Consumers don’t want marketing. They don’t need marketing. The ability to pull up business information with a few keystrokes - curated by close friends, neighbours, and even “BigManBob123” on TripAdvisor - has shifted the dynamic of customer acquisition.
Potential customers will look you up and ask trusted online - and offline - sources about you. They’ll come if they like what they see and hear. If not, no amount of targeted advertising or creative marketing campaigns will bring them in.
What does this new reality look like? Here are a few numbers:
- “72% of customers will share a positive experience with 6 or more people. On the other hand, if a customer is not happy, 13% of them will share their experience with 15 or even more.”
- “Investing in customer experience has the potential to double your revenue within 36 months.”
- “86% of buyers are willing to pay more for a great customer experience.”
- “49% of buyers have made impulse purchases after receiving a more personalized experience.”
- “Customers are willing to pay a price premium of up to 13% (and as high as 18%) for luxury and indulgence services, simply by receiving a great customer experience.”
With diminishing returns on traditional marketing, customer satisfaction is the new way to stand out. And the key to delivering on customer satisfaction is knowing who your customers are.
So how do you get to know your customers? Through well crafted, targeted customer satisfaction surveys.
Here at OMBEA, we’ve explored the science - and art - of creating the perfect customer satisfaction survey. We’ve gathered 30 insightful customer satisfaction questions asked by our own users, grouped by industry group.
Libraries, Museums and Theme parks
1. Please rate our library experience today.
This question helps the library understand if they’re going in the right direction with their services, helping them secure more funding from public authorities.
2. What was your impression of our museum?
Inspired visitors is a key revenue stream for any museum. Instead of guessing, this museum used this question to understand exactly what they need to do - in the visitors’ own words - to achieve that “wow” experience.
3. How did you enjoy the attraction?
Our theme park users are constantly monitoring attractions both new and old. Asking this simple question gives them real, actionable data that helps them decide whether to keep an old attraction or bring in a new one.
4. What can we improve?
This business first asked this question using an open text exit survey. Making a list of the most frequent responses, management determined five possible areas of improvement. To uncover which area had the biggest impact on customer satisfaction, the format of the question was changed to multiple choice.
Restaurants & Cafés
5. How was your meal today?
A large-scale restaurant was looking to revise their 30-year-old concept to more modern times. They wanted to understand what “made them great” with their old customers, and “what could we change” to please the new customers. The open text feedback received helped them gather critical ideas that would eventually find themselves in the new concept.
6. Please describe your dining experience.
This small cafe wanted to beta test their lunch concept before a large-scale rollout. As responses were generally neutral or negative, the café was able to reevaluate the project before making a full - and potentially costly - investment.
7. How would you rate the cleanliness of our toilets today?
This shopping mall needed to have a real-time overview of bathroom cleanliness. While bathrooms were mostly clean, there were certain time periods where negative responses to this question spiked. The negative response coincided with a personnel shift change. Once smoother shift change procedures were implemented, the negative responses stopped.
8. How easy was it finding your way here from the car park?
A supermarket, located in a shopping mall, was concerned customers would have problems navigating from their vehicle to the supermarket - especially with plenty of groceries. Asking this question, the supermarket quickly determined navigation wasn’t a problem for shoppers, and were able to focus on other challenges.
Fitness & Sports
9. How do you rate the cleanliness of the gym today?
A dirty gym can make customer retention drop by more than 40%, and this gym chain knew it. Asking this question throughout their network, management pinpointed which locations were scoring low in cleanliness and worked with them to improve this standard.
10. Are you happy that you completed a workout today?
To create a habit out of working out, and keep membership revenues flowing, new gym members needed to feel accomplished after completing a workout. Asking this question helped staff see what post-workout behaviors - a high-five, verbal encouragement, or something else - triggered this sense of accomplishment.
11. Does your instructor manage your training path in a friendly, professional manner?
This question was intended to measure overall staff friendliness. At around 5PM on Thursdays, negative responses for this question soared. It was discovered that an employee was having personal issues at home that impacted the quality of their work. Management worked together with them and the negative responses stopped coming in.
12. How was your blood draw experience today?
A blood draw can cause anxiety in some patients, making the process difficult and increasing the risk of fainting. Asking this question allowed this clinic to see which nurse had the most positive blood draw experiences. This nurse’s behaviors were then adopted by the entire staff.
13. How well were you informed?
This same clinic was also concerned about how clearly they were communicating medical terminology with patients. Although patients said “yes” when asked if they understood, this was made out of courtesy and not because of genuine comprehension. This question helped by allowing patients to voice their comprehension anonymously.
14. Please tell us about your patient experience today.
A hospital wanted to understand which parts of a patient’s experience caused discomfort. Having patients describe their experience in their own words, management discovered that the use of a specific cleaning agent left a lingering, undesirable smell. Using a smell-free cleaning product went a long way to improving the patient experience.
15. Please rate your experience in passport control.
A European airport had a duty-free store placed right after a passport control point. The concern was that negative experiences at passport control would decrease buyer willingness for the store. Asking this question, airport authorities track passport control performance and can act quickly when a sustained negative pattern emerges.
16. How easy was it to get through security?
At this airport, the shopping area is located right after the security checkpoint. Concerned by how a negative security experience could mean less sales, surveying travellers is the best way to keep security running smoothly - and revenues flowing.
17. Were you greeted on arrival with a smile?
At this airport lounge, greeting members with a smile is a job requirement for receptionists. With this quick question, the airline can keep tabs on negative response and take corrective action if necessary.
18. Are you happy with your check-in experience today?
For this airline, the check-in experience defines customer satisfaction. This question helps keep a real-time overview of the check-in experience, and act when necessary.
19. How was your connection experience today?
Travellers complained that navigation through this airport made catching connecting flights difficult. Combining insights from this question and other sources, the airport reorganized their arrival gate system for better incoming flight allocation, and better passenger shuttle transport.
20. Please rate your lounge experience today
Exclusive, comfortable lounges were a key benefit offered to premium passengers for this airline. Asking this question across multiple lounges helps the airline have an overview of their global lounge network, intervening only when negative responses are high.
21. How satisfied are you with the product selection?
This retailer wanted to see if their products were the ones consumers actually wanted. They discovered that while products generally sold well, customers were not satisfied with the product selection. After a thorough investigation, they discovered consumers wanted different brands, but felt they had no choice but to buy what was available as there was no other store nearby.
22. Did you find all that you were looking for?
This retailer understood that customers were either looking for specific products or for specific brands of products. What they wanted to explore was which option led to more dissatisfied customers. Instead of a smiley-faced response format, they asked this question as a multiple choice, offering options such as “No, the brand I like wasn’t in stock” and “No, I couldn’t find the product I was looking for.”
23. How friendly/helpful were we today?
This question helped one of our sporting goods users understand spikes in unsatisfied customers at a certain hour every day - 12PM. 12PM corresponded with a shift change, which meant less staff and longer waiting times at checkout. A quick change to the shift schedules ensured a reasonable level of staff manning the checkout counter at all times, which solved the problem.
24. Please rate the speed of your checkout today.
For this supermarket chain, a quick checkout was a key factor in their customer experience. Feedback from this question gave the chain an overview of which locations were underperforming - allowing management to help only those locations that needed it.
25. Based on your shopping experience, would you recommend us to a friend?
As this user’s customer experience strategy was focused on increasing word-of-mouth referrals, it was critical for them to see whether or not their efforts were in the right direction. Asking this question as customers were exiting locations helped them see this both at a location and company-wide level.
26. How easy was it to find what you needed?
This retailer was concerned their product and shelf arrangement could confuse customers. Although the retailer placed related product categories near to each other, they had no data on whether or not this worked. This question allowed management to learn from the locations that were scoring high on this question, implementing their strategies to the rest of the store network.
Conferences & Events
27. How do you rate this event?
This user wanted a day to day “pulse” of participant opinion, and having continuous feedback during the conference was the perfect way to achieve this. Organizers discovered specific factors that influenced opinion, insights that will shape the next iteration of the conference.
28. What was interesting about our content today?
While organizers were confident their conference covered the most relevant industry topics, they wanted to see if attendees also thought so. Towards the end of each conference day, participants would get the chance to answer this question in their own words.
29. Please rate this session.
Organizers at this conference wanted to understand which sessions to repeat next conference - and which to remove from the program. Collecting participant feedback immediately after each session gave organizers an impartial indicator that helped with this decision.
30. Will you come back again?
With a limited marketing budget, this small-scale conference depends on repeat participation to stay afloat. Having an indication of whether or not participants will come back helps in two key ways - understanding conference performance and estimating next year’s conference size.
Findings: High-Performing Question Groups
What patterns emerge from these 30 questions? While they cover a variety of industries, and their intended objectives can differ, they can be grouped into three categories.
Group 1: Overall Experience Questions
These are the questions that ask customers to “rate” something, whether it’s an experience, a service, a feeling or some other kind of interaction. The power in this question group lies in numbers - answering these questions is as simple as pressing a button, making it easy to gather multiple responses through an extended period of time.
These types of questions are useful in two main ways: Benchmarking and Rapid Feedback.
As you begin collecting feedback from your customers across a period of time, you’ll be able to see what your “numbers” are. Whether you use the Net Promoter Score, or our own Insights Index, you’ll have a benchmark from which to evaluate customer service activities. You can, for example, reward employees that surpass the benchmark and take corrective action with those that dip below.
It’s also possible to gain rapid feedback on business initiatives before significant costs are incurred. Let’s say you own a catering company with three locations. You want to test a new dinner concept, but you want to be sure it’s the right move for your business. You can start at one of the locations, asking customers to rate the new concept for a couple of weeks or a month. This will indicate whether it makes sense to roll out the concept in the other two locations.
Group 2: Open Text Questions
What if you needed more granular opinions or fresh ideas? That’s where open text questions come in.
These questions help you gather ideas from customers directly, without restricting their language or thoughts. You’re allowing respondents to air out any frustrations they have, but you’re also giving them the chance to praise you for your excellence.
Think back to question 2 on the list, with the museum asking visitors to describe their impressions. Such open feedback could inspire a new attraction at the museum, or perhaps lead museum management to discover a restaurant redesign is urgently needed.
There is, however, another use for such questions. If one type of customer used your services or visited your location, there are probably more of the same type out there. Imagine discovering who they are, and how to attract more of them.
Take a look at question 28 above, where conference participants are asked what they found interesting about the conference content on a particular day. Analyzing responses to this question, the conference organizer uncovered a list of words and phrases that occurred in more than one response. These keywords were then added to their digital marketing copy, resulting in more traffic from their desired niche.
Group 3: Multiple Choice Questions
Multiple choice questions are a great way to segment respondents by specific predefined characteristics, such as demographics.
Moreover, multiple choice questions can help us arrive at specific answers in a way that complements open ended questions.
Take question 4 above. Using an open text question, they asked their customers to describe what areas they could improve. From the responses, a list of five problem areas emerged. They later changed the format of the question from open text to multiple choice. By having answers restricted to only five possible options, this OMBEA user was able to pinpoint which problem area needed the most urgent attention.
You use overall questions and open text questions to generate a pool of answers for your question. You then use multiple choice questions to see which of these answers is the correct one.
Final Thoughts: Best practices when crafting customer satisfaction survey questions
Now that we’ve seen the most effective question groups, what can be said about the way they are asked?
Use plain language
None of the questions from the list used complex words. This, as it turns out, is key to getting more and better responses. Think about this: If you had to fill out a survey and spend more than one minute trying to understand the question, would you follow through? Probably not. Don’t expect your customers to do so for your survey if you can’t get crystal clear on your language.
Stick to one item per question
You’ll also notice that all questions asked respondents one thing, and one thing only. Consider the difference between two questions: “How was your experience today?” and “Did you have fun today, and also get your value for your money?” Which one are people most likely to give a clear answer to? Put another way, which one will give you the most reliable results?
Keep the question short and simple
Notice that all 30 questions in this list were less than 13 words long. With today’s short attention spans, imagine the pressure a potential respondent will feel when faced with a huge block of text describing only one question. Keeping questions short and simple will intimidate less people - and net you more responses.
Look for biases before you publish
Two groups of senior citizens take a mental agility test. The first group is asked their age before the test. The second group is asked afterwards. The result? The second group - the group that was asked their age after the test - performed better than the first group.
If you think about it, the group asked for their age before the test conforms to the stereotype of diminished mental capacity with age. Thus, the first group was inadvertently induced to perform worse. This is just an example of how stereotypes and biases can skew your customers satisfaction survey results, so watch out for them!