You’d love to know what your customers are thinking, but where do you begin?

While you may have thought about sending out a survey, we bet you’ve run into many of the same questions other small business owners wonder about, like “Which questions should I even ask?” and “How do I get people to actually answer them?”

Today we’re giving you a few great ideas for what to ask the next time you send out a customer survey. These questions are designed to help you get responses that are helpful and meaningful to your business.

Designing Your Customer Survey

You should design your small business customer survey thoughtfully. First, tailor it to the customer’s experience. For example, did they just make a purchase or have they been dormant for a while? That will influence the types of questions you ask.

Second, think about what you’d like to learn from the survey. For example, would you like to:

  • Gauge overall customer satisfaction?
  • Figure out if your customer service could be improved?
  • Understand how easy (or not) customers find using your website?

Some small business owners make the mistake of asking everything in one survey. But jamming a lot of questions into a single survey causes survey fatigue. Instead, be selective. Figure out what you need to know and hone in on it.

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To get you started, here are two sets of survey questions for specific small business scenarios:

Gauging Customer Satisfaction Immediately After a Purchase

Let’s say that you’ve just wrapped up a sale or provided a service, and you’d like to know how happy the customer was with the experience. In this situation, use a quick but effective survey. All you really need to ask is:

1. How satisfied were you with your product/service today? (Likert scale: ‘Very satisfied’, ‘satisfied’, ‘neutral’, ‘dissatisfied’, ‘very dissatisfied’.)

That’s it: you can stop the survey right here! But if you have the bandwidth—and customer attention—to ask follow-up questions, you can always add these:

2. What did you like about your experience? (Open-ended response)

3. What could we do better next time? (Open-ended response)

4. Would you be likely to use our product/service again? (Multiple choice options: ‘Yes, absolutely!’ or ‘No, I don’t think so’.)

If the customer responds with a ‘no’ to the above question, be sure to include an extra text field asking them to explain why not.

Gauging Customer Satisfaction over the Long Term

Sometimes, you want to get a sense of how your customer perceive your business over the long term. Perhaps you want to send a survey every year to get those big-picture insights that can help you improve your business.

For that, a slightly more comprehensive customer survey is in order. Here’s what you could ask:

5. How long have you been using our services or products? (Multiple choice options: ‘ +5 years’, ‘3-5 years’, ‘1-3 years,’ ‘6-12 months’, and ‘1-6 months’.)

6. How satisfied are you with our products or services, overall? (Likert scale: ‘Very satisfied’, ‘satisfied’, ‘neutral’, ‘dissatisfied’, ‘very dissatisfied’.)

7. How does our product/service make you feel? (Open-ended response)

The above question gives you a great sense of what your customers think about your product—not what you’d like to think they think! Sometimes hearing this response in your customers’ own words helps you uncover product insights you never would have had otherwise.

8. How likely are you to recommend us to others? (Scale from 1-10.)

This question is often used for Net Promoter Score (NPS) surveys to test customer loyalty and happiness.

9. How would you rate your last experience with us? (Likert scale: ‘Very satisfied’, ‘satisfied’, ‘neutral’, ‘dissatisfied’, ‘very dissatisfied’.)

This gives you a sense of what you’ve been doing well (or not so well) recently. You may have a customer who usually loves everything you do, but the last experience didn’t go as smoothly. If they indicate that something went wrong, be sure you reach out to find out why. Addressing customer concerns quickly and professionally often makes them even more loyal!

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We also love these survey question suggestions from Rodrigo Fuentes from ListenLoop, because they really get to the root of what you’d want to know:

10. What should we never stop doing? (Open-ended response)

This is an even better way to ask the ‘What do you like about us?’ question, because it inspires a more immediate emotional response. Customers can respond with, “Never stop making those spicy burritos!” or “Please keep the free tax workshops coming!”

11. What made you choose us over our competition? (Open-ended response)

This gives you valuable insights into how customers perceive you to be different from the competition. It also gives you a great sense of whether your marketing is spot-on: for example, if you’re marketing based on great prices but it turns out that customers really come to you because you offer a very specific service, you can realign your message accordingly.

12. What do our competitors do better than us? (Open-ended response)

This is an even better way to ask the standard “What can we do better” question, because it gives you actionable ideas you know your competition is already successfully using.

13. Please share anything else you’d like us to know. (Open-ended response)

Always leave room for customers to add comments and suggestions you may not have thought to ask in the survey.

How to Improve Your Customer Survey Results

Voila! You’ve created a great survey, but now how do you get people to respond? We recommend providing a little incentive to inspire participation—whether that’s a freebie, a fun and easy user experience, or a fun survey experience. Here are our tips:

Offer incentives

Could you offer a special discount on your customers’ next service or product? Enter them in a prize drawing for your most popular product? Treat them to a free perk the next time they come into your store? Get creative—there are a lot of ideas you could work with.

Make surveys simple!

Companies like SurveyGizmo make survey-taking a painless experience for your customers. It gives them a clean, easy way to engage with you. At PaySimple, we regularly use SurveyGizmo to gather feedback from customers and improve our services.

Let people skip questions

Making survey responses mandatory can inspire people to abandon the survey altogether. So make them all or mostly optional and let people skip around. Getting at least some of that customer’s data is more valuable to you than getting nothing at all.

Surveys really can be simple, fun, and effective. Now that you have a sense of what to ask and why, the most important thing is to get started. You can tweak your questions over time, or find new ways to get your customers to engage with your survey. We hope you’ve enjoyed these tips!

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Irena Ashcraft

Irena Ashcraft

Irena Ashcraft is a freelance writer who helps brands connect with their biggest fans in ways that are fresh, relatable, and fun. She loves people, tech, education, and the creative hustle.

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