How to Create Customer Satisfaction Surveys That Work

Linda Formichelli
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There are so many reasons to care deeply about your customers’ happiness:

  • Happy customers stick with your business instead of running to the competition, meaning you earn recurring revenue.
  • They talk your business up to their friends, family, and social media connections.
  • They leave positive reviews for you online, bringing in even more customers.
  • It’s a lot more pleasant for your engineers and office staff to work with satisfied customers than than with angry, unhappy customers.
  • Happy customers will tell you about it; most unhappy ones will just leave—and you’ll never know why.
  • Making people happy is a nice thing to do.

The tricky thing is, how do you know exactly how happy (or unhappy) your customers are?

You ask them.

Enter the customer satisfaction survey.

You could talk to one customer at a time and ask them what they think about your field service business and how you could do better—and that’s actually a great approach—but if you want to gather masses of data that will help you improve your customer satisfaction scores and online reviews, an online customer survey is the way to go.

Here are four reasons why:

1. You’ll get better data.

The more customers you survey, the more accurate your results become. That means instead of overhauling your business because the two customers you reached out to didn’t like your invoicing system, you’ll get solid insights from the broad trends you uncover in your survey results. (A hundred customers don’t like your invoicing system? That’s different.)

2. Surveys make you look good.

Online surveys position you an an expert and help you attract new customers, according to an e-book from HubSpot about customer surveys.

3. Surveys make customers happy.

Yes, you can use online customer satisfaction surveys to actually increase customer satisfaction by asking questions about:

  • What kinds of products and services they’d like to see from you.
  • What current services they like/dislike the most.
  • What types of promotions would persuade them to schedule service or sign up for a service contract.
  • If you have a blog or email newsletter, what kinds of content would be most helpful to customers.

Take action on the feedback you get and you benefit from what’s called a virtuous circle.

4. Customer surveys count as another ‘marketing touch’.

Read More on customer satisfaction surveys from Field Technologies OnlineResearch from BrightFunnel shows that it now takes more marketing touches than ever—that’s any contact you have with a lead or customer, from social media to in-person events—to make a sale. Add customer surveys to your marketing mix for a positive way to add another touch.

Let’s talk about how you can reap all these benefits of customer surveys.

How to Create Customer Satisfaction Surveys That Work

These are the five basic steps to creating a survey that will help you get results for your business.

  1. Pick your platform.
  2. Write your survey questions.
  3. Get the word out.
  4. Interpret the results.
  5. Take action on the feedback.

Read on for details on how to implement each step.

Pick your platform. 

You’ll find many, many survey platforms that let you build online and mobile surveys. Some are free, while others offer a free trial before you have to upgrade to a paid plan. Here are four top picks.

  • SurveyMonkey is free for up to 10 questions and 100 responses. If you need more, you can upgrade for $384 (US) annually.
  • Looking for something a little different? Survey Anyplace lets you create surveys in a fun, engaging format—surveys that people actually want to take. You can use the basic service for free, and pay $29 and up for more features and responses. (Each paid level offers a 7-day trial.)
  • GetFeedback was named one of the top online survey tools of 2018 by PC Magazine. It boasts extensive themes and tools to create attractive, mobile-centric surveys. They offer a 14-day free trial, after which the service charges $50 (US)/month and up.
  • PollDaddy doesn’t limit the number of questions or respondents you can have, but if you upgrade to PollDaddy Pro for $200 (US) per year, you get the ability to export responses, custom ‘thank you’ and ‘welcome’ pages, and more.
  • KwikSurveys offers unlimited questions, unlimited surveys, and a lot of extras for free. 

If none of these survey platforms work for your business, you can find loads more by searching ‘survey tools’ on Google.

Write your survey questions.

The questions are what make or break your survey. You can design the slickest-looking survey out there, but if your questions turn up useless data you’ve wasted your time. (Not to mention you’ve wasted your customers’ time asking them pointless questions about their favourite fixture finishes.)

Here’s how to write questions that get results.

Give them multiple choices...

Narrow yes/no questions don’t offer you a lot of insights. So, for example, instead of ‘Are you happy with the service you’ve received from Big Drip Plumbing? Yes/No’, try, ‘What services have you been the most satisfied with?’ and supply a list to choose from. You can then do the same for ‘What services have you been least satisfied with?’

...but sometimes, give them a yes/no question.

You have to keep the customer in mind when creating survey questions—and the fact is, choosing from huge lists of options and answering lots of essay questions can be tiring. When it makes sense, let the customer choose a simple yes/no or thumbs-up/thumbs-down response, suggests HubSpot in a guide to customer satisfaction surveys.

Make them prioritize.

If you let respondents choose as many answers as they like, many of them will tick pretty much every box. Yes, they want annual service contracts and mini-split installation services and help saving energy! This makes it hard to analyse the results. Instead, ask customers to choose their top three (or five, or whatever works for the question).

Switch it up.

Not every question has to be in the same format. To get the most helpful responses, try different formats for different questions; for example, you can ask your customers to rank the friendliness of your engineers on a scale of 1 to 10, and then ask them to choose the top three plumbing services they’d like to see you offer.

Give your customers a voice.

Essay-type questions can give you a lot of context on the data you’re gathering; however, limit the number of characters in an essay box to, say, 250 characters unless you enjoy reading actual essays. Also, whenever you have a multiple-choice question, offering an ‘Other’ option with a small text field is useful in case the customer has an answer you hadn’t thought to add.

Get the word out.

field service customer satisfaction survey tweet

Now that your survey questions are written out and your survey’s all set up in your chosen platform, the next step is to actually send it out.

Since you’re interviewing your own customers, you don’t have to work too hard to send them your survey link; after all, you already have them all in a customer database so you can simply email or text it to them.

The real trick is in enticing them to actually fill out the survey. Here are some tried-and-true tactics to test out.

Persuasion Pointer #1: Give them a reason.

Years ago, researchers discovered that people would let others jump ahead in the queue if the queue-jumper simply offered a quick explanation (such as ‘I’m in a hurry’ or ‘I need to make these copies for reason X.’).

This study showed that people, if given a good reason, want to help you. So when you make the ask, explain how their filling out the survey will help you offer better service to them and others.

Persuasion Pointer #2: Offer a bribe. 

Many people are willing to fill out a survey in exchange for a goodie like a gift certificate or a coupon for a discount on your services.

Don’t want to have to buy incentives for hundreds of customers? Do a drawing instead, where, say, 10 randomly chosen respondents will win a free boiler servicing. (Random.org is a good site for choosing winners.) The Business Advice website offers tips on running a successful—and legal—promotional prize draw, including how to comply with the GDPR.

Persuasion Pointer #3: Estimate the time.

Often, people procrastinate on filling out a survey because they fear it will take up too much of their time. To overcome this objection, let your customers know approximately how long it will take; for example, you can call it a ‘5-minute survey’ or a ‘6-question survey.’ Even if your survey isn’t super short, giving customers a time estimate will encourage them to slot the task in when they have enough free time.

Persuasion Pointer #4: Set a deadline.

If your customers are like most humans on the planet, they’ll procrastinate on filling out a survey until so much time has passed they figure they no longer need to bother. That’s why it’s important to set a deadline, perhaps a week or two out, and make that date clear both in your email or text and at the top of the survey itself. Some survey platforms also let you set a time limit on the survey.

This is crucial for surveys where you’re offering an incentive; it’s no fun to have to schedule a free boiler service for someone who filled out a survey two years after you sent it out.

Interpret the results. 

You managed to convince a good portion of your customers to fill out your survey, and now you’re looking at a mess of percentages, bar graphs, and pie charts. How can you make sense of it all?

Look for trends.

Some of your results will be self-explanatory: If you have a bar graph showing the results for the question ‘What do you like most about Hello HVAC?’, and the bar representing ‘speedy service’ is three times longer than any other bar, the answer is clear.

However, remember to also examine the ‘Other’ fields and the essay-style responses. You may uncover trends that didn’t show up in the results because your customers all have a concern, compliment, or comment that you didn’t think to include in the standard responses.

Combine the results.

Looking at the survey results as a whole, instead of only considering each question separately, may offer you some unexpected insights; for example, you may discover that a good percentage of the customers who answered with a thumbs-up to ‘Are you satisfied with our prices?’ also indicate they don’t like that they get a different engineer for every job...or maybe you’ll realise that most of your customers who live in a certain part of town are interested in annual service contracts.

Get ready to be surprised.

Keep an open mind as you analyse your survey results. You probably think you have a pretty good handle on who your customers are, what they want from you, and what they like and dislike. But if you let this color your judgement, you may miss interesting and important insights from your survey.

For example, maybe you think your customers’ biggest complaint will be slow response time to their calls, but you discover that it’s actually that your service windows are too wide. Or you’re certain that customers will want lower prices, but they’re actually willing to pay more for faster service.

Be happy when you’re wrong, because it means you have a new opportunity to thrill your customers and get more jobs.

Take action on the feedback.

Learning how your customers feel about your field service business is an important reason to do a survey—but the number one reason you go through this process is to change your business to do more of what your customers love and less of what they don’t love, increase your customer satisfaction scores, and boost your profitability. Here’s what to do next. 

Say thanks.

Thanking customers for filling out your customer satisfaction survey makes it more likely they’ll help you in the future...and it’s just a nice thing to do.

Some survey platforms can be set up to send customers to a thank-you page or send a thank-you email; the IMPACT website highlighted 10 creative examples of thank-you pages that make survey respondents feel great.

You’ll also want to thank your customers once the survey is over via email, in person, or through social media. Even better, share the results of the survey—and even what actions you plan to take in response to those results. If you want to give your customers an attractive, easy-to-read version of the results, use a free service like Canva to turn them into an infographic. (You can also share the infographic on social media and your blog.)

Make a plan.

Now that you have an idea of how customers perceive your business and how they rate your various products, services, and business processes, be sure to use those revelations to make positive changes.

Of course, you don’t need to turn your business upside-down next week to boost your scores, but do:

  1. Triage on the most important feedback; for example, if your appointment confirmation system is severely broken, fix that first.
  2. Decide on which feedback makes the most sense for your business to take action on. You may decide, for instance, that even though many of your customers would like you to offer 24/7 emergency services you simply don’t have the resources to make it happen.
  3. Make a plan to take action on those survey results that do make sense for your business. Be sure to get stakeholder buy-in on your plans, and spread them out over time so you get them done right the first time.

Once you’ve implemented some of the changes, run another survey to see how they’re impacting customer satisfaction; if you get it right, you can create a positive feedback loop that carries your field service business to success.

You don’t have to survey your customers to find out what makes them run to a competitor, because we already did it for you in this post on the top 5 customer complaints...and we share all the solutions in the free download below.

How to solve your 5 biggest customer satisfaction problems for field service

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