Skip to main content

Article 5 min read

The psychology behind customer engagement with surveys

Last updated August 11, 2021

Survey design psychology is a complex field, looking not only at the way your survey appears on the screen, but also the psychology of when your customers are more likely to interact with it.

What is undeniable, is the importance of customer satisfaction, and the key role that surveys can play in improving this for your business.

Here we look at some of the best ways to elicit responses from your customer base, and use these to improve customer satisfaction.

Encouraging customers to take your survey


There is a theory that suggests customers are more compelled to complete a survey for you whenever you have done something for them. This draws on people’s feelings of empathy, meaning there are certain points in the sales funnel when your customer base are going to feel more inclined to give you a little something back.

For example, once they’ve just purchased your product or service, or upon them receiving it, can be a good time to approach them for feedback. There is the hope here that you will also have caught your customer in a good mood at this moment, so they may be more complimentary about your services than at any other time.

The flipside of this theory however is that you may be just as likely to catch your customer in a bad mood if they have just had a negative experience with your products or services. That is not to say that feedback from potentially unhappy customers is not worthwhile however, in fact this feedback is essential in helping you improve your company’s offering.

RELATED:Strategies for increasing customer engagement

Shortly after a customer has approached you with a customer service query can be a good time to ask for feedback. Ideally, you will have just resolved their issue. However, if you were not able to help them for any reason in this instance, contacting them immediately after for feedback may actually irritate your customer further.

It is definitely worth assessing the amount of responses you get to these customer satisfaction surveys, to determine whether they are helping or actually damaging your attempts at customer retention.


Another way to encourage customers to respond to your surveys is to offer them a reward of some kind in return. Common examples include offering a small discount on their next order, or even a free gift or free postage and packaging.

Existing customers particularly appreciate this method as they feel they are being acknowledged and thanked, receiving exclusive bonuses for being loyal customers. Rewarding customer loyalty in this way can prove lucrative, as well as encourage your customers to pay the good deed forwards, and complete your customer satisfaction surveys.

An added tip is to offer discounts for friends and family members that your customers might recruit to your business. In return, offer your customers a discount or money off voucher every time they successfully recommend you a new paying customer.

RELATED: Are customer surveys effective?

If you are going to invest in a rewards system however, keep it simple and make it crystal clear exactly how much you will reward customers in return for how much custom from them. If your system is too complex, people won’t understand it and it will lose its effectiveness at making your customers feel they’ve achieved something. In turn, they may not be as likely to respond to your research questions.

Structuring your survey

The platform you use for survey research is very important. Quick surveys hosted on social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram prove effective, so long as they are quick, structured with easily accessible calls to action and not cluttered with information.

Measuring customer satisfaction can easily be done in this way. Keep your questions short, limit the amount of options for customers to select from, and target them at your niche audience at ideal times of the day, such as the evening when they are likely to have more time to respond to you.

Another issue you may face is ‘lazy’ consumers simply ticking the middle/’average’/’neutral’ option all the way down the page. It’s hard to decipher if this feedback is legitimate or whether you should automatically discredit it.

RELATED: Customer feedback: Get it, organize it, and make it work for you

If using a Likert scale, design them so you can use your surveys to tell apart your dissatisfied from your satisfied customers. Omit the middle option. If asking a question like “how satisfied were you with our service?” let them choose from “completely satisfied/ satisfied/ dissatisfied/ completely dissatisfied”. This way you force them into making a decision about giving you either positive or negative feedback.

Using psychology research to improve customer experience

One of the key advantages of thinking about the psychology of your customers when you’re planning your surveys is that you can gather more reliable data.

Gaining an accurate picture of what your customers think of your products and services is key in building a long term plan to improve your business’s offering to its customers.

RELATED: 4 customer engagement metrics and how to measure them

A survey that is easier to read, understand and respond to is more likely to be well received and responded to seriously by your customers.

Be careful to ensure your questions can help give you a clear direction for improving your services or products. Sit down with your customer services team and really think not just about what you want to know from your customers, but what you will do with this information whether their responses are positive or negative.

It can help to draw up an action plan of what you might do with this customer feedback before you even send the survey out. You may be interested in reading this step-by-step guide to building an effective sales strategy to help you.

Related stories


How to track and improve your customer loyalty

Businesses need loyal customers. But gaining and maintaining customer loyalty is hard work. Zendesk’s CX Trends…

4 min read

Retain your customer base through a recession

During an economic slowdown, you can take specific steps to maintain and even grow your existing customer base. Deepen customer relationships by delivering seamless, personalised CX on all channels.

5 min read

How to take airline CX out of a holding pattern

Reach new heights with better customer experiences. Get our top tips and expert advice.

5 min read

Live or virtual: The future of B2B events?

While some may have missed the personal touch of in-person events during lockdown, many also enjoyed…