Marketing Center

How to conduct effective customer research and surveys

Learn how to ask the right questions and discover what your customers think of your business.

1. Set your objective

Without a direct goal or outcome in mind, conducting research can be costly and inefficient. Before you start, consider what you’re trying to achieve with your research. For instance:

  • Are you trying to get to know your customers?

  • Do you want to know your business’s strengths and weaknesses?

  • Are you testing the launch of a new product or service?

Finding the best approach of qualitative or quantitative data is key to conducting a successful research studies that will provide the answers you need to address for your business. Once you determine the purpose of your research, you can better develop your process and get started.

2. Determine which type of research is appropriate

Before you start building and conducting your customer research, be sure to determine whether your aim is to gather qualitative or quantitative answers. With qualitative research, the feedback is unstructured and open-ended and attempts to gather deeper insights about how people feel on think about a topic. This information is not numeric and is subjective in nature.

 Examples of qualitative research are:

  • Focus groups

  • In-depth individual interviews by phone or in-person

  • Bulletin boards

  • Observation of customers or prospects

With quantitative surveys, the focus is on collecting numerical information that can be analyzed statistically. For example, asking your customers how they would rate your customer service on a scale of one to five with one being bad and five being excellent can help draw statistical data and show areas in which your business is excelling or facing challenges.

If you find that the majority of your customer engagement is done online, you may want to consider using an online or social media survey tool, such as SurveyMonkey or Twitter polls. If your audience is less engaged online, consider conducting your research over the phone or by mailing out hard copy surveys.

3. Survey a large group

Though it’s common to expect that all your subjects will respond, experts recommend a minimum of 500 survey subjects for a higher confidence level, or a higher survey accuracy, if you are conducting a qualitative survey.

For quantitative research, the emphasis is less on the survey group size and more so on understanding the appropriate confidence level. The larger the survey sample size the higher the confidence in your survey’s result. It’s important to remember that a higher confidence doesn’t necessarily mean that the data is more accurate.

In order to encourage responses you may need to offer some incentive like the chance to win a lucky draw or donation to a non-profit organization.

4. Develop questions

What you ask your customers will depend on your survey objective. Keep your survey brief and clear to gather responses from a large number of customers. If you're looking for detailed customer feedback, ask open-ended questions that your respondents can expand on. If you’re seeking an overall customer experience rating, consider a sliding scale or one-out-of-five type of response, with one being poor and five being excellent.  

5. Analyze the feedback


Interpret the positive and negatives of your feedback to find out the next steps to help your business grow. For example, if a high percentage of your survey subjects agreed that your business was hard to contact, it may be time to reassess your online presence and update your contact information.

Remember: While the results may help you with your business, it’s completely up to you to implement the feedback into your products and services.

Interested in learning more about the most effective customer satisfaction questions? Learn what to ask and what not to ask for honest feedback to help you grow your business.

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