What is a Customer Satisfaction Survey?

Customer satisfaction surveys help companies measure satisfaction, identify unhappy customers and find potential advocates.

For most companies, customer satisfaction ratings can have powerful effects. Firstly, they help focus employees on the importance of fulfilling and exceeding customer expectations. Secondly, when satisfaction ratings dip, they warn of potential problems that can affect future revenue.

Customer satisfaction metrics assist with understanding exactly how happy (or unhappy) your customers are. Research from 1Financial Training Services found that 96% of unhappy customers don’t complain, but 91% of those actually leave and never come back. This is astounding and shows how important it is to understand and use customer satisfaction surveys within your company.

“Customer satisfaction provides a leading indicator of consumer purchase intentions and loyalty.” – Marketing Metrics, 2010


What is a Customer Satisfaction Survey?

An effective customer satisfaction survey has 5-10 questions that relate to the service delivery, customer experience and overall satisfaction.

The purpose of this type of survey is to gauge how satisfied your customers are. A happy customer is extremely valuable to your company. Happy customers come back and make repeat purchases; they have higher customer lifetime values and are less likely to defect to competitors.

On the flipside, an unhappy customer is a nightmare. They are more likely not to continue to buy from you, and even worse, they tell lots of people about their bad experience. A study by the White House Office of Consumer Affairs found that a dissatisfied customer will tell between 9-15 people about their experience. Around 13% of dissatisfied customers tell more than 20 people.

Customer satisfaction surveys help you identify the overall level of satisfaction and assist with finding your happiest and unhappiest customers. Feedback from a survey gives you the opportunity to follow up with your happiest customers (to turn them into advocates), and your unhappiest customers (to fix problems and retain their business).

The most effective customer satisfaction surveys use rating scales. Asking customers to answer questions on a rating scale of 1-10 means you can track satisfaction over time. This helps when you want to measure changes in satisfaction to see if the initiatives you implemented have had a positive or negative impact on satisfaction.

Additionally, surveys should be personalized and branded, so that customers know what they are filling out. They should be accessible across all web, tablet and mobile devices. These strategies have been proven to increase survey response rates so you can get more customer feedback.

The end goal of a customer satisfaction survey is to get actionable customer feedback that you can use to improve the overall customer experience. The best companies in the world focus heavily on creating amazing customer experiences. To create amazing experiences, you first need to measure and track customer satisfaction. Surveys are the best way to do that.


Why customer satisfaction is important

If you’re still not convinced that measuring customer satisfaction is important, here are some additional research statistics.

  • In a survey of nearly 200 senior marketing managers, 71 percent responded that they found a customer satisfaction metric very useful in managing and monitoring their businesses. (Marketing Metrics, 2010).
  • In a competitive marketplace where businesses compete for customers, customer satisfaction is seen as a key differentiator and increasingly has become a key element of business strategy (The Future of Business: The Essentials, 2005).
  • Price is not the main reason for customer churn, it is actually due to the overall poor quality of customer service (Accenture global customer satisfaction report, 2008).


See also: 5 reasons it’s important to track customer satisfaction


How to create the perfect customer satisfaction survey


Tip #1: Ask the right questions

The perfect survey starts with knowing what you want to ask customers. Since I recommend limiting your survey to a maximum of 10 questions, make sure keep them concise and each question has a strong purpose.

For example, at Client Heartbeat we ask a total of six questions.

Four of the questions relate to customer experience; value, user experience, support, education. These four key areas are what we want to be consistently delivering good service around.

By keeping a finger on the pulse of the key areas important to your business, you can keep track of satisfaction and quickly find customers that give you low scores.

The fifth question we ask resolves around a customers overall satisfaction. This is important to gauge an overall rating and gives insight into how they really feel about the service.

The final question brings in some theory from the Net Promoter Score. We ask how likely they would be to recommend us to friends and colleagues. This question alone identifies our customer advocates, shows us who are just passively happy and who are unhappy or at risk.

Example Customer Satisfaction Survey – Client Heartbeat


Popular: 7 mistakes to avoid when creating customer satisfaction surveys


Tip #2: Add a personal touch and company branding

Three things are critical to successful satisfaction surveys. You must send them to the right people, you must add a personal touch and you must use company branding.

Why? Because this all builds trust and assists with getting your customers to actually fill out the surveys. Traditional online survey tools will get between 10-15% survey  participation (response rates). That’s pretty dismal. Client Heartbeat gets over 60% survey response rates, and one of the key reasons we can do that is we focus on the three critical factors.

Think about it for a second. How likely are you to fill out a survey that doesn’t address you by name (no personalization), doesn’t say where it’s coming from (no brand), and probably should have been sent to your managing director.

Get these critical factors handled and you’ll definitely improve response rates and get more actionable customer feedback.


Tip #3: Close the loop with additional comments

Your surveys should close the loop. What I mean by that is they should ask and encourage customers to leave additional feedback based on the score they gave. For instance, if they gave a poor rating, you should ask them to leave comments as to why. If they gave you a positive rating, ask them for a testimonial!

This valuable feedback can be passed around the office to your employees so you can proactively address the customer problems, or share in the success of the customer testimonials.


Tip #4: Track and trend satisfaction

This will make or break your efforts in measuring and improving customer satisfaction. If surveys don’t have the ability to track and trend satisfaction, throw them away now.

How can you improve satisfaction if you can’t measure it against your last survey?

Choose a customer satisfaction tool that gives you the ability to track and trend satisfaction from one survey period to the next. Use this to measure changes in satisfaction across your company as a whole, and across customers on an individual level.

Use the actionable insight to identify the causes for dips or spikes in satisfaction. If a customer gave you a rating of 10 today, and six in three months time, a customer satisfaction tool must be able to tell you that the score dropped by four points.

Here’s a diagram of how Client Heartbeat tracks and trends satisfaction.

Track and Trend Customer Satisfaction with Client Heartbeat


3 Customer Satisfaction Survey Tools


Client Heartbeat

Client Heartbeat is a tool built specifically to measure customer satisfaction. It is used by over 300 companies to survey clients, track changes in satisfaction levels and intelligently identify customers who might be ‘at risk’.

What really separates Client Heartbeat from the other tools is its simplicity at gathering customer feedback. The surveys, or ‘Heartbeats’, are so easy to complete, they get industry high survey response rates of over 60%.


Customer Sure

Customer Sure offers a solution that focuses on customer feedback. This customer satisfaction software tool makes it easy to send customer surveys, gather the results and intelligently act on the feedback. Customer Sure goes beyond just customer satisfaction by also helping you gather reviews and run a help desk.



Temper offers customer satisfaction software that offers a way to improve customer satisfaction over time by measuring how your customers feel about the business. The tool helps you measure and track customer satisfaction over a period of time. It is best suited for web-based businesses where you tend to engage customers only on the web.


Measure satisfaction using surveys

A customer satisfaction survey is the perfect way to gauge how happy your customers are. They are used to get actionable feedback which can assist with creating a customer experience that increases satisfaction, reduces churn and stops customers defecting to competitors.

71% of marketing managers identified customer satisfaction as an important metric to be managing the success of their businesses; what are you doing to measure satisfaction?


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Gordon Tan

Gordon Tan is an entrepreneur based in Australia who has started and sold multiple technology companies with a combined value of $150m. This included a client satisfaction benchmarking platform which gave him first hand insight into the best practices of over 6,000 businesses. After retiring at 35 he is now a recognised thought leader on winning and retaining clients - His two passions: making clients the heartbeat of a business no matter what the product or service and this blog.

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