If the world were a simple place, all the information we needed would be a Google search away. The world isn’t simple. The most important questions about your business, community, and social issues cannot be answered using a simple search engine.

Instead, first party data is essential and the most common way to get that data is through a survey.  In a nutshell, surveys make it possible to understand, at a high level, what’s working, the issues involved, and what’s not working.

The information from surveys allows you to draw insights and make decisions that can have a profound impact on business or even society as a whole. The challenge is that there are many types of surveys so it can be daunting to figure out which one fits your particular situation.

This guide dives into the different types of surveys available and when they should be used for maximum impact.

What is a survey – really?

We’ll get to the crux of the matter in a moment. First, a quick detour to make sure we’re on the same page.

When we talk about the types of surveys, we’re referring to forms with questionnaires that are used as a research method to collect qualitative data, quantitative data, or both. The people answering the questions are usually defined beforehand. It can be administered electronically or physically with paper.

The former option is more efficient and cost-effective. The main thing to take note of is that the type of survey respondent you need is defined beforehand. The better your respondents are able to meet the criteria you set, the more useful the data you collect will be.

Types of surveys

1.    Employee surveys

There are multiple types of employee surveys but the most common – and arguably the most useful – is known as the job satisfaction survey. It’s a questionnaire that seeks to understand how staff members feel about their job, their colleagues, and the organization as a whole.

If you’re able to follow up with respondents then you can maximize the effectiveness of this type of survey. This gives you the opportunity to ask clarifying questions – especially when you use a Likert scale or closed ended questions.

While following up may be ideal, some employees may not be truthful with their answers if the survey isn’t anonymous. If they’re overly critical of the organization, there may be negative repercussions. A middle ground you can walk is having the survey set to anonymous by default but allowing people to identify themselves for follow-up if they’re comfortable with that.

2.    Post event surveys

Live events, whether in person or online, are dynamic and no person’s experience is exactly the same as another person’s experience. Oftentimes, you may feel like you’ve done a great job hosting your event but it turns out that your attendees don’t feel the same.

A post-event survey is a type of survey that seeks to understand how people felt about different aspects of your event. It breaks down the parts into things like:

  • How helpful was the staff
  • How did they feel about the refreshments provided
  • The best part of the event for them
  • The worst part of the event for them
  • The place that needs the most improvement
  • Would they attend the event again in the future
  • Would they recommend the event to their friends and family
  • Etc.

You can seek feedback on as many aspects of the event as you like but the more questions you have, the lower your chances of getting complete feedback.

3.    Customer satisfaction surveys

Customer satisfaction is incredibly nuanced and covers many aspects of the customer experience. They’re popular amongst businesses because it reveals information that may not otherwise be available.

There are many types of surveys that fall into the category of customer satisfaction. Each one is useful for a different situation and the most popular ones include:

Post purchase survey: This is a type of survey brands use to get an idea of the purchase experience customers have. Use this when you’re trying to gauge how difficult or easy it is for someone to buy from you and identify specific bottlenecks in the process.

NPS surveys: An NPS survey is a specific type of customer satisfaction survey that seeks to measure the overall loyalty of your customers. It asks ‘how likely are you to recommend our company/product/etc. to a friend, family member, or colleague?’

The respondent is presented with a rating scale from 1 – 10. Depending on the score they give you, they’re considered promoters, detractors, or neutral. The end result is a number and the goal is to make that number better as time goes on.

Usability surveys: This is a survey that can be used in more than one situation. The first way to use it is to understand how your website serves the needs of visitors. The second way this survey can be used is for your products. Are they easy to use and do they create the outcome the customer is seeking?

Customer satisfaction surveys: These are some of the most popular surveys and it seeks to measure overall customer satisfaction. Usually, they’re broken down into different areas so that you can get useful feedback about specific aspects of your business. An example would be a Likert scale that asks them to rate their satisfaction with the product received.

4.    Customer exit/cancellation surveys

An inevitable part of business is that customers will leave. Of course, you’ll try to prevent that as much as possible but you cannot do that until you know why they’re leaving. That’s where the customer exit or customer cancellation survey comes in.

This type of survey asks users, specifically, why they’re canceling their account. You can take it a step further by requesting clarification about why they’ve canceled their account. In some cases, you may even be able to save the customer if the problem is something simple.

5.    Employee exit surveys

Similar to the customer exist survey, you’re trying to understand why an employee is leaving your organization. It tends to get more candid responses than the job satisfaction survey because the employee doesn’t have as much skin in the game.

With that being said, you’ll want to de-risk the consequences associated with giving candid feedback that may not be positive. Within the survey, ask about specific aspects of employment like training opportunities, pay, management competence, colleagues, work environment, etc.

6.    Onboarding surveys

This is a type of survey that can be used to understand the experience of customers and employees alike. In both cases, you’re trying to understand where you dropped the ball and how you can do better. Keep in mind that these aren’t the same as satisfaction surveys. It’s focused on a specific experience as opposed to the overall satisfaction of a customer.

Some things to ask may include:

  • The length of the onboarding process
  • Clarity
  • The ability to achieve their goal after guided onboarding
  • Etc. 

7.    Market research surveys

Market research is a fundamental aspect of any business but is often overlooked or poorly done. To do it right, you need third-party data and first-party data. A market research survey allows you to collect the latter.

There are many ways to create a market research survey and it can include psychographic information, demographic information, competitive analysis questions, and much more. The questions you choose to use will depend on your current understanding of the market and the kinds of products you’re creating.

A few things that may be helpful include:

  • Price sensitivity
  • Demographics of your audience
  • Market share of competition
  • Perceptions of your niche and products as a whole
  • How educated prospects are about relevant solutions
  • Where they can be found online/offline (which will inform your marketing strategy)

Irrespective of what you ask, make sure it can have a tangible impact on your brand and makes it easier to decide on things going forward.

8.    Process evaluation survey

This is an underutilized type of survey but can be a goldmine for internal optimization. The survey will reveal weaknesses in the way you do things as an organization and provide actionable insights into how to be better.

Keep in mind that a process evaluation survey is a type of survey that’s used regularly. The world is moving fast so if you only review processes over long timeframes, you may fall behind the competition.

This type of survey is much less common but it can teach you a lot about your internal processes. This is especially true when you have a lot of teams or move quickly and processes aren’t always written in stone.

The goal of this survey is to help you figure out how well initiatives are being implemented and where things can be improved. When used often, it can help you iterate on standard operating procedures.

9.    Price sensitivity surveys

Price sensitivity surveys can be used as part of market research surveys or as standalone surveys. The survey will allow you to break away from me-too pricing and truly understand how your customers feel about the price of goods and services.

With that information, you can position your brand differently from others and prevent yourself from being seen as a commodity. For example, there are $10 white shirts and there are $1,000 white shirts.

What could cause that discrepancy?

Even if one has better quality material, it’s not 100X better quality. No, the reason behind it is understanding how sensitive customers are to price and targeting the group that can spend that much money.

The survey answers questions like:

  • Is there room for a premium solution?
  • Are people only willing to pay bargain prices?
  • Can the prices support your ongoing expenses and still yield a profit?

It’s essential that you segment user groups based on criteria that matter to you so you don’t get averages that mask the true situation.

10.                       Psychographic analysis survey

Psychographic surveys are a powerful tool for segmentation and can yield better results than demographic segmentation. The challenge is that it’s much harder to get this kind of information and use it properly.

The psychographic survey seeks to understand the lifestyles, attitudes, and behavior of individuals. With that information, you can craft products, marketing messages, and branding that appeals to your target audience.

11.                       Product research surveys

Another type of survey to keep in your tool belt are product research surveys. These are different from market research surveys because they’re more targeted. It only seeks to understand how well the product is meeting the needs of those its intended for.

It can be used through the entire product lifecycle to get different types of information such as refining the idea, launch strategies, continuous improvement, and more.

Conclusion

The surveys shown here are just a cross section of the types of surveys you can use to collect valuable data. The challenge, as highlighted in this guide, is knowing when to use each type of survey.

We’ve gone through 11 surveys with different use cases. Take advantage of them to learn about your employees, your customers, and make the right decision at any time.

With that being said, surveys are just a starting point. Don’t use them as a substitute for talking to real humans. Use a few to get a feel for using the surveys then deploy them to start collecting valuable first-party data.

If you have any questions, be sure to let me know in the comments and don’t forget to share.