A customer survey is one of the best ways you can learn about your target audience.

Unlike a customer interview, which can be time consuming and laborious, digital surveys are usually fast and easy to use, and can get you a high volume of insights in a short amount of time.

But how do you know when you should use a customer research survey? And what questions should you ask?

In this article, I’ll answer the questions above and provide you with a few examples you can use as inspiration when building your next customer research survey.

Let’s start with some scenarios for when you should use a digital survey over a different customer research methodology.

When should I use a customer research survey?

While there are many, many instances when customer research surveys are appropriate, there are a few core moments during the lifecycle of your business when a customer research survey may come in handy.

1. Before you launch a product or business

In order to build a successful product or launch a successful company, you need to understand who your target audience is, from basic demographic information to insights around their goals, challenges, motivations, potential barriers, and more.

2. When you have paying customers or active users

Once you have paying customers or active users, you’ll want to survey them frequently (at least 1-4x per year) in order to capture things like demographic information (which can change over time), product feedback, Voice of Customer data, ideas for future products, and more.

3. When customers churn or users don’t buy

When a customer decides to leave or users don’t buy, sending a survey to understand why can help you improve your product and customer experience while also helping you increase future conversions and prevent future churn.

Outside of these examples, customer research surveys are also great for…

✅ Quantitative insights

Like multiple choice or rating-scale style questions that are closed-ended and do not require additional analysis.

✅ When you have a larger audience or customer base

Allowing you to collect a lot of information in a more statistically significant way.

That being said, surveys can absolutely be valuable if you have a small audience (assuming you have the right incentive) and can also work great for qualitative questions that require interpretation.

What kind of questions should I ask in my customer research survey?

The short answer? It depends on your goals and where you are in the product journey.

Below I list out some example questions based on the scenarios outlined in the section above, but keep in mind, the categories are just there to give you some ideas.

You can (and should) mix and match questions based on your unique situation.

For example, it may be helpful to ask demographic questions or questions about goals/pain points in the “pre launch” phase as in the “post launch” phase, and so on.

The idea is to get inspiration from the examples then come up with a customized plan that works for your product, goals, and audience.

1. Before you launch a product or business, try focusing on… 

Demographic questions

  • What is your age?
  • How do you identify?
  • Where do you live?

Pain points & barriers

  • When it comes to ____, what is your #1 challenge?
  • Have you ever tried solving that challenge before? If yes, how? If not, why?
  • If you could eliminate that challenge, how would your life change?

Goals & motivators 

  • When it comes to ____ what is your #1 goal?
  • What is the #1 thing moving you toward accomplishing your goal?
  • What’s preventing you from accomplishing your goal?

2. When you have paying customers or active users, try focusing on… 

Needs and intent

  • What is the #1 reason you decided to buy from us today?
  • How did you find out about us?
  • What would you like to see from us next? (Or, “If we added ____, is that something you’d be interested in?”)

Satisfaction/improvements

  • How would you rate ____ (your experience, this feature, etc) on a scale from 1-10?
  • How could this ____ (product, feature, website, experience, etc) be improved?
  • How likely are you to recommend _____ to a friend?

Voice of Customer data

  • What 1 word would you use to describe ____?
  • How would you describe what _____ is?
  • If you were to recommend ____ to a friend, what would you say?

3. When customers are churning or users aren’t buying, try focusing on…

Learning why

  • What were your expectations of _____ before purchasing?
  • What is the #1 reason you _____ (canceled, downgraded, haven’t returned, etc)?
  • When did you realize _____ was not for you?

Gathering feedback

  • What would have to change about our _____ for you to ____ (buy, return, etc)?
  • Is there anything we could have done (or could do) to change your mind?
  • Do you have any feedback you’d like to share?

Want more sample survey questions and hands-on guidance?

As mentioned at the beginning of this article, there are many, many situations when a customer research survey can come in handy.

If you’d like to discover what those situations are and which questions to ask check out my course, How to Conduct, Analyze & Apply Customer Research, which includes many more examples, as well as the templates and tools you need to conduct effective customer research surveys.

The course also includes 10 other customer research methodologies (including customer interviews, review mining, heatmap analysis, usability testing, and more) as well as hands-on guidance if you need it.

I hope you found this article helpful; comment below if you have any questions or if you’d like to share your best survey questions!


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