The One Question You Need on Your Survey

Friends often solicit from me quick advice about conducting do-it-yourself customer satisfaction surveys.  What questions should they ask?  How many questions should they ask?  What measures and scales should they use?  And, of course, shouldn’t they be using NPS (Net Promoter Score) like everyone else?

I tell them that, by far, the most useful question they can ask is an open ended question that would be something like this:

If there were one thing you would like us to improve, what would it be?

You can tailor the wording to your specific market, service, product, or situation.  Best of all, you do not need to code and tabulate all the responses, although you could and might want to.  You just need to read through them and act on them if it makes sense.

I offer this advice with conviction based on the experience of a business colleague who implemented an ongoing web satisfaction survey ten years ago.  I suggested he include a question like this.  He has told me several times over the years it is the only data he regularly reviews and acts upon.  Almost invariably a customer will point him towards a functional glitch on his website or offer a simple suggestion that would make it easier for customers to buy.

He asks other survey questions as well, measuring satisfaction across several dimensions.  And surely a robust effort to analyze that data might tell him what drives satisfaction and how to boost his levels of satisfaction from 85% to, say, 90%.  But what he really wants to know day in and day out is what he can fix to keep improving, and whether any of his customers have a great idea he never thought of that he can easily incorporate.  He gets that with this one question.

His experience is a testament to the idea that one question can provide a great deal of useful insight.  Sometimes one question is all you need.  If so, you’re all set.  If not, give us a call.  We’ll advise you on the next nine questions you need on your survey as well.

Joe Hopper, Ph.D.

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