Employee and Customer Surveys: Questions You Must Answer First Before You Survey Others

It is undisputed that employee and customer surveys provide significant business information. At the same time, it seems everyone from your coffee provider and your clothing retailer to your internet provider and car dealership is asking for your input.  Getting someone’s feedback and attention today has become very competitive.


When BIS began investing in our new proprietary survey platform, our focus was not only on technology and data management, but also on the experience of the recipient.  Because of our many years of experience, we realize not everyone has access to a computer, has the same level of English proficiency, or will complete the survey using the same approach or time commitment as another.  In other words, what works for one never works for all.  Thus, it is important to understand the audience before even starting the survey development process.  Some questions to ask are:

  1. Who are the target responders? What are the segments being targeted?
  2. To what extent do they have access to online systems like home computers, smart phones, other handheld devices, etc.? Is an online survey an option for everyone?
  3. What is the incentive or benefit to them for sharing their insight and feedback?
  4. Where are the respondents most likely to complete the survey? (at work, at home, on a mobile device on a bus, on a 15-minute break?)


In developing the survey, questions must be written so that they do not influence the response or are leading.  In other words, the best survey results will come from having well- constructed questions, often written or reviewed by professionals and those with doctorate level degrees who specialize in research.  Just as important is the number and variety of questions regarding a particular topic of focus, as not every responder may interpret a question as intended.  Furthermore, a single question may only cause the responder to recall a single incident and that may or may not be an accurate assessment of their complete evaluation of the topic. Having multiple survey questions on a single topic and fully understanding satisfaction also necessitates science and the use of algorithms.


The timing and frequency of a survey are also important.  Sending an employee survey the week after bonuses are distributed or contacting a customer on the day of an earnings call can directly influence outcomes.  Because it is difficult to avoid all influences, it is important to understand the results received are a point in time.  However, to really understand trends, consistent timing is needed and annual surveys are necessary.  Surveys of the same group that are more frequent than annual generally do not provide enough time for the organization to respond to needed changes or improvements or realize desired outcomes.

If you want to learn more about our approach to employee and customer surveys, please contact us.  To learn more about our proprietary survey platform that offers affordable survey options, download our one-page overview.

Jeff Beavers, Illinois BIS