How to Write a Good Survey Question

Thomas FairbairnMay 3, 20197min0

How to Write a Good Survey Question: Top TipsBad surveys are dangerous. If you ask the wrong things, or ask them the wrong way, you’ll get a distorted data set that gives an inaccurate impression of your customers.

On the other hand, if you can enthuse your customers and get them to participate in short, targeted, well-constructed surveys, you’ll build up a formidable knowledge of your customer base and tailor your strategy to serve them better.

But how do you craft that perfect question?




1. Start with the easy questions

You need to put the customer at ease. A couple of simple introductory questions means the customer will relax and be more inclined to answer more complex questions.


2. Less is more

Survey fatigue is real. Always remember that your survey isn’t the only one your customer answers. Many do want to help – but they haven’t got all day. Since their time is precious, don’t waste it with unnecessary questions – keep refining your list of questions until only relevant, actionable ones remain. 

The last thing you want is ‘straightlining‘ – when customers are so fed up with a survey that they give the same answer to everything. It’s much better to have 5 genuine answers than 25 rushed and inaccurate ones.


3. Don’t use ambiguous phrasing

Let’s say I ask: Do you think your car is a pleasant drive?

There’s a couple of things wrong here. In this context, you can interpret the word ‘think’ in a couple of ways – some will think it’s asking for their opinion, whereas others might suppose you’re asking whether they think or know.

‘Pleasant drive’ is also ambiguous – is it referring to the car being good to drive, or the act of driving in the car?

You could improve this question by saying: Is your car pleasant to drive?


4. Don’t you agree that leading questions are terrible?

How to Write a Good Survey Question: Come again?


Ambiguity is normally accidental; leading questions can be too, but they’re also the consequence of unconscious bias. If you don’t stay alert to the dangers of leading questions, you might skew your survey by framing everything so the company looks good . It might massage the ego, but it won’t enable you to help your customers.



5. Read the question out loud

When you read things back in your head, clunky phrasing isn’t always clear. It’s a good idea to read your questions out loud and make sure they sound natural. You want questions that ask the right thing in the right way, and lead to accurate answers from your customers.


6. Put each question in its proper context

You can’t expect your customers to know as much about your business as you do. If there’s important information they need in order to answer, give them that context.

You also need to think about the flow of your survey – structuring it around the touchpoints of your customer journey is often a good approach – so that each question leads on naturally from the last.


7. Test the survey and refine your questions

Your team will have fantastic ideas, but you need to get an outside perspective on it.

A focus group can advise you on phrasing, context, bias, and anything else that’s preventing the answers from being reliable. You can use this feedback to refine your survey strategy going forward.

It’s also worth including an optional box on your surveys when they actually go live, asking your customers for any suggestions.


8. Let customers know how you’re using the survey information

What would you rather hear?

Do you have 5 minutes to answer some questions about our products?


Can you spare 5 minutes to help improve our products with your valuable feedback?

That makes a customer more inclined – if they believe engaging with the survey will improve their own customer experience. Within the survey itself, you can give more precise indications about how the feedback will be used.


How to write a good survey question: overall advice

Ultimately, you’re looking to capture an accurate impression of your customers’ opinions. This means using neutral, natural language that elicits honest, useful answers.

Check yourself for unconscious biases, and ask for outside perspectives on this as well.

It can be a tricky balancing act, but as long as you’re clear what you want to understand, and your questions help you with that purpose, you can get really accurate feedback that allows for continuous improvements in customer experience.


Has your company done a fantastic job with surveys in the past year? If so,  enter the UK Customer Experience Awards today!




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Thomas Fairbairn

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