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What Is a Customer Satisfaction Survey? Importance, Types, and Tips

A woman wearing glasses and a yellow sweater completes a customer satisfaction survey on her digital tablet
A customer satisfaction survey helps you get candid feedback from your customers. It gives them the opportunity to share their needs, preferences, and more. [N Lawrenson /]

A customer satisfaction survey can help you get the insights you need to improve your offerings and build long-term loyalty.

How can you find out if your customers are happy (or not) with your business? Ask them in a customer satisfaction survey.

A customer satisfaction survey helps you get candid feedback from your customers. It gives them the opportunity to share their needs, preferences, and frustrations. 

Insight about the customer experience is critical. You can’t measure customer satisfaction without it. Our research finds that 80% of customers say the experience a company provides is as important as its products and services.

Your customer relationship management (CRM) system makes it easy to track, manage, and analyze this data in one centralized location. Your whole team has a complete picture of each customer in real time, so they know how to deliver on customer expectations. Let’s look at how you can get the most out of a customer satisfaction survey.

What you’ll learn:

Modernize your contact center

The right mix of customer service channels and tools can help you become more efficient and improve customer satisfaction. Our guide reveals how high-performing service orgs make it happen.

What is a customer satisfaction survey?

A customer satisfaction survey is a tool businesses use to gather feedback from customers about their experience. These surveys typically ask customers to rate their satisfaction with a product, service, or recent interaction. 

It can also help you segment your audience in several ways, including demographic, psychographic, product/service usage, purchase habits, and overall satisfaction. This segmentation can help you personalize customer experience to meet the specific needs and expectations of different customer segments to improve loyalty and retention.

A customer satisfaction survey can be conducted through various digital channels, from chatbots to email. The questions can be structured (with predefined response options) or open-ended (where customers can provide detailed answers).

The goal is to get service intelligence from quantitative and qualitative data to learn more about the customer experience, see what’s working, and identify areas for improvement. A customer satisfaction survey helps businesses make informed decisions to enhance the customer experience. (Back to top)

Why customer satisfaction surveys are important

Customer satisfaction surveys are a key part of understanding the customer experience. They help you measure customer satisfaction and let you know what’s working and what’s not so you can constantly improve. You can use these data insights to make better decisions on how to deliver better products, services, and experiences. 

They also help you better understand customer preferences so you can tailor your offerings and personalize their experiences. You can even find out how you stack up against your competitors.

Most importantly, customer satisfaction surveys show your customers that you care about them and their experience with your business. This helps to strengthen customer relationships and build loyalty, which can lead to increased revenue. (Back to top)

How to create a customer satisfaction survey

Your customer satisfaction surveys will vary depending on what your company wants to know. You may design one to get a sense of overall customer satisfaction, and another to dig into specific parts of the customer, product, or service experience. 

To save time, you can use generative AI like Einstein GPT to create surveys for you. For example, you might ask: “Write me a survey for customers who called about product x, but who have a low customer satisfaction score in the past year.” Be sure to have a human review the survey for accuracy. 

You can also use generative AI to help you decide which customer surveys go to which customers by segment. Generative AI can analyze customer data to identify patterns and preferences within different segments. For example, it can recommend that one survey be sent to customers with a past high CSAT and another for customers with a past low CSAT. Sending your survey to the right customers can improve the likelihood of getting more meaningful insights. 

No matter your objective, here’s how to set up for success:

  • Define a clear purpose: Before you begin, decide what you want to know. For example, if you want to know about how easy customers find their self-service experience with your company to be, focus your questions on self-service ease of use only.
  • Keep your survey short: Your customers may want to give you feedback, but if you make your survey too long or complicated, you may not get enough responses or quality feedback. Limit the number of questions — whether you use structured, open-ended, or a combination of both types. Let them know the time it will take for them to complete your survey.
  • Mix quantitative and qualitative questions: Each question type provides unique insights. Quantitative questions provide numerical data that can be analyzed and measured in a customer satisfaction score (CSAT). Qualitative data helps to explain the “why” behind quantitative. Ask your customers to rate their experience on a number scale. Finish with a question that prompts open-ended feedback, so they can explain what they mean in their own words.
  • Personalize, and be specific: Our research finds that 61% of customers say most companies treat them as a number. This is where the power of your CRM and automation comes in with the ability to send personalized emails with customer names and previous interactions with your business at scale. A personal touch can bump up response rates by making your customers feel like they matter as people. This also helps to improve customer engagement and build stronger relationships.
  • Choose a delivery method: Your delivery method should match your audience’s communication preferences, whether it’s voice, email, social media, or live chat. If you don’t know the best method, test different options to see which gets you the most responses.
  • Timing is everything: Send your survey when the experience is still fresh in customers’ minds but gives them enough time to form an opinion. Getting in touch after an important conversation or milestone can help you gather more accurate and useful responses. Tools like Service Cloud let you automate and send responses when it matters most, so you can reach customers at the right time. It can also send a reminder to complete the survey, in case someone doesn’t respond.
  • Act on feedback: The point of collecting data is to do something with it. When you make changes based on customer feedback, let them know through personalized emails, in-app notifications, or social media announcements. Showing customers how their feedback influenced change builds trust and makes it more likely that they’ll refer you to others — and respond to future surveys.
  • Reflect on previous surveys: Not all surveys provide will provide the data you want. Look at past surveys to see which have worked well before and what could be improved for stronger results. (Back to top)

Types of customer service questions, plus examples

You’re ready to create your own customer satisfaction survey. You know to include different kinds of questions depending on the type of feedback you want. But what specific approach should you take?

Your questions can range from general to specific depending on the information you’re after. For example, rating scales may help you understand general satisfaction and set a CSAT benchmark.

But want to know more about customers’ experiences with specific products or product features? Consider having them tell you in their own words.

Here are 8 question types and examples to help get you started:

  1. Overall satisfaction: Usually, this is a rating to gauge general satisfaction with your product or service.

Example: “On a scale from 1 to 5, how satisfied are you with our product or service?”

2. Specific experiences: Learn about customers’ experience with different aspects or interactions with your business by using open-ended questions.

Example: “Please describe a recent experience you had with our customer service team.”

3. Improvement suggestions: Seek actionable feedback about how to improve.

Example: “What’s one thing we could do to make your experience with our contact center better in the future?”

4. Product usage: Understand how customers typically engage with what you offer.

Example: “How do you use our product or service?”

5. Demographics: Collect background information to better segment your audience.

Example: “Where are you located?”

6. Psychographics: Explore the attitudes and behaviors of your customers.

Example: “How much does field service sustainability matter to you?

7. Satisfaction scale: Quantify satisfaction levels based on recent service or overall experience with your company.

Example: “On a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 being the best and 1 being the worst, how satisfied were you with your contact center experience today?”

8. Write-in: This is an opportunity for you to ask specific questions and gain a bit more context. Customers can express their thoughts freely and provide information you may not gather using other formats.

Example: “In your own words, what has your experience been like with our products?”(Back to top)

Top use cases for customer satisfaction surveys

Rather than a crisis tool to solve problems after the fact, customer satisfaction surveys should be used proactively to learn about and improve the customer experience. Use them early and often to uncover valuable information at every stage of the customer journey and improve your approach to customer service.

Let’s look at a few examples.

Understanding customer feedback across touchpoints

When to use: After a customer interacts with your service team or at regular intervals to measure service quality over time.

Every interaction with your business, including contact center, in-store purchase, or field service appointment, offers an opportunity to collect insights. If someone calls about a broken dishwasher, follow up with a survey. Have them rate their dispatcher experience, field service appointment, or the product itself. For a full picture, send a survey after they schedule the repair and another after it’s completed.

This approach helps you understand how satisfied customers are with different aspects of your business, from your customer service to the field service experience and product quality. It also helps identify what’s working well and what needs improvement at different stages.

Preventing customer churn and improving retention

When to use: If a customer has expressed disappointment with a product, canceled a service, or otherwise indicated they might be ready to buy elsewhere, use a customer satisfaction survey to gather feedback and fix the problem.

Surveys can be a powerful tool in identifying at-risk customers and reasons for potential churn. By asking customers about their experiences and satisfaction, you’ll uncover those who may be ready to leave for a competitor and need some extra attention.

Ask dissatisfied customers for their feedback and what could be improved for them to stay. Then, add their responses to their customer record and follow up with personalized assistance. If you have guidelines in place for retaining customers, such as personalized offers and incentives, this is a good time to use them to regain customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Identifying where you’re getting it right

When to use: After a customer has shown high satisfaction with a recent interaction or milestone in their customer journey.

While customer satisfaction surveys can show you where your customer service approach is falling short, they also point to what you’re doing right. Surveys often reveal your brand advocates — customers who are more likely to recommend you to others, speak highly of your brand publicly on social media, and make additional purchases.

Analyze positive survey responses and feedback for signals of high satisfaction. Reinforce your service team’s positive behaviors and celebrate successes all year round. You can also use positive customer interactions and feedback — examples of things you’re doing well — as training and coaching opportunities.

Testing the market for a new solution, product, for service

When to use: Before you introduce a new solution, survey high CSAT customers who are more likely provide feedback before it is launched and advocate for it when it goes into market. 

By targeting customers that have had a positive experience with your business in the past, you’re more likely to get useful feedback from them. Consider offering an incentive, like a free sweatshirt, if they participate in your survey. You can gauge interest, validate your product concept, find out what features they like, identify areas for improvement, and more. This way, you can address any issues before you launch the product, ensuring that you deliver a solution that meets customer needs and expectations.

A satisfied customer is also more likely to become an earlier adopter and an advocate for your product once it launches. They may recommend it to others through word-of-mouth referrals or on social media platforms in real time. Watch for these reviews and acknowledge their feedback right away. Be sure to ask them if they will participate in your customer reference program, as well in case studies, customer stories, and webinars. Their advocacy helps to build trust, attracting new customers and driving business. 

Evolving with customer expectations

Feedback collected from surveys doesn’t just guide your business to improving its products and services; it can also help you provide better customer service experiences. Understanding what customers value most can help you hone your process so that you evolve with changing customer preferences. Consistent feedback about customer expectations also helps your team remain agile.

If customers frequently give your company five stars, consider follow-up surveys. Ask open-ended questions to pull in information about specific parts of the experience they enjoyed and what exactly they liked. For example, if you want their take on resolving a complaint, ask what made it stand out. Detailed feedback allows you to keep delivering great experiences. (Back to top)

How to use customer satisfaction surveys to your advantage

With customer satisfaction surveys, you don’t have to be a mind reader. By asking, listening, acting, and communicating, you build a continuous cycle for improvement. When you implement changes based on customer feedback, share those updates with your customers right away. This can help them feel valued, leading to higher loyalty and satisfaction.

Remember: customer satisfaction surveys are only as good as the data they collect. Asking the right questions, in the right way, at the right time, will increase your response rates and provide you with the right insights to act on. Show your customers you’re committed to giving them a great experience. That’s what keeps them coming back for more. (Back to top)

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Martin DuPont Senior Director of Product Marketing

Martin DuPont is the Sr. Director of Product Marketing for Salesforce Service Cloud, showcasing how Salesforce enables smarter, more personalized customer support. As a 15-year veteran in CRM and tech, Martin specializes in cloud solutions helping companies optimize customer service through AI and digital transformation.

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