Why are customer surveys important?

Perhaps the most important key to a successful business is finding, and filling, a genuine customer need. To do that well requires understanding your customers deeply—and that’s what makes customer satisfaction surveys so important. Surveys let you receive feedback directly from your customers, and you can use those insights to shape every aspect of your business strategy.

According to research by HubSpot, 42% of companies don’t survey their customers. These businesses are leaving a valuable source of customer information on the table, untapped. Companies who can create robust channels of communication with their customers have an advantage over their competitors in fostering loyalty, responding to challenges, and developing the all-important customer experience.

If you aren’t yet using customer surveys, or aren’t convinced of what they can do for your business, here are some of the ways that they can help you take your company to the next level.

What are customer satisfaction surveys?

Three-button customer satisfaction survey, displaying a happy face, a neutral face, and a sad face.

Many companies rely on a customer satisfaction, or CSAT, score as a top line metric—a way to get a quick sense of how their customers feel about them in one easy-to-digest number. This score is based on an average of customer responses to a survey.

The survey can consist of as many questions as a company wants to include. But at its simplest, it only requires one: “How satisfied were you with your experience today?” 

There are a wide variety of customer survey types. The Net Promoter Score, CSAT, customer effort score, and others each measure their own particular slice of the customer experience. But surveys in general are useful because they allow customers to share that experience with you directly. 

Surveys have their limitations, too, and it’s important to stay aware of them. In many cases, the responses will be biased toward customers who’ve had a very positive or, often, a very negative experience and want to voice their opinions. 

But creating open channels of communication with your customers is a net positive in and of itself. It allows your customers to feel heard, and it gives your company the opportunity to nip negative trends in the bud. And that two-way communication is one of the best ways that your company can drive customer loyalty and cement your future growth.

What can customer satisfaction surveys do for your company?

Business performance metrics as graphs on a screen.

In addition to communicating with your customers about positives and negatives, collecting customer feedback lets you track your performance over time, measure the impact of any new initiatives, and identify areas for improvement. 

Surveys are a valuable way to attach concrete metrics to results that can sometimes be difficult to measure. The insights they provide can help you prioritize future strategy, and even shape your internal company culture. 

Leverage customer feedback.

A great customer experience is one of the most important differentiators in today’s marketplace. Companies who invest in CX earn their customers’ loyalty, and can count on their support through some of the inevitable ups and downs of running a business. 

Customer feedback is a crucial component of crafting that ideal experience. A basic customer satisfaction survey will let you know whether your customers are happy with their experiences on the whole. And from there, you can ask more detailed questions and drill down to uncover any areas of friction.

Inviting customer feedback lets your audience know that you’re invested in their wellbeing. And responding to that feedback shows that you’re willing to put your money where your mouth is. When customers see that their voices matter, it goes a long way toward building trust. And trust is key to keeping them around for the long haul.

Refine your understanding of customer needs.

Understanding your customers’ needs is crucial for several aspects of your business. It’s important in product design and development, in order to create something that will appeal to your customers and improve their lives. 

It’s also important to your marketing strategy. Having an excellent product doesn’t help you if you can’t communicate its best qualities to your customers in a way they’ll hear. When you can show your customers that you understand the challenges they face, and why they seek you out, you make a good case for them to keep coming back to you in the future.

If you’re testing a new product design or additional features, ask your customers whether it’s working. A well-placed customer satisfaction survey can tell you whether your changes are getting you closer to (or further from) meeting your customers’ needs.

Drive customer engagement.

When your customers trust you to recognize and respond to them, it creates a positive feedback loop of engagement. Customers who know they’ll be heard are more likely to speak up. In addition, they’re also more motivated to interact with your brand across all the channels where they can find you.

Whether they’re consuming your content, liking or reposting things on social media, or telling their network about you, your customers’ engagement can drive growth for your business in multiple ways. 

At its most basic level, increased engagement raises the visibility of your brand, increasing your brand awareness and recognition. And businesses can capitalize on this increased awareness through positive interactions with customers, which will create friendly and approachable associations in the minds of potential customers who see those interactions.

Customers who engage with your brand’s content online are also well positioned to become brand advocates, recommending your products and services to their personal networks. So encouraging open channels of communication with your customers can increase your share of the conversation and expand your company’s reach in material ways.

Optimize the customer journey.

End-to-end customer experience requires taking a holistic approach to the customer journey. Examining every touchpoint your customers have with your business, in isolation and together, lets you create an overall experience with less friction and fewer hurdles.

When you coordinate customer surveys with your customer journey map, you can begin to pinpoint areas where customers encounter trouble. Surveys can enrich your customer journey map with insight into the customer’s experience at each step.

These insights help you develop a unified, positive experience for your customers across all your channels.

Monitor and improve your business performance.

Customer satisfaction surveys give you a real-time snapshot of your performance at a particular moment in time. Tracking these metrics over a set period allows you to cross-reference your performance against your business decisions. It can also hopefully shed some light on which behaviors drive customer satisfaction results.

Companies can also chart their customer satisfaction performance against business outcomes, like revenue, customer retention, and repeat purchases. Helpful measures of customer satisfaction will ideally correlate well with positive business outcomes.

However, if you’re seeing a discrepancy in CSAT scores and other business results, that gives you an opportunity to investigate more closely and better understand what makes your customers happy. And understanding the causes and effects within your business gives you the tools to make your best decisions.

Prioritize your business goals.

New customer insights will shape your medium- and long-term business strategy. As you identify areas of opportunity and improvement, you will naturally develop roadmaps to take action on them. But odds are, you won’t be able to address all of them at once.

Targeted customer satisfaction surveys can help you determine which items you need to address first. If particular elements of your customer experience are driving dissatisfaction, or if a specific product or service isn’t performing well, surveys will give you an indication of where you need to dig deeper.

Positive customer experiences drive loyalty and customer retention. But on the other side, it doesn’t take many negative experiences for customers to start looking for alternatives. Customer satisfaction surveys help you identify negative trends and head them off at the pass, before they can cause damage to your brand.

Surveys can also tell you which features or products are most important to your customers, and drive the highest levels of satisfaction. Focusing on these high-impact objectives lets you achieve the greatest return on your investment, so that you can create a stable customer base and fine-tune additional elements later on.

Grow employee engagement.

Recent years have seen a significant shift in employee behavior. More and more, employees are prioritizing purpose, and looking for the ways their work impacts the world around them. Professionals are seeking jobs at companies whose values align with theirs and give them goals they can feel good about.

Employees are more invested in their work when they can see how their roles connect with larger business goals. Satisfaction metrics, driven by surveys, let contributors across all levels and functions of your organization see how their work materially impacts customers. 

For example: send satisfaction surveys along with invoices, or as a followup to a customer receiving a shipped product. The responses show departments, like accounting or logistics, who might not normally interact with customers how their work has contributed directly to the customer experience. 

Evidence of that kind of direct impact can motivate employees. Seeing the effect they have can inspire your organization to deliver the kind of top-notch customer experience that sets your business apart.

Keep your best customers.

Feedback, engagement, advocacy—all of these customer behaviors are strong signs that your customers are especially loyal. Customers who are dedicated to your brand are less price-sensitive, less likely to jump ship after an isolated negative experience, and more likely to purchase from you again and again.

Retaining customers costs companies less, in effort and in financial cost, than acquiring new ones. Listening to your customers via satisfaction surveys is an important way to develop the kind of loyalty that drives high customer retention rates.

If you aren’t surveying your customers, you’re missing valuable information.

Asking your customers for feedback lets you hear about their needs directly from them. But that’s not all it accomplishes.

Surveys help you build open lines of communication with your customers. And that kind of transparency and responsiveness foster the customer loyalty that your business needs to thrive.

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Megan Wells
Megan Wells
Megan is a content writer and strategist who loves to dig into the ways technology is changing consumers' relationships with brands.

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