The Marketer's Guide to
Surveying Users

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Chapter Twelve

Killer Survey Questions

As we’ve discussed throughout this guide, who you ask and how you ask are as important as what you ask. But don’t let that dissuade you of the importance of what you ask. Just like the first two components of our user survey framework, your questions will make or break your survey.

In Chapter 4 we analyzed the characteristics that make good survey questions. Now we’re going to look at those principles in practice with these real life killer survey questions, many of which are geared toward on-site surveys in particular. This chapter is a great reference point for those times when you have an objective in mind, but you’re not sure about the best way to achieve it.

These questions were not written for this guide. Rather, they’ve been used successfully by us, our clients, and colleagues across a wide array of business types and survey objectives—which is the true test of their worth.

  • Question #1: What was the purpose of your visit today?

    Maybe people are looking for something you hadn’t anticipated, and that need isn’t being met. The only way you’ll know is to ask.

  • Question #2: Were you able to complete the purpose of your visit today?

    Though similar to Question #1, this question gets to the root of any usability issues your site might have, including browser compatibility, broken links, expired coupon codes, and so on.

  • Question #3: What other products or services should we offer? (Source)

    Perhaps not the most useful for immediate improvements, but feedback from this question will provide invaluable direction as your product or service grows.

  • Question #4: Where exactly did you first find out about us? (Source)

    This question will help you both uncover where your customers are coming from and know where to place your advertising resources.

  • Question #5: How would you describe (Company Name) to a friend? (Source)

    The element of “friend” in this killer question makes the respondent think more in-depth about his or her answer. How you would describe a business to a computer is much different than how you’d describe it to a close friend.

  • Question #6: Which other options did you consider before choosing our (Product Name)?

    Or: Which of our competitors, both online and offline, did you consider before choosing our (Product Name)?

    While you may think you know who your biggest competitors are, the answers to this question might surprise you. You may find, for example, that your biggest competitor isn’t another retailer but disinterest—users are more likely to buy nothing than commit. If your competitors are mostly offline, the second variation may yield better results.

  • Question #7: What would persuade you to use us more often?

    This question gets the user in the mindset of returning to your site, while also emphasizing how much you take their opinions into consideration. Win, win.

  • Question #8: If you could change just one thing about our website, what would it be?

    Once again, the respondent feels like his or her voice is integral to how you run your business. This is an important feeling to inspire in your user base. If you get a lot of people commenting on a specific feature, then great! You know what you need to change. Or, alternatively, respondents may give you an idea you wouldn’t have planned for or considered. Also good! (Source)

  • Question #9: What persuaded you to purchase from us?

    Or: Please list the top three things that persuaded you to use us rather than a competitor?

    Use this question to find out what users are buying rather than what you think you’re selling. This knowledge can help you to differentiate yourself from your competitors and play up or increase those aspects of your site that you know lead to customer satisfaction. (Source)

  • Question #10: What’s the one thing that nearly stopped you from buying from us?

    Or: What was your biggest fear or concern about using us?

    Ask this question to your successful purchasers to determine the biggest hurdle they had to overcome in buying from you. Odds are you’ll find many more people who dropped off at that hurdle, giving you a great starting point for fixing conversion issues. (Source)

  • Question #11: What was your biggest challenge, frustration or problem in finding the right (Product Type) online?

    This question is likely to result in some impractical ideas and irrelevant feedback, but all you need is a single great answer that you haven’t thought of to make it worth asking. (Source)

    And lastly, lest you think killer questions are all one-and-done, here’s a killer series of questions from Avinash Kaushik, author of the books Web Analytics and Web Analytics 2.0.

  • Question #12: Based on today’s visit, how would you rate your site experience overall?

    You have your respondents on a scale here, making it much easier for you to be able to collect necessary data.

    Or you can use a sequence of questions, that branch intelligently based on the user’s responses.

  • Question #12.1: Which of the following best describes the primary purpose of your visit?

    This data will help you focus on what your respondents want most. This is important information to possess. You may have been pushing in one way, but really potential customers want something quite different.

  • Question #12.2: Were you able to complete the purpose of your visit today?

    If they answer yes to Question 12.2, ask this:

  • Question #12.3, a: What do you value most about the (Company) website?

    If they answer no to Question 12.2, ask this:

  • Question #12.3, b: Would you please tell us why you were not able to complete the purpose of your visit today? (Source)

    This branch of questions is awesome because it helps you identify what you’re doing right so that you can do more of it, but it also offers a way to figure out what’s wrong or confusing about your site so that you can fix it. You’ll notice it combines a few of the killer questions we already discussed, presenting them one at a time so as not to confuse or overwhelm users.

    While some are open-ended and others are closed-ended, they’re all direct, unbiased, clear, and personal.

    While each of the above questions might not be applicable to your site’s mission or needs, if you follow those original guidelines, you’re sure to write killer questions of your own. If you want more information on the best questions to ask to improve the performance of your website, check out this webinar with Conversion Rate Experts’, Dr. Karl Blanks and Qualaroo CEO, Sean Ellis.