The Feedback Window: A Short Guide to Timing Customer Surveys

July 26, 2016

Have you ever been asked to write a review of a pizza you ate last October? Didn’t think so. That’s because when it comes to soliciting customer feedback, timing is everything.

From the customer’s perspective, timing is what prevents a survey request from feeling spammy. From a company’s perspective, the right timing allows you to get accurate feedback from your customers.

While asking for feedback on a product months too late is an extreme example, we see poorly-timed surveys all the time. Companies ask too early or too late, because they haven’t aligned the survey timing with the right stage of the customer lifecycle.

And by missing the right feedback window, they make the entire survey a waste of their time.

How to Get to Know Your Potential Customers

A lot of companies make the mistake of only giving surveys well into a customer’s journey. They assume that people just considering your product won’t have a lot to contribute if they don’t know a lot about your company.

It’s true. They don’t. But this is exactly why you should survey them.

Even stray visitors to your site can contribute valuable information to you regarding why they’re interested in your product or what brought them to your site to begin with. Here’s a great question to ask at this stage:

timing 1a

You can even track which of these become converting customers, and prioritize the advertising medium they selected. If your best customers are coming to you via a social network, it might be time to bump your Facebook ad spend.
Where to put this survey: Since you’re targeting new customers, this survey belongs on your landing page. One good way to think about timing a survey is to look at how long the average person spends on your landing page, and then time the survey for a little before they leave.

Let customers get their bearings on your page for about 3 to 5 seconds before letting this pop up.

Ask New Customers What You’re Doing Right

Asking non-converting visitors why they didn’t convert is a powerful way to find out what you’re doing wrong. But asking customers why they almost didn’t convert is even better.

The responses you get will apply just as much to non-converting customers as they will for converting customers. After all, they’re probably experiencing the same hesitations.

Try keeping the phrasing simple, with an easy call to action. A specific question like “What’s the one thing that nearly stopped you from buying from us?” is a lot easier to answer than an open-ended question like “Why did you buy from us today?”
timing 2

Where to put this survey: This survey needs to be in a tight feedback window right after someone has made a purchase. After customers have just purchased something, they feel a real sense of accomplishment, which means they’re more prone to record a response.

Survey Your Best Users to Get More of Them

Once a customer actually purchases something from you, they can answer even more questions you need answers to. This works on two fronts. First of all, it makes sure that this customer continues to be successful.

Second of all, it helps you figure out what you did right. When current customers tell you why they’re happy, you can reverse engineer that success for more prospects in the future.

Here’s the problem: your current users are busy. Hopefully, they’re busy using your product. But there are some ways to get around that.

This NPS email from Quip has gentle copy that says “Sorry to interrupt you!” acknowledging that the user is busy and has other things to be doing right now, which means that they won’t feel too disrupted by the survey.
timing 3a

By sending it to ongoing users who are liking Quip’s product, they’re sure to get the right kind of feedback.

Here’s one Qualaroo survey that asks how to make current customers even happier. Since the language isn’t pushy, and asks for genuine advice on how to make the product stickier, the question feels sincere and genuine.
timing 4a

It’s relevant to the customer’s point in their lifecycle, which means they’ll actually want to fill it out.

Where to put this survey: While many kinds of customers could answer this survey, it’s best answered by current users who could get more out of your product if they had more features offered. To target this group, place this survey when someone logs into their account.

Conduct an “Exit Interview” With People Who Know Your Product Best

The final stage of the customer journey is perhaps the most important when it comes to surveying customers. You need to ask them what you could have done better.

There are a lot of examples of this that are great at making customers feel relevant. For example, Kindle sends an email like this after they know that the customer has finished a book they were reading.
timing 5

This survey is able to use customer data to time it exactly when the customer has finished the product. Not all products are so lucky. But by using small nudges directly on your site, you can easily get around this problem by timing them right.

The tricky thing with predicting when a customer is going to leave is that if you get it wrong, you can shoot yourself in the foot. If a customer gets a pop-up survey that doesn’t apply to them, it just feels spammy.

Here’s how to get around that. Take a look at this exit survey:

timing 6a

If given to a person at the right stage of the customer lifecycle, it’s informative. If given to someone who just bought your product, it’s confusing and annoying. That’s why you absolutely have to time it with the customer lifecycle.

Where to place this survey. A great solution here is to take a look at Google Analytics to see where and when customers are likely to bounce from your page. How long do they spend on the site? If most people leave 4 seconds after browsing the homepage, that might be a good time for the survey.

Timing is Everything

Timing your survey is absolutely crucial if you want to get feedback that will generate accurate, usable results. There are a lot of ways to achieve this, including emailing users, calling up your power users on the phone, or on-site nudges like Qualaroo.

On-site surveys are instant, which means you can spot-test, iterate, and figure out the best timing that works for your site and product.

For more survey recipes and ideas of where to time them (and what you’ll get out of them), check out our recipe page.

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Do you want a free Survey & Feedback Software?

We have the world’s most versatile user research & feedback survey tool starting at $0

Do you want a free Survey & Feedback Software?

We have the world’s most versatile user research & feedback survey tool starting at $0