Is This a Good Survey? Yes ( ) No ( )

Don't just shoot for yes or no answers from your customers, give them the opportunity to really share their feelings from their interaction with you. Areas where improvement is needed, or where praise should be given, will be far easier to spot, thus allowing you to really make valuable changes.

If you run customer satisfaction surveys -- and you care about getting useful feedback -- make sure your surveys avoid the Yes-No flaw. This flaw concerns survey items that request a Yes or No response. It’s one of the most common flaws I encounter in the surveys I review. Examples:

  (1)  Was the job done to your satisfaction?  Yes (   )  No (   )

  (2)  Was the service agent helpful?  Yes (   )  No (   )

  (3)  Did the product meet your needs?   Yes (   )  No (   )

In the first example, how are customers to respond if part of the job was done well and part of it fell short? If they respond Yes, they give the impression they were fully satisfied with the job. If they respond No, their response suggests they’re disappointed with the entire job.  Given only two choices, customers will select one or the other, and you have no way of knowing if their response reflects their actual level of satisfaction.

The same applies to the other two examples. The service agent might have resolved one problem brilliantly, while giving bad advice about another. And the product may have met certain needs but not others. If you assume Yes responses really mean Yes and No responses really mean No, you might end up taking corrective action where you don’t need to or – worse -- fail to take corrective action where you should.

An alternative is to ask customers to rate their level of satisfaction. Ratings, however, are not actionable. After all, what does a rating of 3 on 5-point scale or 4 on a 10-point scale tell you other than all is not well? Without open-ended commentary to support the ratings, you have no way of learning what, exactly, pleased or displeased respondents.

Instead of Yes/No or ratings items, consider two approaches that get to the heart of what’s on your customers’ minds:

Approach #1

    • What pleased you about the service you received?
    • What displeased you about the service you received?

Of course, you can adjust the specific wording to suit your situation. It can be helpful to also ask a third question:

    • What suggestions for improvement would you make?

Approach #2

    • What’s most important to you about the work we did for you?
    • With request to what’s most important, how did we do?

In place of the ambiguity of Yes-No items and the meaninglessness of ratings, these two approaches let you quickly learn what you’re doing well and what needs attention.

Do you agree?  Yes (   )  No (   )   :-)


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