Complete guide to open-ended questions in your customer survey design

How to effectively use them so you can get valuable customer insights and achieve high completion rates for your next customer feedback survey

Complete guide to open-ended questions in your customer survey design

When it comes to customer surveys, many companies stick to multiple choice questions, avoiding open ended ones that require longer responses. To allow some room, 'Other' option is often added to the survey design as a catch-all. But this approach misses out on something crucial— the opportunity for an interactive communication with your customers.  

Open-ended questions open the door to a deeper understanding of customer opinions, feelings, and experiences. They let respondents share stories and insights that multiple-choice questions simply can't capture. So, if you're aiming to truly grasp what your customers are thinking and feeling, long response questions are key.

But before you start adding them left and right, there are some nuances to consider. Today, we're diving into why essay questions matter in surveys and how to use them effectively. Let's explore how they can elevate your survey game!

Why open-ended, long response questions matter in customer surveys

1️⃣ For Gathering In-Depth Insights

Essay questions offer a deeper dive into respondents' thoughts and experiences, going beyond simple 'Yes' or 'No' answers. By allowing individuals to express their opinions in an unrestricted manner, you can uncover a wealth of information and diverse perspectives that might not emerge with multiple-choice questions alone.

2️⃣ For Discovering Fresh Perspectives

Open-ended questions can unveil unexpected insights and viewpoints that traditional questions might overlook. These fresh perspectives can lead to valuable new insights, providing a detailed understanding of customer needs and areas for improvement from their standpoint, not just the company's.

3️⃣ For Fostering Engagement and Trust

When respondents feel their opinions are valued, they're more likely to provide authentic, meaningful responses. By giving them a platform to share their thoughts openly, you not only encourage active participation but also build trust in your brand by demonstrating a genuine interest in their feedback.

How to use Long Response Questions In Customer Feedback Surveys

When designing a customer feedback survey, it's crucial to strike the right balance between multiple choice and open-ended questions. The distribution and placement of these questions can impact respondents' perceived burden and, consequently, their completion rates. 

Responses to open-ended questions will be qualitative data. It will be necessary to read between the lines and to place yourself in the customer’s shoes to connect their responses to their context. Naturally, each customer’s response will have different structure or perspective. To make possible comparisons and meaningful analysis, it’s very important that the questions are thoughtfully worded so it can provide as much guidance to the respondent as possible. 

Designing effective open-ended questions for customer surveys 

✅ Optimal Question Quantity

If open-ended surveys are great source of genuine customer feedback, why don’t we create a customer survey entirely composed of them? We already know the answer intuitively; respondent fatigue. 

which may lead to insincere or incomplete responses. Given that essay questions can feel more burdensome, it's essential to carefully consider the quantity. 

The recommended approach is to limit essay questions to around 10% of the total survey questions. Typically, satisfaction surveys contain approximately 14 questions, with less than 2 being essay questions, according to statistical data.

✅ Strategic Placement

Designing customer feedback surveys is a game of keeping respondents’ attention. 

it's crucial to be mindful of respondent fatigue. 

Positioning essay questions towards the end of the survey or after related topics is advisable. Initiating the survey with simple, multiple-choice questions helps engage respondents and boost participation. Subsequently, placing essay questions later encourages higher completion rates and allows respondents to delve deeper into their responses after contemplating the topic through earlier questions.

✅ Clarity in Inquiry

Clearly articulating the purpose of each essay question is essential for obtaining accurate insights during data analysis. Whether soliciting additional feedback or exploring the rationale behind specific multiple-choice selections, clarity in questioning empowers respondents to provide detailed and relevant responses comfortably.

✅ Alignment with Survey Objectives

Ensuring essay questions align with the survey's objectives enhances respondent engagement and response accuracy. Off-topic or ambiguous questions may erode respondent trust and lead to survey abandonment. Maintaining thematic consistency fosters respondent immersion and strengthens the survey's reliability and the validity of its outcomes.

Essay questions are an important part of a survey that cannot be overlooked. However, it is necessary to structure it in an appropriate way, taking into account the purpose of the question and the analysis method.

Try adding essay questions based on the precautions and design strategies we looked at today. Understanding the diverse opinions of respondents can be of great help in growing your business. Furthermore, the core value of the survey, ‘Communication’, can be achieved.