A guide to customer satisfaction surveys (+25 questions to ask)
Customer feedback is crucial to growing and improving your business. Asking the right customer satisfaction survey questions will provide key insights into what's working and what isn't so you can enhance the customer experience and increase retention.
Published April 2, 2020
Last updated April 26, 2022
Your business has only so many chances to get it right. Fifty percent of customers will stop doing business with a company after just one bad experience, and over 80 percent will move to a competitor after multiple negative experiences.
To minimize poor customer experiences and boost retention, you must request feedback and listen to your buyers. But where do you start?
One of the most effective ways to get feedback is through customer satisfaction surveys. However, sending a random set of customer satisfaction survey questions every now and then won’t help you improve your CX. To obtain meaningful feedback, create surveys with a goal in mind and carefully craft questions that help you collect relevant data.
What are customer satisfaction surveys?
A customer satisfaction survey is a list of questions used to measure what consumers think about a business and its products or services. The primary purpose of customer satisfaction surveys is to gather customer feedback about anything from the ease of using a product to the quality of service provided by customer support agents.
Customer satisfaction survey responses reveal opportunities for growth and areas where the company is lagging behind. By acting on this input and addressing the weak spots, support leaders can offer better customer experiences—leading to greater customer acquisition and retention.
3 types of customer satisfaction surveys
There isn’t only one way to find out how your customers feel. Different types of feedback surveys drill down into specific metrics such as overall satisfaction, effort, and loyalty.
Customer satisfaction (CSAT) score
Customer satisfaction score surveys indicate how happy customers are with a particular interaction or experience with your brand.
Say a customer just spoke to a support agent, and you want to find out if they got the help they needed. Your CSAT survey can ask, “How satisfied were you with the support you received?” Your customer can rank their experience on a scale of 1 to 5 or choose from options ranging from “very dissatisfied” to “very satisfied.”
To measure your CSAT score, divide the sum of all positive responses (responses from 4–5 or 7–10, depending on the scale) by the total number of responses collected. Then, multiply the result by 100. The percentage represents your satisfied customers.
Net Promoter Score℠ (NPS)
Net Promoter Score (NPS®) surveys measure how likely a customer is to recommend your product or service to someone else. NPS surveys are usually measured on a scale of 1 to 10. The score is a strong indicator of customer loyalty and overall customer sentiment of your brand.
To determine your NPS, compare the percentage of detractors (respondents who answer 0–6) to that of promoters (respondents who answer 9–10) to see where your company stands.
Customer Effort Score (CES)
Customer Effort Score (CES) gauges how much effort a customer must exert to complete a task, use your product, or get an issue resolved. It shows how easy (or difficult) buyers find interactions with your brand, so the metric is helpful for recognizing how close your customers are to churning. CES surveys typically feature a rating scale of 1–5, where 1 means “strongly disagree” and 5 means “strongly agree.”
Collect CES scores by sending out surveys that ask customers to rate their most recent support experience. To calculate your CES, divide the sum of all Customer Effort Scores by the total number of respondents.
Top 3 benefits of customer satisfaction surveys
Surveys enable you to understand customer expectations and see where your business is falling short and where it’s excelling. Based on these insights, you can form a plan on how to improve your support experience and strengthen customer relationships.
Surveys help you build better products
Surveys are the product team’s secret weapon. Customer feedback tells you if your buyers love (or hate) what you’ve created—you don’t have to guess or test a million times.
Say your company offers a project management tool for startups. On calls, customers complain that they keep missing deadlines because they can’t distinguish between messages and assignments in your software. You act on that feedback by rolling out a new feature that lets users distinguish between messages sent from colleagues and tasks that have been assigned to them.
An online survey can help you determine if customers find this new feature helpful. Their feedback will reveal any pain points and possible solutions, so you can improve the product to suit their needs.
Surveys reveal strengths and weaknesses
Brands can use surveys to learn where they’re getting it right or wrong.
There’s a strong chance your business is doing better than the competition in some areas. But what about the missed opportunities? These gaps may be blind spots for you but not for your customer base. Through surveys, customers can identify holes in the buyer’s journey and suggest possible solutions.
Surveys improve customer relationships
Surveys make customers feel heard. When you ask consumers for their opinion, you’re showing them you care about their ideas and want to make improvements. In turn, your customers are more likely to trust your brand—especially when you act on their feedback—and maybe even recommend it to their friends and family.
5 types of customer satisfaction survey questions
Instead of waiting for customers to complain, regularly ask them about their interactions with your brand so you can proactively catch issues and maintain their loyalty.
Customer satisfaction survey questions come in a variety of formats:
Nominal scale questions
Nominal questions categorize answers into two or more variables. The options do not overlap and are usually qualitative in nature, so you can’t use numbers to define your answers.
Let's say you want to include other languages on your website so your readers across the world can access information easily. You could ask:
What languages do you speak?
- Other (Please specify)
Nominal scale responses are easy to collect and measure, but the questions sometimes restrict the way customers can express themselves.
Ordinal scale questions
Ordinal questions measure customer feelings or opinions using a set of ordered responses. They are arranged in a specific manner so that each response is greater or less than the other. For example, your doctor could ask you to rate your pain from a 1 (not so painful) to a 10 (extremely painful).
You might ask your customers if they feel “satisfied” or “not satisfied” with your support or if they’re “very likely” or “very unlikely” to recommend your product to a friend or colleague.
Likert scale questions
A Likert scale is a type of ordinal scale question that uses a five- or seven-point rating scale to gauge customer sentiment. Usually, Likert scale questions ask respondents to agree or disagree with statements. They provide more information than binary “yes/no” questions and are regarded as a more reliable way to measure customer satisfaction.
Say you want to find out how well a self-service option, such as your knowledge base, is performing with your customers. You might frame your prompt as:
The knowledge base articles are helpful and informative.
- Strongly agree
- Neither agree nor disagree
- Strongly disagree
Semantic differential questions
Semantic differential questions ask customers to rate an interaction, product, or brand by selecting a specific variation of an adjective.
Say you want to ask respondents about the quality of their interaction with a support agent. Your question and answer options might be:
“How would you rate the support you received?”
- Very helpful
- Somewhat helpful
- Neither helpful nor unhelpful
- Somewhat unhelpful
- Very unhelpful
With semantic differential questions, customers can choose responses that closely align with their feelings instead of simply agreeing or disagreeing with a statement.
Open-ended questions allow customers to express themselves freely outside the confines of yes/no and point-scale answers, giving brands more context around responses. These questions are usually accompanied by a text box.
An example of an open-ended question is: “If someone asked you to describe our product, what would you say to them?”
Consider asking an open-ended question at the end of your survey so customers have the opportunity to elaborate on their answers or point out issues you may be missing.
25 customer satisfaction survey question examples
There isn’t a single customer survey that will give you all the insights you need to improve your CX. Instead, tailor survey questions to different department needs and customer touchpoints. Use the following list of customer satisfaction survey examples to ask the right questions for different use cases.
Questions that assess your customer demographics can help marketing and sales segment customers into buyer personas. Responses could lead to extremely valuable insights that influence revenue and support strategies. Demographic questions can validate existing data while revealing new patterns.
Example survey questions include:
- How many employees does your company have?
- How old are you?
- Where are you located?
- Where did you first hear about us?
- What is your main goal for using this website/product?
- What industry are you in?
Product usage questions
Questions about the ways customers use your product or service allow your company to better understand the customer experience. Ask buyers what they like and don’t like about your offering so you know what areas need improvement to keep your audience loyal.
Example survey questions include:
- How would you rate your purchase?
- Would you recommend our product or service to a friend?
- How can we improve our product offerings?
- How do you use our product/service?
- Which product feature do you consider the most valuable?
Quantitative customer feedback questions
Qualitative responses are important, but numbers are easier to measure. You can validate, confirm, or disprove problems and make decisions based on data.
Example survey questions include:
- On a scale of 1–5, how would you rate this interaction?
- Please give your driver a rating out of five stars.
- On a scale of 1–10, how satisfied are you with your interaction with the support agent?
- How easy was it to resolve your issue?
- How likely are you to recommend [insert product or service] to others?
Follow-up questions make sure you’ve covered all your bases. Ask customers how they feel about recent interactions with your business. You can send follow-up questions after a buyer has finalized a purchase or contacted customer support.
Example survey questions include:
- Thanks for reaching out to our customer service team. We’d like to know how we can improve our support offerings based on your feedback.
- We are reaching out to customers who have made a purchase in the last few months. We would love to hear more about your shopping experience.
- Would you use [insert channel] again based on your experience?
- On a scale of “very easy” to “very difficult,” how easy was it to interact with our service agents?
Open-ended and long-form questions
An open-ended question gives customers room to voice experiences and opinions in more detail. Detailed responses can help you build better products, provide ideas for your knowledge base, and pinpoint areas of improvement.
Example survey questions include:
- In your own words, tell us about your experience with our product.
- What product feature isn’t working for you and why?
- How can we improve your experience with our brand?
- Is there anything you’d like to add?
- What is the primary reason for your score?
Best practices for creating customer survey questions
Creating a customer satisfaction questionnaire requires more than listing questions. You have to be mindful of inherent biases, survey timing, and other key factors that can impact responses. Use these tips to guide you as you build your survey.
Begin every survey with a goal in mind
For feedback to be actionable, surveys should have an obvious and clear objective. So, before sending out a survey, ask yourself: “What do we need to know that we don’t know?” This will help you identify your goals.
Say you recently rolled out a new prospecting feature for your sales CRM that speeds up the process of collecting information. You’re not sure what prevents customers from using the new feature, and you want to find out how you might increase engagement. With this goal in mind, you can ask customers questions specifically about the feature.
Keep survey questions simple and short
If your customers have to read your survey questions several times before they can understand the queries, you risk not receiving any responses at all. Along with question complexity, your survey length also affects response rates. A SurveyMonkey study shows that the longer a survey is, the less likely customers are to complete it.
Write a small number of straightforward questions to encourage responses from customers. Instead of phrasing a statement as, “Navigating and sourcing articles in the knowledge base was easy,” try phrasing it as, “It was easy to find helpful knowledge base articles.”
Use open-ended questions to get more details
Include one to two open-ended questions at the end of your survey to let your customers express themselves and to make sure there aren’t any problems you’re missing. For example, after asking the customer to rate your product, you could prompt them to provide more details by stating, “In your own words, tell us about your experience with our product.”
While open-ended questions are your best friend, you should limit your usage of them so customers don’t have to spend too much time writing responses.
Choose the right time to send surveys
The best time to send a satisfaction survey is when an experience is still fresh in the customer’s mind. A CES survey sent closely after the customer has interacted with a support agent is more likely to earn you accurate responses because that customer will still remember what happened and how they felt about the experience.
But you must also be careful not to send surveys too early. Customers need to have formed an opinion about their experience before you reach out to them.
Send out surveys at significant milestones and touchpoints during the customer journey. For example, when a new client finishes the onboarding process, send an in-app survey to ask about their experience.
Turn survey responses into action
You’ve sent your first survey, and the results are in. Start by responding to your customers quickly and reassuring them that their concerns will be addressed.
Analyze the results for trends to see what customers want, and forward common issues to appropriate departments so they can come up with solutions. Acting on feedback shows your customers that you care about their experience and want to make improvements for the future—and that’ll keep them coming back.