Real-World Education for Modern Marketers

Join Over 600,000 Marketing Professionals

Start here!
Text:  A A

Six Tips for Creating an Effective Online Customer Survey

by   |    |  8,841 views

Because of the wide availability of opportunities to create surveys using free online survey software, you can quickly and easily gauge customer satisfaction or interest in new product offerings via customer surveys.

When using a free or subscription-based online tool to create a survey, however, you must be certain that the survey is carefully designed to yield the most valuable data.

1. Preliminary Research

Online survey software makes it easy to create multiple surveys, which means you don't need to create one survey to address all of your market research needs.

So know what it is you want to know:

  • What information do you need from your survey?
  • What do you plan or hope to do with that information?

Different goals require different types of data from customers or potential customers. For example, the information you gather prior to launching a new website will be different from the information you'll solicit before adding a feature to an existing website.

2. Determine the Target for your Survey

Almost all survey software enables you to enter an email list. How do you determine which people to include on that list?

Choose a specific group of people you want to survey:

  • Existing customers
  • Potential customers
  • Purchased sales leads

Customize your survey for the target group. When you create a survey for college students, for example, the tone and language will likely be different from that of a survey for senior business executives.

Writing questions tailored to your target audience will increase the response rate of your survey and result in more valuable data.

3. Write Simple Questions

Regardless of your target, use simple, straightforward language in all of your questions.
Most participants will not take the time to read a question more than once.

Multiple-Choice Questions

If you choose to use multiple-choice responses, be sure that each choice is distinct. Participants should not have to consider two responses that seem almost identical.

It is acceptable to use questions with fewer (or more) response choices than other questions if doing so improves the clarity of a question.

"Double-Barreled" Questions

Double-barreled questions actually query two different data points. An example would be "How important are cost and quality when considering a new car?"

This question asks for two pieces of information, the importance of cost, and quality. And so there is no way of knowing which feature respondents have in mind when they respond.

Break down such questions into two short and simple questions; doing so will lead to better data.

4. Prioritize Your Questions

You have a choice of how to order your questions:

  • Randomized question order: Questions appear in a different order for each respondent.
  • Static question order: Questions appear in the same order for all respondents.

To best control the survey results, choose a static order.

Create a survey that starts with questions your respondents will find most interesting. Respondents are always most engaged when responding to questions about their own experiences. The most effective survey will therefore move from the most- to least-personalized questions.

Group questions. When you create a survey, also consider the groupings of your questions. Developing blocks of questions that address a single theme from different perspectives will return very specific data.

5. Formatting

Most online survey software websites offer premium features that enable you to customize the layout of your survey. Be sure that there is ample white space between questions.

If possible, use survey software that presents each question individually, on its own page.

A progress bar will help respondents measure their progress, without being overwhelmed by a long list of questions.

6. Test Your Survey

Finally, test your survey before sending it out to. Survey testers should, of course, check the questions for spelling and grammar errors. Just as important, however, is to learn how respondents may react to the questions.

Key issues for survey testers to assess:

  • Are there any questions that are confusing?
  • Could any be misperceived as offensive?
  • Is there a logical order to the questions that allows respondents to build upon prior responses with more detailed data?

Once you've vetted and revised the survey based on the feedback from the testers, release the survey to your target group.

* * *

The next time you create a free online survey, keeping these tips in mind will ensure survey results are meaningful and valuable.

Join over 600,000 marketing professionals, and gain access to thousands of marketing resources! Don't worry ... it's FREE!


We will never sell or rent your email address to anyone. We value your privacy. (We hate spam as much as you do.) See our privacy policy.

Sign in with one of your preferred accounts below:


Sameer Bhatia is founder and CEO of a provider of online learning tools for building, testing, and applying knowledge, including its Online Survey Maker.

Twitter: @sameer_bhatia

Rate this  

Overall rating

  • Not rated yet.

Add a Comment


  • by Kimmy Burgess Thu Jan 30, 2014 via web

    Above tips shared is truly exceptional to know the mindset of the customers through online survey. But i feel that it should kept on pretty simple manner, so that everyone can participate & show their liking & dislikings by answering simple questions.

  • by Sameer Bhatia Thu Feb 6, 2014 via web

    Kimmy: Agree 100% with you. Another thing that helps with simplicity is keeping surveys short. 4-8 question is what we see having highest completion rates. The longer the survey, the more complex it tends to be and completion rates start to drop off. Another trick here is to make the first question a really simple one so users can get started easily.

  • by Sue Duris Mon Feb 17, 2014 via web

    All good points. While you alluded to it, you didn't state it and that is survey completion time. Time is very key for surveys. Companies should only ask the pertinent questions from the pertinent people they need answers from. The more to the point surveys can become, the better response rate surveys will provide.

  • by Michelle Carter Wed Jul 16, 2014 via web

    The tips are great, Sameer. These, combined with a good survey tool (read SoGoSurvey ) would be gold. Thanks a ton.

  • by Ben Dover Wed Jan 14, 2015 via web

    The tips listed have helped me greatly and should be used by all that are making surveys.

  • by Mike Hunt Wed Jan 14, 2015 via web

    If I had one dollar for every kid that has fallen asleep in this class, I would be worth more than Bill Gates

  • by Dan Adams Wed Nov 18, 2015 via web

    Good points in this article. A key factor in today's Smartphone and Smart Device era such as the tablet is the definite one question per page request, otherwise it gets too cumbersome. We have been following this trend with Supercandidate since 2007.

    The number of questions ultimately is relevant to the end user. If you are talking to an engaged audience such as those looking for a specific job role and the survey is all about that job role, then longer surveys are fine. I agree that if the end user is unknown or you are fighting others to get their response, keep it short and sweet.

MarketingProfs uses single
sign-on with Facebook, Twitter, Google and others to make subscribing and signing in easier for you. That's it, and nothing more! Rest assured that MarketingProfs: Your data is secure with MarketingProfs SocialSafe!