“Must Haves” for Designing an Effective Customer Satisfaction Survey

Customer satisfaction surveys have unique features which make their designs and approaches differ from other types of surveys.  For one, they are much more time-sensitive (the customer must get the survey while his experience with your product or service is still fresh in his mind); their sample size is not known beforehand (the customer’s engagement with your company triggers the survey); and frequency of surveying customers must be carefully monitored, since some customers purchase more frequently than others, and surveying them each time can fatigue them and actually lower their satisfaction.

Aside from these differences, your C-Sat survey follows the same survey principles that other surveys do.  Today, we’ll discuss the ingredients for a winning customer satisfaction survey.

Remember to define  your objectives first!

As with any survey, if you don’t know what you want the information to tell you, you’re wasting time and money.  Let’s assume you own a restaurant.  Every restaurateur wants repeat customers, and higher check amounts.  Similarly, every waiter or waitress wants greater tips. 

Hence, your objective might be: “To maximize the enjoyability of my patrons’ dining experience so that they will return often, spend more, and leave greater tips for the waitstaff.”

Base the survey questions on your objectives

Now that you know your purpose for the survey, you can design the questions.  You should always ask the standard satisfaction and loyalty questions:

  • Overall, how satisfied were you with your dining experience at Sophie’s Gourmet Soups and Sandwiches?
  • How likely are you to return to Sophie’s Gourmet Soups and Sandwiches?
  • How likely are you to recommend Sophie’s Gourmet Soups and Sandwiches?

You should ask these questions first; I’ll explain shortly.  Next you should ask questions about the elements that can influence satisfaction.  For a restaurant, these can be numerous.  Recall that my March 16 post Customer Loyalty Key to Restaurants Surviving Recession cited some research that recommended asking patrons whether they were greeted by the server; whether the server checked back with them regularly; whether the server thanked them for their business; and whether the manager was visible to them.

You might also want to ask about the taste of the food; the temperature of the food; the cleanliness of the restuarant, and other features.  However, you must still keep the survey brief, especially in a restaurant, since the time patrons will be completing the survey is when they’re about ready to leave.

Your survey should ask the satisfaction and loyalty questions first because if you start out with questions such as “Did your server greet your party as you were being seated?” or “How would you rate the taste of your food,” a very bad or a very good experience with the subject of that one question can influence the answers to all the other experience questions, creating a “halo effect.”  Then, if you ask the overall satisfaction question at the end, you’ve essentially led them to the satisfaction answer.  Your findings will be biased.

Know your independent and dependent variables

Generally, your dependent variables will be the actual measures of satisfaction (overall satisfaction, likelihood of recommending to friend, etc.).  If you can tie the customer’s transaction amount to the survey, you can also use the check amount as a dependent variable.

Your independent variables include whatever drives your customers’ satisfaction.  In this case, the greetings, checking back, taste of food, etc.

You will want to determine which independent variable(s) has the greatest effect on satisfaction, so that you can adjust your customer service policies accordingly.

The next blog post will discuss how you can determine which independent variables drive satisfaction in more detail.

Last but not least!

Also remember to take into account the timing of your survey.  It should always be done while the experience is still fresh in the customer’s mind; you should not inundate the same customer with the same survey over and over again.  If a customer dines in your restaurant every day, do not expect him to take the survey each time;  it will get old very quickly.

Perhaps you can give the survey to every fifth table.  That would ensure that someone isn’t getting over-surveyed.

Also, offer an incentive for taking the survey – perhaps $5 off their next dining experience.

And, as metnioned above, try to match the patron’s survey back to his/her spending amount.  For a restaurant, the waitstaff may write at the top of a (completed) survey the check amount and the tip amount.  This will help you determine how much satisfaction correlates with customer spending.  You might also want to track back spending of customers who declined to take the survey.  This can also yield valuable clues about these customers.  

As you can see, C-Sat has lots of ground to cover.  Next post, we’ll talk about identifying the drivers of satisfaction.


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