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5 Tips to Write a Business Survey That Gets More Responses

Photo over a woman's shoulder as she works on a laptop, and the screen shows that she is filling out a survey; it says "SURVEY" and the question is, "How was your experience with us? Select one: Fantastic, Good, Average, Poor, Very poor!!" She has selected "Good." Other questions on the screen are "Are you going to recommend us?" She has selected "Yes" out of the possible Yes or No choices, and the final question shown is "What can we do to improve service?" and that one has been left blank.
Does your business survey need help? (Photo: georgejmclittle)

Businesses need to conduct surveys to better understand and serve their customers.

The problem? Many customers hate taking surveys.

But if the customer doesn’t take the survey, they miss the opportunity to experience better service from the business.

The concept of the business survey is a bit of a paradox—and most definitely a source of frustration for business owners, especially if they can’t get customers to fill them out. But are the customers to blame? Are they all too lazy, or are they just so delighted with your product or service that there’s no need to fill out a business survey?

While some blame can be put on the customer, it’s up to you, the business owner, to evaluate what you can do differently. How is the content of your survey? Perhaps no one’s responding to your business survey because of the survey itself.

Don’t worry; there are a few easy ways to turn a business survey that no one wants to take into a survey that more people will want to take—and you’ll get more insightful responses, too.

Here are five tips for writing an outstanding business survey.

In a rush? Get this article as a PDF guide so you won’t miss these tips!

1. Open-Ended vs. Closed-Ended Questions

Depending on what type of data you’re looking for, you’ll want to choose between open-ended questions and closed-ended questions.

Open-ended questions provide more qualitative information and detailed answers to questions that take longer to analyze but provide more valuable information.

The wording should be objective—not a transparent way of leading respondents to say what you want them to say.

  • Don’t ask: We have recently upgraded our menu. What do you like best about the changes?
  • Ask: What are your thoughts on the new menu?

Don’t assume your respondents know all the details you do. When necessary, give background details to help survey takers respond appropriately.

  • Don’t ask: Do you like our new facility?
  • Ask: This arena opened in spring 2022, replacing a well-loved stadium built in 1997. If you visited the former arena, how would you compare the two venues?

Alternatively, if you’re looking for quick and easy data to capture and analyze, ask closed-ended questions. Closed-ended questions generate quantitative data that can be easily measured to gauge success and translated into charts and graphs.

2. Use Simple, Clear Language

A survey needs to speak to the largest number of people possible. Use simple, clear language that most people can understand.

Also, don’t ask two questions simultaneously, such as “How would you rate our customer service and marketing materials?” What if the service was terrible, but they liked how you got them in the door? You can’t improve your business if you don’t know what’s working and what isn’t. Ask one question at a time.

Here at Super Copy Editors, we’ve found that even a minor spelling or grammar mistake can make a big difference in how customers interpret your questions or answer choices. To ensure your business survey is crystal clear and polished to perfection, get your proofreading quote now.

Infographic from Super Copy Editors titled "Business Survey Checklist." The checklist is: I clearly defined the purpose and objectives of the survey. I identified the target audience and tailored the questions accordingly. I kept the survey anonymous to encourage honest responses. I provided clear instructions and an estimated completion time. I kept the survey short and to the point (maximum 10-15 questions). I used simple and clear language that is easy to understand. I used a mix of closed-ended and open-ended questions for a more comprehensive understanding. I ensured the survey is accessible on all devices, including mobile. I checked my spelling, grammar, tone, flow, and style. It’s perfect!

3. Ensure There Are Enough Options

Respondents may skip a question (or the entire survey) if they feel the answer choices provided don’t accurately reflect their experience. Your business survey needs to offer a whole spectrum of options for the respondent to select from, not just the ones you want to hear.

Your business survey shouldn’t contain questions with loaded answer options such as:

How would you rate our service today?

  • Excellent
  • Great
  • Good

This business survey question leaves no room for improvement or for customers to express their authentic experience if their encounter was subpar. A complete survey question would allow for more possibilities:

How would you rate our service today?

  • Excellent
  • Good
  • Satisfactory
  • Poor
  • Choose not to say

Always leave an option for the respondent to not have to answer. This is especially important when asking for personal information.

It’s better to give them an option not to answer some questions than have them get frustrated with being forced to choose and decline to participate in the business survey.

Also, you could always include “Other” as an option and leave space for respondents to enter a personal response. This way, you have the best of the qualitative and quantitative worlds.

Don’t Miss: The 5 Most Common Proofreading Errors Marketers and Business Writers Make

Photo of a hand on a mobile phone, and the person is filling out some kind of form.
Edit your business survey down to the most critical questions that won’t take too much time to answer. (Photo: Tero Vesalainen)

4. Choose Wisely

The Rolling Stones said it best: You can’t always get what you want.

While you may want to fix all your problems with one survey, you won’t make any new friends by giving them a three-page questionnaire on their most recent experience with your business. You don’t want to overwhelm them with questions.

Pick and choose the most critical questions you want answered by your customers and present them in a compact business survey that won’t take too much time or effort to finish.

Also, it’s a good idea to make each question unique. Repetitive questioning is a turnoff for the respondent and won’t give you any new information. If the respondent doesn’t like the questions, they could start answering questions without putting any thought into them—a practice known as straightlining.

Questions that are answered without any thought put into them are more damaging to your business survey than questions that aren’t answered at all.

Don’t Miss: 10 Common Business Clichés That Destroy Good Writing

5. Keep It Recent

The sooner you can get your business survey to the client after their purchase or experience, the better. You can’t expect a reliable answer from someone who used your services many months ago.

People, in general, have short memories. Unless your product or service created a life-changing experience, their memory of buying it will be vague at best. Your business survey should aim to collect the most relevant information possible.

This same principle applies to surveying the habits of your customers. You can ask, “How many times have you ordered takeout food in the past year?” but a customer’s answer probably won’t be accurate. So what’s the point?

Try more relevant questions, such as “When did you last order takeout food?” This is easier to recall and gives you the same general information.

If the last time they ordered pizza was six months ago, they probably don’t eat pizza a lot. If the answer was yesterday or last weekend, chances are better that they order pizza more frequently.

Don’t forget! Download “5 Tips to Write a Business Survey That Gets More Responses” to keep it handy and take action on it. Click here to download it now.

Final Thoughts

Here’s a bonus tip for writing a highly successful business survey: Make the customer feel like they’re enacting change if they take the time to finish the survey.

If your customers genuinely feel like they’re being asked to help shape the company’s future and improve the experience for others, they will be much more likely to participate.

If customers feel their input matters, they will participate in your business survey.

When you finish writing your business survey, take it yourself and ask some friends or colleagues to take it. Ask them if the questions make them feel valued or if the answer options are only what the company wants to hear.

Don’t be afraid of negative feedback—that’s what makes your business better. Negative feedback from your business survey is welcome, but you don’t want it to result from spelling or grammatical errors that changed the meaning of your question. Have Super Copy Editors look over your business survey to ensure it says what it means and with the proper tone. Get in touch now to get a quick quote for our proofreading services.

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Dave Baker

View posts by Dave Baker
Hi, I’m Dave Baker, founder and copy chief of Super Copy Editors. I have more than 25 years of professional proofreading and copy editing experience, including work for The Nation magazine, The New York Times, and The Times-Picayune of New Orleans, where I shared two staff Pulitzer Prizes. At Super Copy Editors, we’re passionate about helping agencies, marketing teams, and education companies refine and polish their text to give them confidence and ensure success. Learn more here.

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