We all know how important obtaining customer feedback is. It ensures your business is, and stays on, the right path. Getting good feedback starts with a good questionnaire. So let’s talk about how you can design survey questions that yield valuable and actionable feedback.

What is a questionnaire?

Technically speaking, it’s defined as a research instrument consisting of a series of questions for the purpose of gathering information from respondents. Questions are usually a mix of close-ended and open-ended.

Open-ended questions allow respondents to answer in open text format. This means that responses are not limited to a set of options. Respondents answer in the own words, based on their personal knowledge, feeling, and understanding.

Close-ended questions require respondents to select an answer from a set of pre-defined responses. We’ll go into more detail later about the different types of close-ended questions. However, generally speaking, closed-ended questions are used to gather measurable data from respondents.

What do you want to learn?

This is where you should begin the questionnaire design process. Think through what you want to learn from your survey. Instead of just jotting down all the questions you’re dying to ask your customers, try thinking in terms of answers. What answers do you want? This will help you write questions that lead to actionable feedback.

Quantitative vs. Qualitative

There are two broad categories of data; quantitative and qualitative.

Quantitative data can be counted, measured, and expressed using numbers. This type of data can be transformed into usable statistics.

Qualitative data is more conceptual. It is often the “why” behind the quantitative data. Qualitative data consists of opinions, motivations, reasons, etc.  While it can’t be precisely measured, it can be examined for patterns and categorized to identify themes.

Types of Close-ended Questions

Here’s a brief look at the most common types of close-ended survey questions:

Dichotomous – also known as a “yes/no” question. It has only two possible answers, making it quick and easy for respondents. However it doesn’t provide any insight into the respondent’s mindset.

Numerical Rating Scale – this type of question asks respondents to rate something on a numerical scale. For example, “On a scale of 1-10, how likely are you to…”? Numbers correspond to a characteristic or sentiment (e.g. 1=Not at all likely and 10=Highly likely).

Likert Scale – another type of rating scale typically used to understand the level of agreement respondents have with a question or statement. It’s usually a five or seven-point scale that can range from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree” or “highly dissatisfied” to “highly satisfied.”  Rating scales are used frequently as they can help you obtain opinions and impressions.  

Ranking – this type of question asks respondents to rank a variety of answer options based on priority or importance to them. You can learn what they like best, but not why.

Multiple Choice – this type of question offers respondents a list of different answer options. An “other” option usually accompanies the list. This popular type of question is easy to answer and the data is easy to analyze.

Writing Good Questions

Well-designed questions will yield data that’s accurate and actionable. Poorly worded, unclear or biased questions will render the responses useless. To put it simply, a well-written question will convey the same exact thing to all respondents. Here are a few tips:

Be clear and specific. Avoid vague wording.

Use simple, neutral language. Avoid jargon, complex terms and acronyms.

Write unbiased questions. Meaning they don’t carry a hidden agenda or lead respondents to a particular answer.

Focus each question on a single item or topic. Avoid double-barrel questions that ask respondents to evaluate more than one thing.

Sequence your questions logically to create a natural flow – like a conversation.

Begin with broad, general questions and progress to more specific and/or harder ones.

Keep it Short

Remember to always balance your needs with your respondent’s experience. So, keep your survey short – ten minutes or less is ideal. To help the process, determine what you "must know" vs. what would be "nice to know." If you only ask for what you really need, your completion rate will be higher and your feedback better.

Test Your Survey

This is a must! Release your survey early to a small sample of your customer base. This will allow you to determine its effectiveness. If you end up with low engagement or poor feedback, you can make adjustments before launching to everyone.

One of the best things you can do for your business is to interact with your customers. Get their feedback. Understand their experience. Deliver products and services based on that understanding.

If you’d like to get started with a customer survey, we can help.  Sibyl Surveys