Companies that want to experience maximum growth constantly try to learn more about their customers so that they can better meet their needs. Surveys are a flexible and effective tool for collecting answers to a business’s most pressing questions. If you’re interested in presenting a survey to your customers, you might benefit from understanding when to use different question formats. In this article, we review a list of the most common types of survey questions and provide examples of each.
Common types of survey questions
Here are several common types of survey questions you might ask your customers, illustrated with examples:
Open-ended questions allow respondents to interpret them and answer in their own words. They expand your company’s potential to learn information and recognize possibilities not previously considered. For instance, a customer might identify a problem with a service you weren’t aware of or share an idea for a product feature worth pursuing. Open-ended questions are useful in early surveys when you may not yet know enough to ask more targeted questions.
Keep in mind that open-ended questions require more effort from the respondent since they have to consider their response and explain it. Limit the number of open-ended questions you use for online surveys and combine them with other question types. Because open-ended responses don’t follow a pattern, you may need additional time to organize your responses into usable data. Here are some examples of open-ended questions:
How could our business better meet your needs?
Who do you consider our competitors?
What advantages do you feel like we offer over our competitors?
How would you describe our company’s reputation?
What convinced you to purchase our product?
How would you characterize our customer service?
What change would you make to our product?
What other products would you like to see?
What values do you think a business should represent?
What feelings or emotions do you associate with our brand?
Closed-ended questions’ defining feature is that they provide a list of responses from which respondents choose, as with multiple-choice questions. They’re well-suited for instances where your business wants to represent findings graphically since you can easily organize and sort collected data.
Unlike open-ended questions that require time and effort, close-ended questions are simple to complete. Consider using closed-ended questions to begin your questionnaire so that customers feel inclined to answer. Once they begin a survey, they often answer the remaining questions, including open-ended ones. Closed-ended questions might read:
What color do you prefer for this product? Please choose: red, blue or green.
Which consulting company has the best reputation? ABC, LMN or XYZ?
How did you learn about our store? Select one: online ad, recommendation or signs in the area.
How often do you purchase our product? Please choose: daily, weekly or monthly.
Would you recommend our services to a friend? Absolutely, probably, probably not or definitely not?
Would you describe your stay with our hotel as satisfactory or as disappointing?
Do you prefer our premium offering to our standard one? Select one: yes, not sure, no.
Which price is a fair representation of our product’s value? $25, $30 or $35?
Which adjective best describes your customer experience? Frustrating, boring, pleasant or excellent?
Was this your first purchase with our company? Yes or no?
Ranking questions ask respondents to organize options in an order that reflects a specific quality. They enable businesses to understand how consumers make comparative judgments between some of your products or between your products and competitors’ products. You might use findings from ranking questions to inform strategic decisions about product development or marketing campaigns.
Sometimes, though, a customer might not feel strongly about the comparative value of different choices. Here, a ranking question might create a misleading impression about customer sentiment. For instance, customers of an ice cream shop might agree that all the flavors are excellent. If forced to rank them, one flavor becomes the least popular, even if that rank is relatively meaningless. Ranking questions include:
Rank the following brands from most exciting to least exciting.
Review the images of our products and rank them from most visually appealing to least visually appealing.
Rank the activities you took part in from most enjoyable to least enjoyable.
Rank the following companies from most trustworthy to least trustworthy.
Using your best guess, rank the following products from most expensive to least expensive.
Rank these products in the order you would choose them.
Rank the product features you enjoy from most to least.
Using your intuition, rank the following products from highest quality to lowest quality.
Rank the following user experience issues from most frustrating to least frustrating.
Rank these corporate values from most likely to influence your purchase to least influential.
A Likert scale question captures how respondents feel about something on a scale, with the middle value representing a neutral opinion. Typically, Likert scales present five or seven values to choose from, with the lowest number representing the most negative view or strongest disagreement and the highest number representing the most positive view or strongest agreement. If you have a well-defined issue that you know your customers have thoughts about, Likert scale questions generate easily interpreted results. Often, the question is in the form of a statement.
Likert scale questions are less useful when respondents might have mixed feelings about complex issues or a product. For example, a health food shop might not want to use a Likert scale to get feedback about new smoothie flavors. A new flavor might make customers feel energized and focused, but they might not like how it tastes. They might like its flavor, but its higher price point might disappoint them.
Here are some Likert scale questions in statement form (assume the survey offers customers the option of responding 1-5 and states 1 means strongly disagree, 2 means disagree, 3 means neutral, 4 means agree and 5 means strongly agree):
This product represents a quality investment.
These services are essential to your business.
Our customer service is exceptional.
Our service team responds to help requests quickly.
My colleagues would benefit from purchasing this product.
I know how to use all the features of this service.
The instructions for this product were clear and comprehensive.
I enjoy using this product.
I look forward to doing business with the company again.
I trust this company more than its competitors.
Rating scale questions ask customers to assign a numerical rating to describe an experience or feeling. Typically, rating scales use the lowest number to signal displeasure and the highest number to communicate great satisfaction. Rating scales are an ideal question format when you want to share findings in numerical form or visually represent data. When depicting trends, rating scales produce clear graphs that show how customer sentiment changes over time.
Rating scales may not be the best format to use if you don’t particularly value minor differences or changes in opinion. Without additional question formats, you also don’t receive information that explains why customer sentiment changes. Surveys might tell respondents to use a 1-10 scale when asking:
How would you rate your satisfaction with your purchase?
How would you rate the value of our product?
How would you rate our customer service?
How would you rate our brand’s reputation?
How would you rate our online store?
How would you rate our range of offerings?
How would you rate the quality of this advertisement?
How would you rate the cleanliness of our store?
How would you rate our email newsletter?
How would you rate our product’s build quality?
Yes or no
Yes or no questions let customers answer in the affirmative or negative only. When yes or no are the only possible responses, you benefit from keeping your survey simple and easy to complete. Like other closed-ended questions, you can lead a survey with a yes or no question to increase the likelihood that respondents begin and finish it.
You also might use a yes or no question to segment respondents into groups. For instance, if a college wants to sort survey data separately for domestic and international students, it can simply ask if someone is an international student and then direct them to the correct survey. Yes or no questions could include:
Are you a first-time shopper?
Are you shopping on behalf of a business?
Have you tried this product?
Do you know anyone who has used our services?
Did your cashier provide your receipt?
Did a sales representative offer assistance?
Have you seen our television ad?
Are you more likely to buy from our company if we commit to becoming carbon neutral?
Were all the products you were looking for available?
Would you recommend our company to a colleague?
Demographic questions help you sort respondents into categories that are useful for analysis. Demographic questions might collect traditional demographic data, such as age or gender, or they might ask about business demographics, such as someone’s industry or position. Companies benefit from knowing how different demographics feel about products so that they can segment their audience and use more effective marketing and sales practices with each group. For instance, a gym might learn that its male clientele prefers shorter classes or discover that yoga is the most popular activity among professionals who work in offices.
Demographic questions, however, can generate an excess of data that might not affect the actions you take after reviewing findings. Confirm that all your demographic questions have a direct relationship with the intended outcome of your survey. Demographic questions might ask:
What’s your name?
How old are you?
What gender do you identify as?
What languages do you speak?
Where do you live?
What’s your job title?
In which industry do you work?
What’s your highest level of education?
How long have you worked in your current role?
Which company employs you?
Nominal questions provide respondents with a set of possible answers, typically in a multiple-choice format. By definition, nominal questions don’t ask for quantitative data. However, they might use numbers to represent different concepts or objects. For example, a fashion company might ask respondents to choose their favorite garment by its numerical label. Nominal questions work well when there is a fixed number of categories to choose from or if you want to collect data that’s easy to organize and interpret. Potential nominal questions include:
Select the product you’d most likely purchase: A, B, C or D.
Select the advertisement with the best design: 1, 2, 3 or 4.
Select your purpose for buying this product: home use or business use.
Select which service you use: A, B, C or D.
Select the type of area you live in: rural, suburban or urban.
Indicate how you prefer to shop: online or in person.
Choose the best word to describe our customer service: engaging, friendly or proactive.
Choose the company you’re most likely to shop from first: A, B or C.
Select the car that offers more value: sedan or minivan.
Select the product you found most helpful: A, B, or C.
I hope you find this article helpful.