Creating an Effective Customer Satisfaction Survey

Ian Landsman photo
Written By
Ian Landsman
Last Updated
December 30, 2019
Creating an Effective Customer Satisfaction Survey cover photo

What are your customers really thinking about your brand? Were they thrilled with their last purchase? Or disappointed? How was that last interaction with your customer support team? Are they likely to make referrals? Or are they likely to leave a bad review? There’s only one way to discover the truth: ask them with a customer satisfaction survey.

An effective customer satisfaction survey will:

  • Help you gauge customer satisfaction and loyalty over time
  • Generate actionable feedback for you to make improvements to your product or service and customer experience
  • Get a high response rate by engaging survey takers with a quick, easy questionnaire

In this article, we’ll take a look at how to create a customer satisfaction survey that gives you the insight you need for greater retention and growth.

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Net Promoter Score: The Core of a Great Customer Satisfaction Survey

Not all customer satisfaction metrics are created equal. Most metrics indicate only a piece of the puzzle.

CSAT, for example, may give you an idea of customer satisfaction with your brand. But it won’t necessarily let you know how likely the customer is to make a referral, or leave a positive review. And CES will give you insight into how easy and convenient it is for your customers to use your product or service–but this metric doesn’t indicate their overall levels of satisfaction.

In December 2003, business strategist Fred Reichheld wrote a groundbreaking article for Harvard Business Review called “The One Number You Need to Grow.” In it, Reichheld explained the significance of customer loyalty– and why companies should focus on a customer’s likelihood of making a referral over anything else.

Reichheld developed a single question to generate insight into this key driver of growth. He called the resulting customer satisfaction metric Net Promoter Score–a single number that can give owners insight into churn, retention, satisfaction, and future growth.

Net Promoter Score, or NPS, is generated quickly and can be tracked over time. Paired with an open-ended question, NPS gives customers an opportunity to share actionable feedback with you. And because NPS surveys are short–generally two questions–they typically get a good response rate.

How to Build a Customer Satisfaction Survey

Now that you know the core of a great customer satisfaction strategy–Net Promoter Score–you’ll want to get started on writing, deploying, and assessing a survey to generate powerful insights for your business.

customer satisfaction survey ideas

Use a Platform

An NPS software can help you deploy a survey through a variety of channels. Consider how your customer base most frequently engages with your brand, and where they are most likely to respond. You may want to send your survey via email, embed it onto your website, or provide a link on your social media accounts.

Create Simple, Friendly Copy + A Clean, Branded Approach

When making that first point of contact to engage customers in your survey, be friendly and straightforward. Try, Hey! Got a minute? Or, if your brand is a little more formal, try We’d love to hear from you. In any case, write something clear and simple. Your customers are unlikely to click if they’re not sure what you’re asking.

Likewise, make sure your survey design is clean, simple, and includes your branding. Most customers will want to navigate your survey quickly so they can give you feedback and move on.

Write 2 Simple Questions

Now, for the meat of the survey: two simple questions to gain powerful insight and actionable feedback.

In your first question, you’ll be collecting Net Promoter Score with the following question:

How likely are you to recommend Product X to a friend, family member, or coworker?

Please provide a rating from 0 (very unlikely) to 10 (very likely).

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

The resulting rating will place survey takers into three categories: Promoters, Passives, and Detractors.

Promoters have scored you a 9 or 10. These are your most loyal brand advocates. Not only are they likely to recommend your brand to a friend, family member, or coworker, they are likely to stick with your brand longer, buy more, and demand less.

Passives have scored you a 7 or 8. Passives aren’t emotionally connected to your brand—yet. Although they won’t factor into your final NPS (which we’ll get to in a moment), passives are the most likely to become promoters, if given the right offers, feedback opportunities, or incentives.

Detractors have scored you a 6 or under. For one reason or another, they’ve been disappointed by your brand, and are the most likely to damage your brand reputation. If followed up with, however, detractors have the potential to be persuaded to change their minds about your business.

In the second question, you’ll ask survey takers for open-ended feedback to explain their rating choice:

Please explain your rating Or, In one or two sentences, please explain your rating.

This gives your survey takers an opportunity to explain why they rated you a 9, or a 7, or 4. Feedback from your promoters and detractors will be the most helpful. Your promoters will give you a good idea of key drivers of loyalty and growth. Your detractors will give you insight into what desperately needs to be fixed or improved.

Producing Survey Results

By this point, you’ve got the “raw material” of an effective customer survey: three categories of survey takers, grouped by level of loyalty, and open-ended feedback.

Now calculate your score and assess your feedback.

To calculate your NPS score, you’ll use the following formula:

[# of promoters / Total # of survey takers] - [# of detractors / Total # of survey takers] = NPS

The resulting score might be anywhere from -100 (100% detractors) to +100 (100% promoters). That being the case, don’t think of your score on a “0-100” scale. An NPS that hovers around 40 is average, but industry averages range from as high as 52 for department/specialty stores to as low as -6 for cable TV/satellite providers.

Regardless of where your NPS currently lies, you’ll want to continue tracking to give you insight into how changes in your product, service, or user experience are affecting score...and how successful you’ve been at making improvements.

To assess your open-ended feedback, use a system for organizing and filtering open-ended answers from customers. Again, a good NPS software comes in handy at this point. Being able to quickly sort and view feedback by score, date, and survey allows you to quickly sort through feedback for actionable insights. Ultimately, these are the insights that will help you to make improvements to:

  • Ensure a high retention rate, and
  • Generate more promoters–the brand enthusiasts that share the good news of your product or service, and increase growth through referrals

retention rates

When to Send Your Survey

By now, you know how to strategically create, deploy, and assess a customer satisfaction survey, leaving one critical question: When should you send your survey?

The best time to send a customer satisfaction survey is within 24 hours after a customer touchpoint. This includes a purchase, a return/exchange, or an interaction with a customer support rep.

In any case, ask your customers for feedback when the experience is still fresh in their minds. Doing so will generate the most accurate results…and communicate your investment in their experience.

As mentioned above, you’ll also want to regularly collect Net Promoter Score and feedback from your customer base–but don’t survey the same customers more than two or three times a year.

Create a Customer Satisfaction Survey with Thermostat

Thermostat is an NPS software that’s specifically optimized to track Net Promoter Score over time, organize open-ended feedback, and help you follow up with survey takers if necessary.

Thermostat allows you to:

  • Administer NPS surveys via email, pop-up link, or through API integration
  • Generate clear reporting with everything you need to know–including your rate of NPS growth over time–in a single place
  • Filter feedback to make it easy and convenient to locate and assess critical survey answers
  • Store unlimited data, giving you the ability to track NPS for months and years to come
  • And more

Plus, unlike most NPS software, Thermostat offers a free version that allows you to create and send surveys for free, forever.

To create a powerful customer satisfaction survey with Thermostat, click here.

Try Thermostat NPS. 200 NPS surveys free each month.
Blog readers get %5 off paid plans for life with code: blog
Learn More →

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