gift cards. If you go the gift card route, a giveaway as little as $100 or 5 gift cards at $50 each totaling $250 can be enough.

Commonly businesses will offer a discount off services or free products - however, this could skew your data. Customers who are dissatisfied with their experiences will be less inclined to take the survey if their only incentive results in working with your company again. 

As a result, only satisfied customers will likely be interested in taking the survey. While this makes for high satisfaction ratings, it is not telling the whole story.

Here are some of the reasons you should offer a reward in market research.

Options for conducting customer satisfaction surveys

Let’s review what stage we’re on for conducting a customer survey.

We know how often we will run a satisfaction survey ✔️

We’ve determined our objectives ✔️

We’ve decided whether to conduct the survey with a third-party or in-house✔️

Now, it’s time to figure out your approach to sending the survey to your customers.

These options include: 

  • Email
  • Website
  • Mail
  • Phone
  • Forms or comment cards

It is important to settle on your approach before drafting the questions to include in a customer survey. For example, you can include a lot more questions in an online survey than a comment card.

Let’s talk through each option for conducting a customer survey in greater detail.

Option 1: Email 📧

No other methodology offers more advantages than an online or email survey

  1. First, they are cost-effective for all types of business. 
  2. Second, feedback is collected quickly. Sometimes this is as little as 24 to 48 hours. 
  3. Third, the data quality is high and the data is representative. 

About 20 years ago, not everyone had an email address, so conducting a customer satisfaction survey with email-only customers incurred a lot of bias. Now, this is less of an issue.

Response rates vary from industry-to-industry and by client-to-client but you can expect to receive between a 2% and 15% (or more) response rate on average.

Option 2: Website 🌐

This is similar to an email survey but a little different. Here, the customer satisfaction survey is placed on your website. 

The most common option for website customer surveys is using a modal pop-up window. The survey can be programmed to pop-up to a random selection of site visitors - such as 1 in 5, or 1 in 10. 

It is important to note, you’ll likely capture both customer and non-customer traffic on your site, therefore you must make the form or survey relevant for both audiences.

Option 3: Mail 📪

A dated but still effective methodology. Many organizations choose this because they want to reach all of their customers. 

If you choose to go the email route, you may not be able to get feedback from older audiences who do not use email. Or you may not be getting feedback from an audience who is not online often enough to see the invite or reminder.

Mail surveys involve several steps. This includes printing of envelopes, cover letters, paper surveys, return envelopes, outgoing and incoming postage, and any permits associated with bulk mailings.

Once a customer receives the questionnaire in the mail, they are asked to fill out the paper survey and return it to your business. Commonly, market research companies include a prepaid postage return envelope to make the reply as easy as possible. 

These costs add up and when coupled with the lengthy amount of time to assemble, wait for a return, and then data enter hundreds if not thousands of cases, many organizations choose to go in a different direction.

If you go this route, keep the survey short. Our customer survey company strives to keep our paper surveys on one page (either front-only or front-and-back if necessary).

Option 4: Phone ☎️

Much like mail, phone surveys are very expensive. 

Think about it this way. It would likely take 5 seconds to click send on an email survey to 10,000 customers.  

The same cannot be said for paying callers to dial through 10,000 records - or paying for printing, assembly, and postage for 10,000 pieces of mail. 

The true benefit of phone surveys is it is the most active and personal methodology. Having a conversation with a customer over the phone generates plenty of depth. 

Having a conversation with a customer  over the phone generates plenty of depth.

An interviewer is able to ask customers to expand on their answers or ask unique follow-up questions to collect greater feedback. The process is more conversational and exploratory than most options on this list. 

With online surveys, you are at the mercy of how much or how little someone is willing to type in an open-ended text box.

Option 5: Form or Comment Card 📇

The final option for customer satisfaction surveys is handing out forms or comment cards at locations. 

If you have plenty of foot traffic, this might be a great option. This option works well for restaurants and retail stores. 

The comment card can either be filled out at the table, dropped in a comment box on the way out, or mailed back to the place of business.

Need a break from learning? Here are some customer feedback survey examples that made us laugh. 

The step-by-step process for running a customer survey

As we’ve discussed, customer surveys come in many forms: paper surveys, mail surveys, online surveys, email surveys, and phone surveys. 

The process for executing each approach will vary. For the sake of this article, I will discuss the 9-step process our customer satisfaction firm uses for online or email surveys.

Step 1: Market research proposal 💍

After contacting our market research company, a member of our team will reach out to discuss the overall needs of your project. We may ask questions such as:

  • Do you have access to a customer database?
  • How many survey responses do you need?
  • Do you have a preferred methodology in mind?
  • What is your budget for market research?

If you're interested in learning more about writing an RFP for market research, click here.

After understanding these key considerations, Drive Research will craft a customized proposal for your team to review. If you are satisfied with the document, all you have to do is sign on the dotted line and we are off and running!

Step 2: Kickoff meeting to address objectives and expectations 🏈

The kickoff is a 30 to 60-minute meeting. It’s where all the Drive Research magic begins. 

Here you will work with the market research team to identify what topics should be asked in the survey. 

This could include several different customer satisfaction metrics or key performance indicators (KPIs), like net promoter score (NPS) or customer effort score (CES). 

Benchmarking metrics like these are crucial to evaluate over time to see how organizations improve month-to-month.

Step 3: Workplan to highlight timeline and key tasks 📄

The workplan is the document sent out post-kickoff which highlights tasks, deliverable dates, and responsible parties. This document will be updated through the project to assure all of your expectations are being met.

Step 4: Survey drafting ✏️✏️

During this step, our expert team of market researchers crafts your unique customer survey.

It’s important to note the market research team not only looks for the best ways to pose questions to your audience, but also the ideal length and methodology. Each of these factors is critical to the customer satisfaction survey process.

Drive Research will send the survey draft is a Word document that comes to our clients to allow for edits, changes, and additions.

It is important that both parties are satisfied with what questions we are asking.

If you choose to conduct the survey in-house, here are a few tips we recommend to keep in mind when drafting your questionnaire.

💡 Tip # 1: Keep Questions Concise

Engagement is crucial to customer surveys. Try not to use any additional words or language that is unnecessary. 

When you ask your customer survey questions get right to the point. Being concise is critical because it keeps the momentum going in the survey.

Answering one question leads to another, and another. Being concise limits drop-off.

💡 Tip # 2: Focus on Closed-Ended Questions

If you ask too many open-ended questions, it will force your customers to type a lot. Lots of typing also increases rates of drop-out. Open-ended questions are free-text responses without any categories to choose from. 

Whereas closed-ended questions offer radio buttons to select one answer or multiple responses. Try to make 80% or 90% of your survey questions closed-ended.

💡 Tip # 3: Keep The Length Short

Sensing a theme here? Similar to short questions and making the majority of your questions closed-ended, make sure your survey is short as well. 

We recommend about 15 to 20 questions maximum. This keeps the length of the survey to about 3 to 5 minutes which is a good length to limit drop-off.

The longer the survey, the more respondents who will bail.

Step 5: Survey programming, testing, and soft-launch 🧪

Once the survey is final, it is then programmed into an online survey software. From there the link and survey are tested to ensure it is error-free and ready to go for fieldwork.

Our internal survey testing team checks for:

  • All questions from the survey draft have been included
  • All question formats are correct
  • All disqualification/screener questions are routed correctly
  • All routing is working as intended
  • Spelling and grammatical errors

Survey programming can be complicated, so it's important we take your time and not rush this stage.

Lastly, Drive Research soft-launches the customer survey. In the rare instance, we’ve missed a programming error, it will be caught here.

Soft-launching the study to a small percentage of respondents assures the survey is working as intended. If not, we are able to quickly readjust before the survey reaches your entire customer base.

Step 6: Full launch of fieldwork including invitations and reminders 🚀

Now the fun part begins. The survey is fully launched to all remaining customers. 

During this time, you may want to see if the researchers you are working with can give you access to review data as it is received. 

We like to call this our “live data link”. It's about as real-time as real-time gets. Literally seconds after surveys are submitted they show up in your portal.

Before closing fieldwork, we recommend sending a few email reminders to those who have not yet completed the survey. Doing so helps boost response rates and leads to a more accurate representation of data.

You may get the extremes early in fieldwork. Those who are really happy or unhappy with your brand. Reminders help obtain all of those customers who were not as anxious to respond.

Step 7: Close fieldwork and begin final data quality checks 🔐

Before beginning the analysis or reporting stages, it is important to clean your survey data. This can be done after fieldwork is closed, or as survey responses start to come in. 

Here are a few things our customer satisfaction research company recommends reviewing.

  • Double-check for duplicate entries. This could be duplicate email addresses or duplicate IP addresses.
  • Check for straightlining. Did a respondent select “A” for every answer in your 10-question grid? Then they weren’t taking the survey seriously. 
  • Check time to complete. If the average time to complete your survey is 10-minutes, remove respondents who took the survey in 2. They are most likely racing to the end to earn a quick reward.
  • Review the open-ends for erroneous responses. We often wonder what language "uwskxhuqmdmd" is in open-ends. These types of responses are not taken seriously, therefore why should the other questions they’ve answered be?

Step 8: Report creation 📊

During this stage is where researchers compile the results and turn it into something actionable and specific for your organization.

The goal here is to arm your teams with powerful insights to create data-driven strategies to propel your success.

There are typically 2 different types of reporting packages to purchase. 

1️⃣ One level is a basic reporting package. 

This often includes a raw data file or responses and charts and graphs. Little is done with analysis and the client buying into this package does much of the interpretation on their own.

2️⃣ The second option is a full reporting package.

This is a comprehensive, all-encompassing customer survey report. This includes... 

  • An executive summary of key themes. This component reflects your objectives and the purpose of your customer survey (i.e. what did you want to learn?).
  • Recommendations and action items. Based on our experience with customer surveys, here is what our team thinks you should do with the results.
  • Customer personas. A customer persona walks you through a typical customer experience (who your customer is, why he or she buys, and what he or she dislikes). 
  • Infographic. This is a graphical representation of the data collected. It helps highlight key findings from the survey. Our clients often use this to send to employees to share the results or in their marketing campaigns to reflect positive customer experiences.
  • Detailed crosstabulations of charts and graphs. Lastly, the comprehensive report includes all of the charts and graphs broken down by key segments and demographics. A data file is also sent.

Step 9: Debrief and next steps 🗣️

Whether you are carrying out this process with a third-party or conducting the survey in-house, it is critical you talk through the findings in detail. 

Drive Research sets up a debrief meeting with our clients to walk through the report page by page, supplying key stakeholders with our interpretations, action items, and takeaways. 

It’s one thing to conduct a customer feedback survey, but it’s another to then make changes with the results. Setting aside time to review the data and the report and assigning action items to how you can implement these changes is huge - even more so with a customer survey. 

This audience has taken the time to provide their feedback, therefore they are expecting your business to take action with it. 

Setting aside time to review the data and  the report and assigning action items to  how you can implement these changes is huge - even more so with a customer survey.

Sample customer satisfaction survey questions

Being that a customer survey is a popular market research methodology, there are many generalized templated questions you can find on the internet. 

  • How often do you use the product or service?
  • How well does our product meet your needs?
  • How responsive have we been to your questions or concerns about our products?
  • In your own words, describe how you feel about (insert company name or product here).

While these are great to ask, don’t overlook some unique, yet critical questions that could prove useful to your business. 

So before you field your study, consider including these 5 key questions in your customer satisfaction survey.

Net Promoter Score (NPS)

Example question: How likely they are to recommend your product or service to a friend or family member?

Instead of asking a simple 1 to 5 scale or 1 to 10 scale of satisfaction, one of the commonly benchmarked metrics in the industry is Net Promoter Score (NPS). 

What is NPS and how does it work? Our experts share a 1-minute synopsis in this video.

Very simply NPS is asking your customer on a 0 to 10 scale how likely they are to recommend your product or service to a friend or family member. 

You add up the percentage of 9s and 10s (promoters) and subtract the number of 0s through 6s (detractors) to arrive at an NPS rating. 

💡 Pro tip! A quick search online will give you some NPS benchmarks to see how you compare.

Source(s) of Awareness

Example question: “Where have you seen or heard information about [INSERT COMPANY OR BRAND] in the past 6 months?”

While you have your customers engaged, inquire about how they have seen or heard messaging from your company in the past 3 months or 6 months. 

You can list advertising sources or ask this open-ended. This will give you an idea of ROI for some of your most common types of marketing (online, TV, radio, billboard, etc.)

Areas of Improvement

Example question: “What do you want to be improved about [INSERT COMPANY, BRAND, PRODUCT, OR SERVICE]?”

​In addition to collecting quantitative scores and scaling satisfaction, it is always important to give the customer an opportunity to write his or her suggested areas of improvement for your business. 

This question is a valuable channel to drive change internally.

Categorize Satisfaction

​Beyond collecting overall satisfaction, ask your customers to rate their satisfaction with different levels of the customer experience (CX.) 

Ask them how satisfied they are with your ordering process, customer service, shipping times, etc. 

Diving a level deeper with satisfaction will allow your analyst to run correlation and regression to determine which factors truly drive overall NPS. This will help you prioritize action items.

Diving a level deeper with satisfaction  will allow your analyst to run correlation  and regression to determine which factors  truly drive overall NPS.


​Make sure you are able to track customer profiling data or demographics to the survey data. This will ​help with segmentation analysis and cross-tabs to understand differences between customer audiences. 

Think about ways you can tie internal databases of information to the survey (customer IDs, data, Oracle sales data, or other systems.) 

You may need to ask some demographic questions or you may not have to. Just make sure this type of data is tied to your CSAT survey.

Actionable ways to use data from customer research

Far too many organizations ask and collect feedback but do nothing with it. 🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️

One of the worst outcomes of customer satisfaction surveys is to collect feedback from customers and do nothing with it. Without any change or action, customers feel misled. 

When someone offers constructive feedback on a product or service, they expect the organization to listen and make changes to improve.

One of the worst outcomes of customer satisfaction surveys is to collect feedback from customers and do nothing with it.

No action leads to dissatisfied customers, stagnant growth, and even declining revenues. 

Over time this will take its toll on your business because your competitors will eventually cater and make changes that catapult them ahead of you. 

Not doing any customer satisfaction surveying is bad, but not taking action with customer satisfaction data is equally unhealthy for business.

Value is judged by the actions, results, and outcomes you pursue from the market research, not by the number of pages and tables in a final report.

In this section, Drive Research will provide a few actionable recommendations for customer satisfaction data.

Immediate Action and Follow-up 🚩

It is important to translate the data immediately. If your market research company receives a red flag response or feedback from a customer requiring immediate follow-up, they should be making you aware. 

Don’t wait until the end of fieldwork or report time to take action on these. It could be too late.

As part of the customer experience (CX) and customer satisfaction work, your partner should regularly update you on cases that require attention. 

Filters can be sent up in the survey programming to alert the administrator when a case meets certain conditions.

For example, if customers provide a rating lower than a 5, answering “yes” to an unresolved issue, your team would be notified.

Better Understand the Customer Profile 🧔

Use the survey data to understand the demographics of your customer base. Understand genders, ages, household incomes, family status, marital status, etc. 

Your results should be broken down by these core demographics so you can begin thinking about segmenting your marketing and sales strategies.

Integrate Decision-Making Criteria Into Marketing 📱

Don’t uncover only overall customer satisfaction, understand customer satisfaction on all levels, and all customer profiles. It will help segment and prioritize buckets that need improvement. 

Understanding customer satisfaction on all levels will help segment and prioritize buckets that need improvement.

You may find males prefer television while females are more apt to be online.

Or you may see younger age groups notice your marketing on social media, while older age groups still gravitate to newspapers. 

Some of the data may confirm what you already know, while some of it will be eye-opening. 

All of the data should support your upcoming marketing strategies through evidence-based and fact-based insights.

Adding an online reputation management component

Not only can customer surveys help your team gain valuable feedback and determine priorities, but they can also help boost online ratings of your organization. 

Positive online reviews have never been more important. They can very well be the deciding factor whether or not a new prospect develops into a life-long customer.

Don’t believe me? Let’s put the ball in your court.

You recently moved to a new town and are looking for a dentist. You search online for dentist offices in your area. 

online review example #1

online review example

I’m willing to bet you are going to contact the dentist with a nearly perfect rating and nearly 5X the number of reviews.

Online reviews matter - but depending on your type of business, they’re not always easy to obtain. If you are considering conducting a customer survey, I highly recommend you add an element of online reputation management to boost your ratings. 

If you are considering conducting a customer survey, I highly recommend you add an element of online reputation management to boost your ratings.

How does this work? I’ll give you a real-world example from a customer satisfaction study completed by our market research company which leveraged online reputation management (ORM) as an add-on service.


A business-to-business (B2B) software company hired Drive Research for a customer survey market research project with end-users of its software. 

The core objectives of the market research included:

  1. Understanding feedback on the product and its people to measure the support and partnership.
  2. Gathering testimonials for marketing collateral purposes. 

The survey gathered an honest perspective on these metrics through a third-party lens in addition to obtaining satisfaction scores, likes, and dislikes. 

The outcomes of the market research aided the client with the data and feedback they needed to create effective operations and marketing strategies in the future.  


To address the objectives stated above, our research company used an email survey to collect feedback. 

The customer survey collected a total of 124 responses, roughly taking respondents an average of 8 minutes to complete from start to finish.

A crucial piece to this customer survey was to gather testimonials and reviews for the software. 

All respondents who reported being highly satisfied were asked if they would be willing to provide a testimonial for the company to use in its marketing efforts.

Respondents were made aware that their first name, last initial, and industry would be tied to this response. The survey gathered several testimonials for the software company to start using immediately. 

In addition to the testimonials, those who reported being highly satisfied were also prompted to leave a review of the company on several different websites, such as Google. 

Adding the ORM Component 

After respondents completed the customer survey, a thank you message was sent to notify survey takers about the incentive for completing the research.

However, only those who were highly satisfied were sent a specific message that asked them to write a review about the company on one of three websites.

Here’s an example thank you message:

Subject: Thanks for completing the survey for [INSERT COMPANY NAME]!




Thanks again for participating in the survey for [INSERT COMPANY NAME] and providing feedback to the team! Would you take a few seconds to leave a review about how the [INSERT COMPANY NAME] software solved a problem for your company? Your feedback encourages others to use our software: [INSERT LINK TO ONLINE REVIEW SITE OF YOUR CHOOSING].


As a thank you for completing the survey, [INSERT COMPANY NAME] is giving you a $5 Amazon gift card for your feedback and time. Your gift card will be sent via email within the next 10 minutes from



While this process is not only a great idea for increasing the number of positive reviews for your organization, the real value is taking note and action of the negative comments.

While this process is not only a great  idea for increasing the number of positive  reviews for your organization, the real value  is taking note and action of the negative comments.

Those who did not provide a positive ranking of the software company were not sent to an online review website; however, the software firm used this feedback to see where their organization can improve and better meet customer expectations.

Overseeing negative ratings is an underutilized ORM practice that can help your business much more than you would expect. More on that here

Contact a customer satisfaction survey company

Drive Research is a customer survey company located in New York. We work with a variety of organizations and industries across the country to assist with customer surveys. 

As a full-service market research company, we can manage your entire project from start to finish.

Interested in working with Drive Research on your next customer survey? Contact our team through any of the four ways below.

  1. Message us on our website
  2. Email us at [email protected]
  3. Call us at 888-725-DATA
  4. Text us at 315-303-2040

emily carroll about the author

Emily Carroll

A SUNY Cortland graduate, Emily has taken her passion for social and content marketing to Drive Research as the Marketing Coordinator. She has earned certificates for both Google Analytics and Google AdWords.

Learn more about Emily, here.

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Customer Satisfaction