How to Create a Customer Satisfaction Survey

Follow our expert tips to ensure your customer satisfaction survey is focused and useful for improving your business. Learn what to do and what to avoid.

If you’re looking for ways to improve your small business with the help of a customer satisfaction survey, you’ve come to the right place. Customer satisfaction surveys can be an extremely useful tool, but only if they’re created right. 

A survey doesn’t need to be complicated, and once you’ve set it up, you can continue to use it time and time again. There are many cheap or free tools on the market, so putting a basic survey together is actually easy. 

However, to actually get useful responses, it’s important to understand the best types of questions to include and when to send out your survey. I’ve listed 5 important tips for setting up your own survey, to help make sure you get the responses you need. 


What Is a Customer Satisfaction Survey and Why Are They Important?

A customer satisfaction survey is a type of questionnaire designed to gauge how content or happy a customer is with your products, service, or business as a whole. They are usually short – 10 questions or fewer – and ask specifically about products, service, or how likely a customer is to recommend the business to a friend. 

The goal for you is to understand how your business is performing and where you can improve to increase customer retention. Customer surveys are important for several reasons:

  • They provide insights into how you can improve products or services to better meet the needs of your customers. This might include getting suggestions for features your customers want, like new flavors for a fudge shop or new app functions for improved ease of use for a tech company. 
  • They help you identify the strengths of your business. Getting positive feedback is just as important as negative feedback. Understanding what your business did well can help you implement those solutions into a wider strategy to appeal to even more customers. 
  • They help build customer trust and confidence by showing that your business values their opinions and feedback. Even if a customer had a less than ideal time, giving them a platform to voice their concerns helps show them that you care about improving and making your business better. This, in turn, may improve customer retention.
  • They allow you to understand what customers don’t like and show you possible ways to improve. When a customer is unsatisfied with any aspect of their business relationship with you, it’s crucial to understand why and work on ways to fix it. A survey can quickly identify the weak points, especially if you get several responses about the same issues. 

You should work to collect customer feedback with customer satisfaction surveys on a regular basis. It can help you keep a pulse on the market and understand what needs to be improved or find opportunities to introduce new products or services that meet customer demand. 

When Should You Send Out Customer Satisfaction Surveys?

Customer satisfaction surveys are generally sent out after a purchase or other interaction with the business. Depending on when you send out your survey, you might ask different questions, so it’s important to understand the objectives behind each survey type. Here are some examples of times you might send out a survey:

  • When a customer has completed the checkout process: You can choose to have a survey included in the confirmation email or even on the confirmation page on your website, to evaluate how straightforward and easy the process was for the customer. 
  • After an interaction with a customer service representative: You might want to include a short satisfaction survey in the chat box after a chat is complete. Alternatively, you could send an email, if you have the customer’s information on file.
  • A few months into product use or after service: To understand the usefulness of the products themselves, you should generally wait a bit to get the best responses. Most customers tend to be initially satisfied with brand new products, but two or three months in, they may start noticing issues. Waiting a couple months will help you understand if there are quality issues or if the product needs adjusting. 

The timing will also vary depending on your industry. For instance, it’s common for airlines to send through customer satisfaction surveys after a flight – usually within 48 hours – so the experience is fresh on the passenger’s mind. 

On the other hand, companies that sell tech products might wait a couple of months to best understand how their products are faring. If you buy a phone, you might not have relevant feedback until you’ve used it daily for several months. 

It's important for you to be strategic when deciding when to send out customer satisfaction surveys. You want to send surveys out once customers have had a chance to use or experience your business, but you also don’t want to wait too long, where they might forget details. 

5 Tips to Create a Customer Satisfaction Survey

1. Determine Your Survey Type

Before you create your customer survey, it’s important to understand what you hope to learn from it. Some surveys will help you determine specific ways you can change or improve, while others allow you to see overall customer loyalty. Honing in on your goals will help you figure out which type is right for you. 

Here are a few main types of customer satisfaction surveys:

  • Net Promoter Score (NPS): NPS works by measuring customer loyalty and referral potential by simply asking a customer how likely they are to recommend your business to their friends. You can then aggregate all of these scores to understand how your business is doing as a whole to retain customer loyalty
  • Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT): This is more of a broad type of survey that can be asked at any point along the buyer’s journey. The goal is to determine general customer satisfaction through straightforward questions, like “how satisfied were you with our product?”
  • Customer Effort Score (CES): CES helps you understand how satisfied customers are based on ease of use. Instead of asking directly about satisfaction, you ask about a customer’s experience with a product, service, or customer representative to get more specific feedback. 
  • Product-Market Fit (PMF): PMF is used to determine whether your product has served the market as intended. This can be asked with questions around how disappointed a customer would be if they could no longer use your product. A high percentage of disappointments means your product general does fit the market. 

2. Keep the Survey Concise and Focused

Customers are more likely to participate in a customer satisfaction survey if it is short, sweet, and to the point. If possible, tell them how many questions the survey is before they start or provide an estimated time to complete. Both of these features are often built-in directly to survey platforms to make them easy to implement. 

Because you may use customer satisfaction surveys at different times in the buyer’s journey, they may vary in length. Some might be a few short rating questions about a website experience, whereas others might be more in-depth about products and require customers to type in answers about their experience. 

Whatever the goal of the survey, ensure it’s no more than 5-8 minutes (the longest should only be used for open-ended surveys). After that, you’ll start to see people give up before reaching the end, which can impact the results you get. Also, make sure the questions make sense and feel focused. In other words, don’t ask about how their phone experience was if they haven’t interacted with your business over the phone. 

3. Use a Mix of Selection and Open-Ended Questions

To get a more complete picture of a customer’s experience, try to employ several question types including selection and open-ended questions. You can also include different types of selection questions:

  • Binary questions: these are simple yes/no or thumbs up/thumbs down type of questions (were you able to find the product you needed in store today? yes/no)
  • Multiple-choice questions: these allow you to ask about the products or services they’ve used, demographics, product usage frequency, and more
  • Scale questions: you can ask customers to rate their experience on a numerical scale (1-10) or a feelings scale (very happy to very unhappy). 

You should also include a couple of open-ended questions that allow for more detailed and specific feedback. These can either come directly after a related selection question, or you can group the selection questions at the beginning and have all the open-ended ones at the end. 

4. Use Free Online Tools

There are many tools that make it easy to create a beautiful, functional survey that is easy to send out to customers in multiple ways. Sites like Typeform, Jotform, and Survey Monkey are extremely popular platforms that offer free subscriptions up to a certain response rate – perfect to get started. 

These online tools have a host of built-in features to create a survey with, so even if you have no technical experience, it’s easy to drag and drop question types, including rating, multiple choice, dropdown, and more. 

Once customers have answered, you can have the responses sent directly to you through email, your CMS, or another integration. You can also log into the site and view all responses at once, which can help you get an overall picture of how customers think. 

5.  Ensure Your Survey Is Clear and Bias-Free

While you obviously have a bias when it comes to your own business, your customers each have a unique experience with your products or services. Ensure your survey is clear and unbiased as possible through these best practices.

  1. Ask one question at a time. Questions like “Is the product practical and easy to use?” try to stuff too many questions into one and are bound to get back vague answers.
  2. Avoid questions that are overly personal. Consider whether a question is truly relevant to the survey. Even for things like demographics, try to limit them and ensure there is always a “Prefer not to answer” option.
  3. Don’t ask leading questions. Asking something like “How excited are you for this update?” negatively impacts results by showing bias and influencing answers. 
  4. Keep the language clear and understandable. Avoid industry-specific jargon that customers may not understand, which may impact their responses and skew results.
  5. Make as many questions optional as possible. While you obviously want customers to answer every question, they are more likely to finish if they can skip a question they don’t understand or that makes them uncomfortable. 

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The Bottom Line

Customer satisfaction surveys are a great metric to use to gain an understanding of how your customers view you. Whether you operate a small mom-and-pop restaurant or an ecommerce business, these surveys can help you gauge what you’re doing right and how you can adjust to make your business better. 

Customer satisfaction surveys shouldn’t be overly complicated. A few questions that mix ratings and open-ended responses can be a great place to start. Even a small sample size will help improve your business and show you how you can enhance the customer experience. 

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How can I increase customer retention?

You can work to increase customer retention through several tried and true strategies, including enhancing the customer experience, providing exemplary service, and taking customer feedback to heart.

What should a customer satisfaction survey include?

A customer satisfaction survey should generally include a handful of questions that ask about a specific product, service, or interaction the customer had. A good rule-of-thumb is to have mostly multiple-choice or rating questions, with one or two open-ended questions for the customer to provide more specific feedback.

How can I create a customer satisfaction survey for free?

There are a ton of online tools that can help you create a customer satisfaction survey for free including Google Forms, SurveyMonkey, Typeform, Jotform, and more. Some of these have response limits with the free plans, but you can always start with the free version and upgrade as your business grows and you want more responses.

Meet the author
Ashley Hague
Ashley Hague is a B2B writer based in New Zealand. Specializing in fintech, SaaS, and sustainability in business, she helps businesses achieve their goals. When not working, she can be found rock climbing or delving into a historical biography.
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