How to create effective customer questionnaires

Contributor - Drayton Bird

Man in a purple top using a tablet to complete a customer questionnaire survey

The humble questionnaire is a very powerful tool. Not only does it allow you to find out what your customers think, it’s also a great way to boost customer loyalty and build relationships. But what makes a successful questionnaire? Drayton Bird and Andrew Boddington have the answers

Nobody knows more about questionnaires than my colleague Andrew Boddington, who is one of the best direct marketers I know.

I have worked with him for many years now off and on. So, after one or two comments from me, he has kindly written a quick guide to what you should know about the subject.

Why questionnaires?

Some techniques - and questionnaires are a good example - are so deceptively simple and obvious that marketers ignore them. They're not "creative" enough.

Well, forget "creative". I like things that work. And questionnaires work.

People love to give you their opinions. The questionnaire is a very unthreatening way to approach people.

You just have to ask nicely and often amazingly high percentages will reply.

When they do reply, this gives you an excuse to talk to them again.

So here is Andrew's advice for you:

  • People agonise over making the survey short for maximum response, but do not fear a long survey. As long as the first few questions seem natural and logical to the reader, they will complete it.
  • If you have some questions which are more important than others, make sure the survey has clear sections - the first with the main questions, then the next with an introduction such as "You do not have to answer these, but if you do so, it'll mean x, y and z benefit...and will only take a few minutes more..."
  • Response can be increased by a variety of details. A lot depends on the honesty in the introduction, explaining why you are doing the survey, what is in it for the responder (altruism, sense of helping self or fellows, and maybe even the chance to win something in a free draw, as a gesture of thanks), explaining how the results will be used, and even how they can see a copy of the results (usually a simple summary).
  • People love being asked for their opinion ("your opinion matters to us"), so use flattery to increase participation.
  • Make the introduction from someone they already might know and respect, rather than have no name at all. Even have it look like a letter, with a signature and photo for a touch of warmth.
  • Much depends on the layout, the clarity of typeface and typography, and the use of colours, tints and boxed sections make it look less daunting.
  • It sounds radical, but question how much response is really needed. Statistically a lower response sample may be fine, as long as the views are representative.
  • Try a reminder mailing/emailing after the natural response has dried up from the first survey. Non-responders are not against responding, they just have busy lives, so a courteous reminder will typically get half as much response again.
  • Consider how/when the survey gets handed over, emailed or mailed. Is there a better moment, so they'll be more disposed to take part?
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Drayton Bird

The Chartered Institute of Marketing named him, with others such as Tom Peters, Ted Levitt and Philip Kotler, one of the 50 individuals who have shaped modern marketing. As one advertising agency head commented: “Drayton doesn’t just teach.

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