Research proves short, open-ended customer surveys work

Research proves short, open-ended surveys work

We’ve talked about the benefits of short, open-ended surveys for years. Recent analysis of some of our clients response data proves that long surveys with prescribed answers do not get great response rates.

Many companies are hung up on asking customers lots of questions, many of them tick box questions which don’t offer much insight as to why they feel that way. Some companies go so far as to add a free text box after each question so customers can add their own comments, but are they using these boxes correctly?

Here at Feedback Ferret, we’ve always advocated the “perfect customer feedback survey” as being one ratings question and one “tell us why” question. Our text analysis engine will ferret out all the insight you will ever need from these short, concise feedback forms. In addition, customers love them as they are so quick to complete.

perfect survey

We know these surveys generate better response rates and better quality insights than longer surveys. Our client, BMW saw a 20% increase in survey response rates after they reduced the number of questions from 35 to just 4.

But over the past month, we have undertaken more research to help prove our point.

We looked at 2 recent customer surveys, both of which had multiple tick box questions with each question also having a comments box. Both surveys had a final open ended question comments box at the end.

We then reviewed the number of responses given within each of the comments boxes and the figures speak for themselves.

In survey 1, no more than 4% of the Questions 1 – 5d contained any comments. But Question 6 asked for a Net Promotor Score followed by an open–ended question: “Please tell us why you scored us this way”. This box was completed in 67% of all the surveys.

In survey 2, Question 1 contained a comment in 15% of the surveys but otherwise, Questions 2 – 25 only contained comments in 1 – 9% of the surveys. Question 26 was “Please provide any additional feedback you would like to share about your experience” and generated comments in 53% of the surveys.


What I find striking is that in Survey 2, after 34 comment opportunities, 53% gave a comment on the last question. Just imagine how that percentage would go up if we asked that question first! Customers will always tell you what is important to them if you give them the chance and that feedback doesn’t necessarily match the subject matter that is collected from a long attribute list.

So the question begs: why bother asking all those other questions when your customers are much more likely to fill out that open ended comments box?

And the chances are, that by using text analytics to sift out the insight, the comments in that one box will tell you everything you need to know.


By Catherine Carlo-Heidrich, Data Governance