13 Types Of Surveys (And How To Use Them To Improve Your Business)

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Jack Delaney

If we lived in a world where superpowers existed, the most useful ability for any business (apart from printing money), would be the power to read minds.

Then you would know what your customers and employees were thinking, as well as if your partner really thinks you look good in your favourite jeans.

Unfortunately, superpowers are still limited to Marvel movies, but when it comes to reading people's minds, surveys are the next best thing. They help you to understand your customers, employees and competitors.

You can then use the data you've collected to see what about your business is working, what isn't, and what you can do to improve. When used correctly, they're one of the best tools you can implement for your business.

But finding the right survey type is like trying to find a movie to watch on Netflix - it can feel like an impossible task. We understand.

That's why we've made this article. In this post we'll take you through the different types of surveys and outline when to use them, so you can get the right information to grow your business.

What Are Surveys? A Quick Refresher

Before we jump into the different types of surveys, let's quickly go over what a survey is.

A survey is a data collection method made up of a list of questions, designed to help you gather information about any group of people.

In the business world they're used to gain insights into the thoughts, feelings, opinions and experience of customers and employees.

The way it works is simple. You define the goal of your survey—what information you want to find out—then you write a questionnaire, send it out to a certain group, and wait for the responses to roll in.

After that you analyze the survey results to find trends, understand the behaviours of customers or employees, and look for ways to improve your business.

For example, Microsoft might run surveys to find out what video games users tend to enjoy on XBOX, or Disney might run a survey to see what customers think of their in-app experience.  

Example of a simple customer feedback survey

What kind of survey you use depends on two main things:

  • Who you're looking to get data on (your target audience) and;
  • What data you're looking to collect (what do you want to know?)

Just like you wouldn't use the same shoes to play soccer as you would to attend the Met Gala, you wouldn't use the same survey questions to do customer research as you would to evaluate employee satisfaction.

The flow goes something like this: the better you adapt your survey to respondents, the better the data you collect will be, the more useful insights you'll be able to collect and the more impactful changes you'll be able to make to your company.

Now that we've cleared up online surveys, let's get stuck into the different types and when you should use them. (We also have a helpful guide on the differences between surveys, polls and questionnaires if you would like a refresher.)

Customer Satisfaction Surveys

Satisfied customers are the key to any successful business. Ever wondered what your customers thought about you? About your products? About the weird lady you hired to work in your shop?

Look no further. Customer satisfaction surveys let you know what customers think about your products, your services, your brand as a whole and pretty much anything else you want to know.

Receiving feedback is always difficult, but finding out what a customer enjoyed (or didn’t) about their experience with your company is one of the best ways to improve your offering and grow as a business.

There are different methodologies when it comes to gauging customer satisfaction, each with the same goal, but a different way of reaching it. Let’s look at some of the most effective and how they differ.

Net Promoter Score (NPS®) Surveys

NPS surveys measure how likely customers are to recommend your business to their friends. The idea is that the more someone likes your brand, the more likely they are to spread the good word to others. (They're a super easy form of market research).

These surveys are a fast, efficient (and very simple) way to measure customer loyalty. All you need to do is ask one question: 'how likely are you to recommend [insert your company] to a friend'.

Respondents are given options from 0 (very unlikely) to 10 (very likely). Depending on what they pick they'll be grouped into three categories: Promoters, Passives and Detractors. You can see how it works below.

A infographic explaining Net Promoter Score surveys

Your Net Promoter Score is then calculated by simply subtracting the percentage of Detractors from the percentage of Promoters. Done.

While that gives you a good idea of what your customers think of your company, you can also add a response field for further insights. By doing that, NPS surveys are able to collect both qualitative and quantitative data simultaneously. Pretty neat.

Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) Survey

Where NPS surveys gauge customer loyalty to your brand, CSAT surveys specifically look at customer satisfaction with your organization's products and/or services.

Sony might run a NPS survey to understand what customers think about their brand, but they'll run a CSAT survey to understand what they think about the PlayStation 5.

CSAT questions usually appear at the end of a general customer feedback survey and use a variation of the question, ‘how would you rate your overall satisfaction with the [ goods or service] you received?’

The best thing about CSAT surveys is that you can ask multiple questions to target separate segments of your business. For example, if a person bought a product in your store, you could ask one question to measure satisfaction with the product and another to measure the helpfulness of the staff.

To get the most out of CSAT surveys, supplement them with qualitative research - that way you'll get deeper insight into what's causing issues and how to fix it.

Customer Effort Score (CES) Surveys

Another way to measure customer satisfaction, CES surveys evaluate how much effort it takes for a customer to complete a specific action. For example, Amazon might use one to measure how easy it is for new customers to complete the sign up process.

Normally respondents are asked to answer the statement, ‘[company name] made it easy for me to [do something]’ on a simple scale.

The scale ranges from ‘very easy’ to ‘very difficult’, or you can make things super easy by using stars, smiley faces or even thumbs up/down symbols.

The general idea is that the easier it is for customers to use your products or services, the more likely they’ll be to recommend your brand. If you've ever been frustrated by the processes some businesses use, you'll recognize how important this is.

CES questions are a fantastic way to see if your company is meeting customer expectations, and identify areas needing improvement.

Usability Survey

There are few things more damaging for your business than a bad website. It can turn something that's supposed to attract customers into something that repels them.

You can avoid all that by using usability surveys. They're a way to gather feedback on your website to help you provide a better customer experience and get useful data from respondents.

Where usability surveys differ from other customer satisfaction surveys is that they usually pop up in real-time while someone is browsing your site. They’re set up to look like a chat you might have on social media, so they feel more conversational.

You can set up your survey with multiple-choice or closed-ended questions, or even use live chat to ask open-ended questions and get further insights. Just keep in mind that closed-ended questions are easier to compare and analyze later.

Usability surveys are a great way to refine your website, refresh content and are a life saver if you're selling products online.

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Employee Satisfaction Survey

While it’s important to keep customers happy, it doesn’t mean much if your employees are walking around like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day - tired, miserable and wanting to be anywhere else.

Employee satisfaction surveys allow you to gauge how happy your workforce is so you can improve staff morale, productivity and retention. They help you build a company that people want to work at.

With that goal, you can use a variety of question types to glean information about the employee experience within your company, from relationships with management to thoughts about teamwork, career development and healthcare benefits.

Try not to make your survey too time-consuming and leave plenty of room for long responses. You want employees to feel like you're really listening to their opinion (and you should be). Once you have several responses you can use the survey data to follow-up with meaningful changes within your organization.

Job Satisfaction Survey

Where job satisfaction surveys differ from employee satisfaction surveys is that rather than taking a bird's eye view of the company, this survey method puts the focus on how individual employees feel about their specific role.

You'll be able to hear from employees about their role and learn what they think works, what doesn't, and what feedback they have to help evolve the role.

They're a stellar way to review everything from your training processes to career progression opportunities, and work on creating your ideal workplace culture.

You might find that your employee feels there isn't sufficient training, or managers aren't supportive enough, or that the marketing team feels alienated from the rest of the company.

Once you get an idea of how people function in their roles you can use the feedback to keep your workplace happy, and increase your retention rate by meeting the needs of your employees.

Exit Interview Survey

As hard as it is to believe, sometimes employees will leave your company. Shocking, we know. But there are millions of reasons people leave their job: pay, conflict with staff, lack of benefits, to run off and start their own online bakery.

Exit interview surveys are the best way to figure out why people leave your company. Is it the salary? Management? The healthcare benefits? Is it because you don't stock Coco Pops in the staff kitchen?

No matter the answer, this great survey tool will help you find the answer. And the beauty is that the more exit interviews you do, the more valuable they come.

Let's say one employee leaves to become a Hollywood actress. That doesn't tell you much. But, if over a period of time, your star employees are being poached by other companies offering more money, you know that you might need to adjust your salary package to compete with your rivals.

Customer Exit/Cancellation Surveys

Just like employees, customers sometimes leave too. You'll need to acquaint yourself with the idea if you plan on running a successful business.

The truth is that it even happens to Paperform. Shocking, right? But there's a silver lining - when customers leave it's an opportunity for you to learn and improve your offerings.

You know that moment in every romantic comedy where the girl leaves the guy and he has to figure out what changes to make for them to be together? It's like that, but for businesses.  

If you've ever cancelled a free subscription, you'll recognize customer exit surveys. Usually it's a simple multiple-choice question that asks why you’re leaving, with an option for the respondent to add a comment.

By asking customers this simple question during the cancellation process, you can spot issues you might not have known about. And if the problems are easy to fix, you might even be able to stop them from leaving altogether.

Market Research Surveys

Do you want to know what pricing you should use for your new product? Are you curious about customer buying habits? Or do you want to learn more about your competition?

There’s one answer to all these questions and more: market research surveys. They're a cheap and reliable way to get to know your target audience. They do this by giving you access to key demographics so you can better understand the characteristics of your customers.

Age, race, gender, marital status, occupation, income and education levels. Market research gives you access to all of this information and more.

You can then use this magic data to take the guesswork out of marketing. You’ll be able to know who your target customers are, the problems they’re facing, what their expectations of a solution are, and how they plan on searching for it.

Take a look at the infographic below to get an example of the kind of data that good market research gives you.

An example of market research data in an infographic

We know a thing or two about market research surveys. We’ve even made a guide about how to conduct market research effectively. It comes down to defining your target audience, outlining the kind of information you want to gather, and asking the right questions in the right way.

Planning and conducting market research surveys takes time. But the return on investment is worth the effort. Once respondents' answers start to come in, you’ll be able to cut the guesswork and make informed decisions based on hard data.

Meeting And Event Surveys

A lot of work goes into making events run smoothly. There’s bands to book, heads to count, food to prepare and speakers to invite. Event surveys can help take some of the stress out of the process.

You can use simple web surveys to do just about anything - from helping you plan and organize the event to collecting feedback from guests to make your next event even better.

With Paperform you can send out a simple RSVP questionnaire, use a payment form to collect donations, or even poll attendees about dietary preferences so you don’t accidentally serve a juicy steak to your vegan guest of honor.

If you’re doing a post-event evaluation survey, try to keep questions short, to the point and in a friendly tone of voice. You’ll get more honest responses and a way better response rate.

Lead Generation Surveys

Basic lead generation forms are a great way to collect information about leads (users that could one day become customers). But they're limited in the details they provide.

That’s where lead generation surveys come in. They let you get more complex details so you can get a more complete picture of your prospects.

With lead generation surveys you can gather survey responses and get a variety of useful insights - from whether the prospect is a decision maker within their company to what pain points they’re experiencing, and the kind of content that will be helpful to them.

Usually lead generation surveys are sent out by email. You can ask respondents to fill out a brief survey so you can assist them faster, then ask questions that will tell you important information about their buying power.

You’ll then be able to leverage this information to optimize your interactions and ultimately sell your products or services in a more effective way.

Non-profit Surveys

If you’re working as a non-profit, online surveys are a cheap way for you to gather data that can help you in more ways that you might imagine.

You can use surveys for market research, to send out questionnaires that measure interest in your events, run polls that gauge public opinion, and take donations directly with one of Paperform's payment forms.

Surveys can help you define areas of interest for members, get to know your donors, and give you insights into ways to improve processes. Can you lower your fundraising costs? Improve volunteer retention? Would a loyalty program be beneficial?

A well-implemented survey can empower your non-profit to make the right decisions. You’ll be able to lower expenses, simplify tasks, and get actionable insights into your donors, volunteers and recipients, all without breaking the bank - so your money goes where it's needed.

Over To You

As you can see, surveys are about as diverse a data collection tool as you can get. And you can use them for pretty much anything, from market research and brand awareness to product development and overhauling human resources processes.

But the kind of survey you need changes based on your project. Different survey types exist for this very reason— to make the process easier for you to customize to your specific needs.

Hopefully this article has helped you understand what type of survey you need depending on what you're trying to achieve.

Just keep in mind that whether you’re conducting a market research survey, a customer satisfaction survey or an old school telephone survey, any data you collect is only powerful if you’re open and willing to use it to make meaningful changes to your business.

Why not start using surveys to improve your business today? With Paperform you can create one from scratch or pick from more than 400 survey templates. All you need to do is add questions, customize it to reflect your brand identity, and send it off. You can even analyze the data with Paperform Analytics.

Why wait? Get started today with our 14-day free trial. No credit card required.

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