Survey says? Tips on how to find out what customers really think

You don’t need to be a marketing expert or Mystic Meg to find out what your customers are thinking when they shop— all you need to do is ask them! Regardless of the size of your company, obtaining and using feedback from your customers is important. Failure to adapt to an ever-changing market is a recipe for disaster further down the line, and getting left behind is far from ideal. Cracking the customer enigma and staying on top is simple, read on and find out how achievable it really is…

Why a survey?

A customer profile is one of the most helpful pieces of data you can have— knowing who it is you’re talking to and catering for can help you establish a relatable tone of voice and content style for your marketing or website. Knowing what appeals to your customers and the kinds of things which will encourage them to buy can boost your sales and will help you tailor your products more specifically to them. It will also show you who you aren’t catering to and open up a wealth of possibilities for future customers.

You can find out the age, gender and profession of your customer with a simple, general customer survey— the results could surprise you.

If you’re confident you know who you’re selling to, you can use a survey to find out why customers are buying more of certain products and less of others. Try asking your customers which products they’d like to see you add, and what they like and dislike about your company. It could be that the things you think are your best sellers are not as popular with your customers.

How to go about it

Before you even set pen to paper, you need to think long and hard about what it is you want to know. What are you using the information for? Is this a general survey, a customer satisfaction survey, or something which is more central to product research? Having your long term goal in mind when looking at the survey will give you a much clearer idea of what the questions should be and the kind of things it needs to focus on.

Another top survey tip is to make sure that the final result looks professional. Whether you decide to use an online service, like Survey Monkey, or to print it yourself, make sure it looks slick and is easily recognisable as coming from your company. Whatever you do, don’t be the weirdo scribbling down details on scraps of paper; you want it to look official so people can trust that their opinions are being used by a company for the good of the company.


It’s a good idea to begin by thinking about what it is you want to know. Don’t ask questions for the sake of it, or ask what you think you should be asking even though you don’t actually need the information. Your customers have given you their time— don’t waste it. Think about what you will gain from the questions once you have them answered. Will they be useful to you?

Make sure your questions are non-biased and avoid any kind of built-in assumption. You want honest answers, not flattery. Avoid beginning questions like:

• Our products are good because…

• Which do you find the most useful…

Opt instead for questions which are less leading (like assuming that they already think your products are good or that your service is useful) and don’t suggest that the answer should always be positive, such as:

• I find the products…
A) Good
B) Okay
C) I can get them elsewhere

Make questions short and simple for the best results. It is unlikely that your customers will hang about to answer a 15 page document with essay questions. Make it one side of A5 or A4, with quick, multiple choice questions for the best results.

Getting people to talk

Anyone who says they haven’t avoided a clip-board wielding employee on the street or shop floor is a fibber. Offer an incentive for customers who fill out your survey— why not print a professional-looking postcard or flyer to keep at the till and offer a discount to people who fill them out for you? Make the survey sort and sweet and customers can do one at the till and get money off their purchase, right there, right then.

I’ve said it once, but I’ll say it again— keep it professional, whether it’s online or printed, people want to think they they’re giving their opinions to a professional body who isn’t going to abuse their trust or the data they’ve given. Keeping it smart will inspire trust and you’ll get the results you’re looking for.

So there you go— take your surveys and go forth, friends. Unlock the secret minds of your customers and see your business bloom because of it.

Have you used a survey or questionnaire for your business? Share any tips you have in the comments box and pass along your knowledge, too.


David Brookes
03 Jul 2013 17:48
I totally agree, I get a lot of my best ideas from my customers :-)
Melanie Kendry
17 Jul 2013 13:35
I love this blog! There's so much useful stuff on it to take inspiration from! Thanks :-)
Ashleigh-Jayne O'Connell
19 Jul 2013 15:25
Thanks Melanie! So glad you love our blog, we do our best to be as helpful as possible :-)

That's great news David!
17 Dec 2015 10:47
Great blog, thanks for sharing :)

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