Survey design 101: Optimal length for customer feedback surveys

Read about how to strike the right balance to boost your response rate and deliver the best customer experience.

Survey design 101: Optimal length for customer feedback surveys

Creating customer satisfaction surveys comes with its challenges. While you want to gather valuable feedback from customers, bombarding them with endless questions isn't the solution. Customers have limited time and attention spans, and lengthy surveys can quickly lead to fatigue and drop-offs. To ensure you collect meaningful insights, it's crucial to focus on asking the right questions.

But striking the right balance between brevity and depth in surveys can be tricky. Today, we'll delve into the optimal length for customer satisfaction surveys and explore the key questions you should prioritize to maximize responses and insights. Let's dive in!

Why are long surveys harmful for your goal?

🔴 Low Response Rate

If a survey is expected to take too much time, people will hesitate to participate before the survey even begins. This is the reason for the low overall response rate. Of course, if you promise reasonable compensation for the long time spent, the response rate can increase. But this can lead to other problems such as cherry pickers or absence of good quality responses.

🔴Increase in Insincere Responses

The length of survey can affect qualitative aspects of the survey, such as the consistency and sincerity of the response data. Respondents who feel pressured by the length of the survey may skim the questions or choose choices at random without careful consideration in order to complete the survey as quickly as possible. This becomes a major obstacle when analyzing response data later.

🔴High Drop-off Rate 

If respondents feel tired while answering the survey because it is too long, they may drop off during the survey. When fatigue exceeds the will to complete, the user simply exits the survey without submission. If the drop-off rate increases, it means you have provided a negative survey experience, thus resulting in insufficient obtain of meaningful customer insights.

🔴Negative Customer Experience

Even if a person is not directly using your products/services, the customer experience is formed at every moment of contact with the brand. Likewise, surveys are a space where you can meet customers, so you need to pay attention to creating a positive customer experience. If the survey is too long and customers feel negative emotions such as pressure, burden, or fatigue, it will have a negative impact on your brand experience. Eventually, those customers won’t be responding to your other surveys in the future.

What’s the optimal length of a customer satisfaction survey?

The type and length of the customer satisfaction survey may vary depending on which product/service you want to survey, what you need to focus on throughout the survey, and who your target customers are. Also, if you provide reasonable compensation for the time required for survey completion, the response rate may increase even for long-length surveys.

Ideal Length 

According to one study, the average number of questions in customer satisfaction surveys ranges from 5 to 14. Keeping the response time required for a survey completion within 5 to 10 minutes is the best way to minimize the drop off rate.

How to know if your survey has the right length

✅Rather than from the perspective of a survey creator who wants to ask all sorts of questions, consider the length of the survey from a customer-centric perspective by asking ‘What if I were a customer answering this survey?’ It is a good idea to focus on whether there are any questions that seem to be repeating themselves or whether you feel fatigued while completing the survey.

✅Before distributing your survey, conduct a pretest with team members other than the creator. You can receive feedback and make improvements to ensure that it is long enough to gain insights, but not too long for the respondent.

✅If you have conducted a customer survey before, you can check which part of the survey had a high drop off rate and see if you made the same mistake in the survey you are currently creating. Or by simply looking at the response rate relative to the length of your survey, you can edit or delete certain questions.

What are some must-ask questions? 

As customer surveys are designed to gain customer insights, there are certain questions that must be included in the surveys. While keeping the appropriate length of the survey, what are some questions that must be asked in the survey?

However, the questions that should be in a survey depend on the topic and purpose of the survey. There is no correct answer!


As a customer ‘satisfaction’ survey, it is obvious that the survey should ask how satisfied the customers are. Be clear about ‘what’ you are asking about satisfaction. For example, when asking about the product satisfaction, you can divide the questions into various detailed items such as design, performance, price, or delivery method. Customers can intuitively understand and respond when you accurately specify the point of inquiry. And this will definitely help your future analysis of the response data.

✔️Willingness to recommend

Include a simple question about the customer’s ‘willingness to recommend’ by using the NPS question type. NPS is used to measure how willing customers are to recommend a company or brand. With the NPS, you can measure customer loyalty, reduce churn, and find ways to convert the customers into promoters. In conclusion, you can receive extensive insights related to business performance.

✔️Open-ended questions

Open-ended questions provide valuable insights into customers' opinions, feelings, and experiences that may not be captured by multiple-choice questions alone. By allowing respondents to express themselves freely, you gain a deeper understanding of their perspectives, uncovering unique insights that quantitative data might overlook. Including an essay question about improvements, where customers can share their perspective, can be especially effective. Making this question optional, rather than required, can encourage more responses and enrich your data.

Survey design is an art and a science that requires you to understand the experience of your customers and build an optimal environment for engagement. Do you feel confident that you can create a powerful customer survey with these tips? You can optimize the customer experience even more by making the survey interactive and immersive. Build it with Smore, an award-winning form builder that gamifies survey experience into an enjoyable conversation.