In an online satisfaction survey, each question must be useful and to the point, especially on channels where respondents want things simple and fast. Creating an online satisfaction survey requires ample preparation as well as a good working knowledge of the different types of questions that can be posed. In this article, we’ll cover in detail the practice of asking the right questions at the right time.

How to write an online survey

Your survey will be carried out on the internet. You’re surely aware by now that internet users are short on time and expect things to be made as simple for them as possible. Your survey must, therefore, adapt to the demands of these users by minimizing the effort that is required of them.

Always keep in mind that your survey respondents are doing you a tremendous service and that your role is to make whatever it is you’re asking of them as effortless as possible.

Be clear

To achieve this, avoid technical vocabulary (shop talk, marketing jargon) as well as words that carry ambiguous meaning (e.g. “good” or “nice”). Your customer certainly does not have the same product knowledge as you, the product owner, does. It is also best to avoid long-winded questions (a question should not exceed one line or, at most, a line and a half). To simplify the job of reading for the reader, consider also highlighting important keywords using a specific font. Words relating to time, such as adverbs of frequency, are very subjective (e.g. occasionally, etc.) so you need to use them with caution. To avoid the risk of  subjectivity, don’t hesitate to provide context for the responses. Another thing to stay away from are negations, and especially stay away from double negatives. And lastly, we advise you to be careful with polysemy (when one question can have two meanings); keep in mind, that the goal is to collect one distinct data point per question.

Be concise

The fewer questions you ask, the better your response rate. It is therefore essential to prioritize your questions, as not all of them are necessarily useful. At Critizr, we believe that respondents should not have to fill out more than 10 questions. However, this does not necessarily mean that your survey should not exceed 10 questions. Have you thought about including questions that are based off of the answers to previous questions’ answers? This could help you to avoid asking unnecessary or inappropriate questions in certain cases! This is an important point if you take into account the respondent and their limited online attention span. You may also ask the respondent to skip a question if it is not important or if it does not apply to all cases. If your question allows for it, don’t hesitate to pre-fill the answer, thus setting it up so that the respondent merely needs to validate the response and perhaps add a personal touch via a testimonial/verbatim.

Be precise

Questions can take different forms, each of which can measure results in different ways. It is therefore important to think carefully about the format of the questions you include.

  • Dichotomous choice questions: fixed-alternative question that can only be answered in one of the two indicated ways (e.g. yes or no; agree or disagree, etc.). This form has the advantage of being simple and at the same time allowing for less nuanced responses. It is therefore not advised to use it for questions involving judgement.
  • Multiple choice/single answer questions (example: marital status): This type of question is prevalent in surveys and quite handy for collecting data pertaining to market segmentation.
  • Multiple-dichotomous choice questions: The respondent may select several responses from the proposed choices. This method should be reserved for certain questions for which several possible choices can be made from the given answers.
  • Open questions: The individual is free to answer as they wish in however many words they wish. The advantage is to receive a thorough view of the respondent’s perspective. Open questions allow you to receive verbatim customer feedback, which is extremely useful for customer knowledge. The one drawback is that verbatim information is more complicated to structure and to take advantage of in your relationship marketing campaigns. It is also more time-consuming for the respondent, so open questions must therefore be used sparingly and also be made optional. We recommend placing a single open question at the end of the survey.
  • Unipolar Likert scale:This is a scale between 5 and 7 modalities (choices). For each given statement, the respondent ticks the box that most closely matches their degree of agreement (strongly agree to strongly disagree). With this question type, one must be careful to remain objective. It’s a metric variable , so we have to prove the difference between two modalities! We use this one quite a lot at Critizr, so a tip of the hat to Mr. Rensis Likert. 😉
  • Bipolar Likert scale: This is a variation on the Likert scale. Here, it is no longer agreement being measured, rather frequencies, evaluations, etc. For example: Very typical; 1; 2; 3; 4; 5; 6;7; Not at all typical.

Measurement scales are particularly suitable if the objective of your survey is to manage your collaborators. They are much more reliable and nuanced!

  • Semantic differential scale: Respondents are asked to describe themselves by choosing between two adjectives of opposite meaning. 
  • Graphic rating scale: a graphic representation of choices, using icons such as a happy face and a sad face.

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Your online satisfaction survey should be like a funnel, starting from the simplest and most generic, while working toward the most complicated and detailed types of questions. This is a fairly standard and efficient structure, both for online and more traditional mediums. Of course, the structure is flexible depending on the needs of each company. That said, at Critizr, we recommend limiting the number of questions in your survey to 5. Beyond that, you risk losing your reader!

  • Survey presentation: You should always try to administer your survey to as many people as possible. If your online satisfaction survey is distributed by email, both the subject and the body content should be catchy and reader-friendly. Make sure your customers have a reason to be interested in taking the survey. 
  • Introductory and lead-in questions: These are the generic questions that cover the topic of the study. They should be formulated in such a way that the respondent can answer positively. Your goal here is to commit your customer to filling out the survey. These types of questions should be easy and not require any effort or reflection. In other words, the respondent should be able to answer very quickly.

A tip from Critizr: A simple introduction question such as “Are you satisfied with ________?”, with five modalities represented by stars, should serve to engage your customers in the survey. This sort of introductory question typically earns us a high conversion rate among our customers.

  • Specific questions: Getting into the meaty part of the survey, it’s time to start asking the questions that have a bit more detail and complexity. Be careful: on the web, questions should be limited—your customers are short on time and you risk losing them if they deem the survey overly long or complicated. When it comes to surveys administered via push channels (e.g. post-purchase emails), most of our customers complete this phase of the survey with a question about recommendation. For example: “Would you recommend _______ to your friends and family.” This is the ultimate question which determines the Net Promoter Score. Placing this question at the end of the survey allows respondents to position themselves more easily because he or she has in the mind the previously mentioned satisfaction criteria (introductory, choice, etc.). Conversely, other companies opt to place the Net Promoter Score recommendation question at the beginning of their surveys in order to maximize their chances of receiving a good rating. In this case, the respondent does not have the chance to spontaneously rethink all the criteria that might have hampered his or her experience, and thus he or she generally gives a better score. Again, this depends on the purpose behind your study: customer knowledge, communication, marketing, etc.
  • Demographic questions: With these, we are looking to identify our respondents according to various descriptions (gender, age, etc.). You can also use this type of customer information to benefit your relationship marketing campaigns.

Critizr Tip: When a customer’s review is attached to their customer record (CRM), the information becomes much more useful and reliable.

At Critizr, our belief is that a online satisfaction survey must be simple, fast, and suited to the needs of each company. To accomplish this, it is important to equip yourself with a flexible tool that can be smoothly integrated into your current structure. This way, you can solicit the customer’s feedback through a multitude of channels (email, SMS, website, mobile, etc.) with simplicity and efficiency. Don’t hesitate to download our checklist called “Cheat Sheet” for a comprehensive view of the key elements to remember !

ultimate checklist to create effective online surveys