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How to write a customer satisfaction survey: What questions to ask

Expert Martha Rogers gives advice on creating a customer satisfaction survey that will capture your customer's true feelings.

I work in retail and I'm developing a customer satisfaction survey to measure satisfaction level and see how it impacts customer loyalty. What sort of questions should I ask?

This is a very complicated question. It would be nice if there were a simple set of questions I could provide you with, but there have been many researchers who have tried to answer this question simply and the fact is, the answers vary for different kinds of retailers and businesses.

In general, if you want to find out whether or not customers are satisfied you're going to have to first ask them what it is that creates their satisfaction or dissatisfaction. Until you know this you can't decide which questions to ask – you don't know whether it's the service, the combination of products or even the way in which you accept payment that's affecting their satisfaction, and you don't want to be in the business of guessing what they are thinking.

For example, if I stay in a hotel and they give me a guest comment card and it asks me about things like my check-in experience and whether or not the room was clean, but I can't find a way to let them know that the biggest challenge was making the reservation or the checkout process, then they haven't really gotten at the heart of my dissatisfaction, even though the things they asked me to check off would show that everything was fine.

So make sure that you do the work ahead of time – this will help you to figure out that the fewer questions you ask the better, because some questions will be more indicative of your customer's true feelings. If you can narrow it down to a few questions that will yield you a great amount of data, you're much more likely to get lots of customers to answer those very few questions than you are to get lots of customers to answer lots of questions.

While there is no simple answer to your question, there is the opportunity to look very carefully at customer satisfaction, at whether or not customers are recommending your product or store to others, and beyond that, it's even more important to look at customer behavior and customer equity.

Hear more in Creating Customer Value, a SearchCRM.com monthly podcast series with Peppers and Rogers.

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