How to Build an Online Customer Survey

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In today’s Volusion blog post, we’ll discuss how to build an effective online customer survey. You’ll learn a simple game plan to get started and discover various tips and tricks to ensure better information collection. Receiving customer feedback from online surveys is helpful in framing your success – you can learn more about your online store while increasing customer satisfaction.

Last night I received an email from my car dealership asking for thoughts from my last maintenance visit. The subject line screamed at me “YOUR FEEDBACK IS IMPORTANT!” After nervously blinking a few times, I cautiously opened the message to find a laundry list of questions, all based on a scale of 1-10 and requesting my written thoughts. After answering question #24, “What did you think of the selection of motor oils and our recommendation for your vehicle?” I replied, “I HATE THESE QUESTIONS” and submitted the survey unfinished. Not only had they taken too much of my time when I was getting my car fixed, now they were demanding my time for ridiculous questions.


The moral of the story? Put some thought into your online customer surveys.

Here’s a quick game plan on how to get started, execute and follow through:

Rule #1: Have a game plan on how to get started
Repetitive, yes, but like any project you need to have an idea of what you’re trying to achieve, how you’re going to achieve it, and what to do with the results. First, decide what your objective is – what nugget of information are you looking for? How are you going to deliver the survey? (You can use free tools like SurveyMonkey or SurveyGizmo.) How long is the survey open for? Are you going to offer an incentive?

Rule #2: Decide how customers will respond to your questions
This determines how much information you’ll receive and how you’ll receive it. Are recipients going to rank their opinions on a scale of 1-5? Are you simply going to ask “yes” and “no” questions? What about an area for customers to directly type their opinions? In this step you must continuously think about the time it takes to answer the question and balance it with the amount of information you can receive from the response. (Typically, the longer the response time, the more information you receive.)

Rule #3: Make sure your survey concisely meets your objectives
Keep your surveys as focused as possible on the objective – don’t ask customers what they think of your latest line of sweaters and then ask if they prefer mayonnaise or mustard. Also, try to keep your survey as short as possible while gaining the information you need. If it takes more than 5-10 minutes to complete, your respondents might react the same way I did: close the survey and leave with negative thoughts of the company.

Rule #4: Watch the wording of your questions
If possible, have someone else take a test run on your survey – you may find that your questions are unclear or misleading. One important tip: often times we combine questions to reduce the overall number of questions on the survey. Don’t do this.

For example, question #24 from my dealership’s survey asked “What did you think of the selection of motor oils and our recommendation for your vehicle?” Well, I would give a high score for the oil selection and a totally different score for the recommendation. This difference will always skew your final results.

Rule #5: Take the results of the survey and do something with it
Before you start analysis, make sure your sample size (the number of responses you receive) is large enough and reaches an assortment of people. This will better provide an accurate snapshot of your customer base. In other words, if you send out 100 surveys and you only get 8 responses back, that’s not a big enough sample. Or if you send out 100 surveys and you hear back from only a very small customer type, their opinions might not reflect those of everyone else.

No matter what, make sure you take this feedback and demonstrate action from it. Nothing makes a customer feel worse than for you to ask their opinion and ignore it.


Hopefully this information will help guide your strategy in sending out a questionnaire to solicit customer feedback. Here’s a few final thoughts: Whatever you do, please don’t use all caps in your email subject line or ask for a lengthy written response after each question. And if your survey is more than 50 questions, scale it back. You might also strongly consider offering an incentive to take your survey (e.g. 10% off their next order). While it might increase the cost of conducting the survey, it will most likely increase the value of information you’ve received.

And to my car dealership, I will never open one of your surveys again.

Happy Selling!
-Matt Winn, Marketing Associate

Do you have any experience in sending out customer surveys online? What piece of software or service do you use? Have any questions about putting a survey together? What are your thoughts on the various rules provided above? Is there anything you would like to add? Any advice you can provide? Tell us what you think!


Matt Winn is Volusion’s Senior Brand Manager, where he helps oversee the organization’s branding and communications efforts. Matt has created hundreds of articles, videos and seminars on all things ecommerce, ranging from online marketing to web design and customer experience. Beyond being a certified nerd, Matt is an avid college football fan, enthusiastic home cook and a self-admitted reality TV junkie.

2 Responses to “How to Build an Online Customer Survey”

  1. Christine

    Thanks for sharing! Love the store.


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