How to Create Successful Customer Feedback Surveys


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Picture this scene: your manager stops by your desk and begins to speak. You wait for a chance to break in and contribute to the conversation. In fact, you welcome it since you have a couple of ideas you think could really improve your team’s productivity. But your manager keeps talking… and talking… and talking… and then walks away without even saying good-bye.

In this scenario, most of us would probably feel offended, slighted, or any one of a dozen other negative emotions.

Sadly, many companies approach their customer relationships in exactly this way. They send newsletters, direct mail, and email blasts, but never invite or allow the customer to join the conversation. They miss the essential truth that communication is a two-way street. If you’re not listening to your customers, you’re not communicating with them. You’re not conversing with them. And you’re probably not keeping them.

Feedback surveys can be a great way to give your customer a seat at the table. Has your organization tried implementing a survey or two, but found them to be less than successful? Sometimes we get so wrapped up in the metrics and KPIs and statistics around surveys that we lose sight of what makes a survey successful. Organizations should take a step back, and apply the principles of successful conversation to your surveys instead. For example:

Successful conversations are easy

When you converse with a friend or colleague, you don’t make them go to a special room, fill out a registration form, or answer intrusive personal questions before you’ll agree to talk. I’ve seen surveys that required me to register on a special website and provide numerous pieces of personal information to prove my identity. I’ve chosen not to participate in those surveys, and I suspect many other customers do too.

Technology today makes it easy for you to direct your surveys specifically to customers you’ve already identified, in a manner that’s convenient for them. If you want to have a conversation about a subset of your product’s features used only by certain customers, don’t initiate a blanket survey to all of your customers and then tell them they don’t qualify if they don’t use a specific feature. If you implement an after-call survey focused on a support process, don’t offer it to customers who call sales. Direct your survey to the right people, up front.

Successful conversations are on topics of interest to both parties

If you come to me to discuss global economics, I’m not going to have much to say. Start a conversation about musical theater, on the other hand, and you’ll have a hard time getting me to stop talking. In the same way, surveys should not focus only on areas that you want to discuss.

For example, you may have implemented a new IVR script designed to get customers to the right department more quickly. Asking customers about their interaction with the script is a great idea. But the script may have delivered the customer to an agent who delivered a sub-par experience (hey, it happens). If you do a post-call survey that only covers the script and doesn’t let the customer give feedback about the agent, you’re setting up a frustrating conversational experience. You’re probably also ensuring that customer will decline future feedback requests.

Successful conversations are understandable

Have you ever tried to converse with someone who insisted on using technical jargon, industry acronyms, or even just post-doctoral dissertation style wording? Not very enjoyable, was it?

For the same reasons, feedback surveys need to avoid jargon and acronyms. You may know what “Did our new IVR assist you in achieving FCR?” means, but it’s unlikely the customer will. Rephrasing the question to ask, “Did you find the automated prompts helpful in resolving your issue?” is much clearer to customers outside our industry.

Also, this should go without saying but I’ll say it anyway; if you route non-English speaking callers to agents who speak their language, don’t expect those same callers to take an English feedback survey.

Successful conversations benefit from an occasional little push

Sometimes you’re talking to someone who can’t find the right word, so you suggest one. That’s a natural part of the give-and-take that makes conversation work. The same principle can be applied to surveys. For some questions, you may want to provide a list of possible responses. That’s okay as long as you keep a few cardinal rules in mind:

  • Don’t do it for every question.
  • Don’t slant the possibilities (“Would you rate our automated prompts 1 for excellent, 2 for very good, or 3 for good?” What if I thought they were awful?)
  • Don’t change the rules midstream (if your scale on one question makes 1 the best and 5 the worst, don’t reverse it on another question).
  • Don’t provide too many choices (“Would you rate our automated prompts 1 for exceptional, 2 for excellent, 3 for very good, 4 for better than average, 5 for average, 6 for a little less than average, 7 for poor, 8 for sub-par, 9 for bad, 10 for unacceptable, 11 for…?” The customer will zone out somewhere around 5).

Successful conversations involve two-way communication

This brings us full circle. By inviting your customers to participate in a survey, you’re giving them a seat at the table. It would be a shame if you went through all that time, trouble, and expense… and didn’t let them talk.

That’s why successful surveys incorporate at least one open-ended question that lets customers tell you what is important to them. Your next million dollar idea could be on the tip of your customer’s tongue, but you’ll never hear it if you only ask them about the ideas you already have.

Are you planning your next customer feedback survey? Your survey participation, and post-survey metrics can be as positive as you’ve always dreamed if you make sure you have a successful survey foundation. Remember, when all is said and done, it starts with a conversation.

Jeff Canter
Jeff Canter serves as Senior VP of Services for inContact, where he leads Professional Services and Technical Support. Prior to inContact, Jeff was CEO and one of the founders of Uptivity, where he helped grow the business more than 150% in 10 years, leading to the company's successful sale to inContact. Prior to co-founding Uptivity, Jeff built his knowledge of the contact center industry while working as a senior software engineer for a large outsourcer, where he architected and launched the organization's key software infrastructure, including several critical voice and data applications.


  1. Agree with the point you have mentioned on intrusive questions being asked in surveys. With my years of experience in the transcription and translation industry, I can well understand the crucial role of customer feedback to collect actionable insight to deliver better product and services.

    And yes, communication is ALWAYS a two-way process when it comes to conducting successful surveys. It provides an opportunity to the customers to engage with companies in a different way, be treated as individuals, and be shown they are valued throughout their journey. Great article, Jeff!


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