3 Tips for Building a Better Survey

By: Lisa Sigler

April 28, 2015

Customer Feedback
Voice of the Customer

Listening to the Voice of the Customer is critical to enterprise success. But what if your customers aren’t talking about the things you need to know?

Customer surveys are the most direct method for asking your customers what they are thinking and how they are feeling about your brand. The problem, however, is that customers are overwhelmed with long, detailed, overly-structured surveys that take up their time and don’t let them express what they really want you to tell you. That’s why response rates for the typical customer survey have dropped over the past two decades, from about 20% to only 2% today.

As a survey provider, Clarabridge recognizes the challenges in designing an effective survey. Here are three best practices to optimize your survey design in order keep your participation rates high and make sure you’re getting the information you need.

  • Make it short. It is better to have a small number of focused, highly relevant questions to keep customers feeling engaged throughout the survey. When customers feel like the topic is relevant to them, response rates have been shown to rise between 12 and 14 percent.  On the other hand, survey completion rates drop up to 20% when a survey takes longer than 8 minutes.
  • Make it dynamic. Using the right technology, it is possible to personalize the survey experience, taking into account not only what you already know about the customer from their profile, but also doing so in real-time to reflect the answers they give to the questions. You can skip questions that are irrelevant or ask follow -up questions about their responses.
  • Make it open-ended. Traditional surveys, with a 1-10 scale or multiple-choice answers, are unable to capture the nuances of your customers’ experiences. In addition, they can only capture information about the things you know to ask about. Unknown issues remain unknown. Open-ended questions let your customers communicate with you in their own words, about whatever topic is on their minds, potentially uncovering important issues for you to take action on.

Rethinking your survey design is just the first step in making sure your survey initiative is a vital, productive part of your overall Customer Experience Management program. To make sure your surveys are accomplishing everything you want them to, Clarabridge has developed the Ultimate Survey Guide. Download it today, or contact us for your survey needs.


Lisa Sigler is Sr. Manager of Content Marketing at Clarabridge. For over 16 years, Lisa has used her writing and editorial skills to bring the value and benefits of technology to life. In her current role, she works to demonstrate Clarabridge’s position as thought leader and trailblazer in the Customer Experience Management market. Lisa holds a B.A. of English from Kent State University. Read more from Lisa on Twitter @siglerLis.