5 Online Survey Types That Help Build a Better Business

Learn the five most common use cases for online surveys, and how your business can use them to gather valuable feedback to improve and be successful.


Chris Boeckelman

February 2, 2016

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Online surveys are an essential tool that every business should use to help them improve and be successful. Surveys are a hassle-free way to collect valuable feedback and information, from both anonymous and known users.

The valuable information collected via surveys can be used to improve processes, operations, product and marketing initiatives, along with the customer and employee experience.

Plus, surveys show your audience that you value their opinions, and aim to use their feedback to enhance your organization and its offerings.

But surveys aren’t one-size-fits-all. In other words, there are different types of surveys that accomplish vastly different goals.

To help you determine which type of survey to use, we’ve created this handy guide that explains the five most common use cases for surveys, and how your business or organization can benefit from using them.

5 Survey Types for Business Growth

1. Customer satisfaction surveys

customer service surveys

The purpose of a customer satisfaction survey is to gauge how customers feel about a certain product, service or business activity. These surveys provide valuable insight that your business can use to make improvements and keep customer retention and loyalty high.

Survey timing

The ideal time to send a customer satisfaction survey is after a purchase is made, a service is completed or a project is finished. You want to follow up immediately so the customer or client can offer feedback while the experience is still fresh in his or her mind.

In many cases, organizations choose to automate the sending of these surveys via a workflow or trigger. For example, a support case is closed or a sale is completed. If you manage your sales, support or projects in Salesforce, this is easy to do, and a great best practice to follow because it keeps the distribution consistent and free of human error, while providing you with a regular stream of insights into how you’re doing as an organization.

You can also choose to send periodic surveys to gauge customer satisfaction. These can be distributed anywhere from daily to yearly depending on the trend you are trying to measure. For example, you could send a monthly survey to gauge the quality of your customer support experience, or send quarterly surveys out to see how customers are responding to a new product or service. For the most part, these surveys are sent in batch via an ESP (email service provider like Campaign Monitor), your survey tool, or another 3rd party solution like Salesforce.

Survey audience

Yes, customers receive customer satisfaction surveys, but it’s important to segment your customer base for effective results. For example, if you’re gauging customer satisfaction tied to a specific product, you should only send the survey to those that have purchased that product recently. This requires being able to easily filter your database and send emails/surveys to the proper segments. The ability to do this effectively is an important element of managing a successful customer feedback program.

2. Net Promoter Score® (NPS®) surveys

Survey purpose

While this survey may have a fancy name, its purpose is fairly simple: to find out how likely a customer or client is to refer your business to a friend. The idea is based on the concept that if your audience thinks highly enough of your business to encourage others to use it, you are probably doing a pretty good job as an organization.

NPS surveys categorize your audience into three groups: promoters, passives, and detractors. By dividing customers into these three categories, you can gauge how well you are doing as an organization, begin to deploy marketing efforts that focus on changing detractors/passives to promoters, and develop strategies to turn more customers into promoters.

Survey timing

Try to send Net Promoter Score surveys out at a time when your business activities are normal. If you send the survey after a new product launch, or during the holiday rush your results could be skewed, minimizing the actionable insights you receive from the information you collected.

You’ll also want to set a schedule for follow-up surveys. If you just send an NPS survey only once, you won’t have anything to compare it to. When you send them consistently, you can gauge whether or not your overall scores are improving or declining, and take the appropriate action.

NPS scores become very powerful when you begin to tie them back into your CRM. Your sales and support teams will be able to see whether the person they are interacting with is a detractor, passive or promoter and act accordingly. You can also create additional reporting within your CRM to filter and bucket the information by customer data like location, company size, title, department, etc, providing your organization with deeper insights into various areas of your business.

You should send out a Net Promoter Score survey at least twice a year. Set a reminder on your calendar so it isn’t overlooked or create a workflow or schedule a send which distributes the survey automatically for you.

Survey audience

This is one of the few surveys that you can send to your entire contact list. However, segmentation is still an option. For example, if you run a large company that’s been around for a few years, you might want to conduct a Net Promoter Score survey on newer customers. You may also want to consider checking back in with some of the passives or detractors after you do a product release or change a process which might help to make change their opinion, and shift them to being a promoter.

3. Event and conference surveys

event surveys

Survey purpose

An event and conference survey is a barometer that expresses how well your event or conference was received by attendees. It gives the organizers feedback that can be used to improve the event experience in the future. Everything from venue and accommodation satisfaction to the quality of speakers and networking opportunities can be gauged by this kind of survey.

If you do events, this is a great way to keep your events constantly improving.

Survey timing

Much like customer satisfaction surveys, you should send out an event or conference survey while the experience is still top of mind. While you can certainly send the survey a day or two after the event has wrapped up, you should also consider sending real-time surveys, whenever possible.

Wondering what attendees thought of the day’s speakers? Aren’t sure if the break-out sessions were productive? You can create same-day surveys and send them after the session ends, during a scheduled break, or at the end of the day.

Speakers can even mention the survey while they’re concluding their sessions by saying, “Please check your email for a short survey about today’s events. Your feedback is extremely valuable to shape the future of our events, so please take a couple minutes to provide us with your thoughts.”

Survey audience

Guests are your audience here, but again, you’ll want to segment your list into groups that make sense for the survey’s purpose. If you’re sending a survey at the end of the conference that covers the event’s overall performance, then by all means, include everyone on the list. However, if you want feedback about a specific session, send the survey to those attendees only. You may also want to consider surveying people who registered for your event, and couldn’t attend. Why couldn’t they make it? Could you have done something to change their minds?

4. Marketing and product surveys

Survey purpose

Marketing and product surveys help your business understand its audience, their wants and needs, and how to reach them. This kind of data helps your business create more effective marketing campaigns that result in higher sales or improve products/offerings to better fit customers’ needs. These surveys ‘pick your customer’s brain,’ so to speak, and provide information that helps your business connect with its core audience, and guide future product and marketing efforts.

Survey timing

A great time to send a marketing or product survey is while planning the launch of something new. You can find out things like: who your target audience is, what factors into their purchase decision, which messaging resonates best, which features do they value the most, and what would they like to see added to the product.

It’s best to have this information as early in the launch process as possible, so you can use it to your advantage when you introduce your new product or service to your audience.

Of course, that’s not the only time to send marketing and product surveys. Consider sending a survey post launch or after design changes to gauge how the changes have resonated with your customers and target audience. If they love it, you’ve done your job. If there are some areas for improvement, you may need to tweak or adjust the release or change the product to fit better their needs.

Survey audience

The audience for marketing and product surveys varies. Essentially, you want to send the survey to your target market. In some cases, that includes your entire contact list. For example, if you run a cleaning company and want feedback on a new online payment method, you could send that survey to your entire list to gauge interest before launching it.

However, if you’re introducing a new HD video camera that’s aimed at more affluent and experienced photographers, you’ll want to segment your survey to target people who have spent over a certain amount with you.

The audience definitely varies. So, do what makes the most sense for your business.

5. Human resource and employee surveys

employee surveys

Survey purpose

Human resource and employee surveys help your business measure employee engagement and satisfaction. These surveys are a valuable way to learn about a variety of things like: how happy are employees working for your company, what do they think of their manager, what do they think of your benefits, what did they think of the hiring process when they came on, what do they think of a new HR program, or why are they leaving the organization.

Essentially, these surveys are used as an in-house tool to gather feedback from employees to help the organization improve. They have a very wide application, and can be extremely valuable for HR because surveys are a great way to collect anonymous feedback.

Survey timing

Again, timing is everything with surveys, so you’ll want to send human resource and employee surveys before or following an action. For example, if you’re looking to collect feedback from a team meeting, send the survey immediately following the gathering so employees have a fresh take on the situation. Or if you just hired a new manager, it makes sense to check in with his/her reports a couple months after they have been onboard.

Employee happiness is something you want to measure on a consistent basis. You should always be checking in with some subset of your employees to make sure that if problems are arising, you can quickly take action to solve them.

If you want to send a survey about the company’s benefits, it makes sense to send your benefits survey out to the organization prior to benefits evaluation period, so if you need to make adjustments, you can do so.

Finally, some of these surveys may automatically be incorporated into a workflow, like when someone is hired or let go. These can be sent via an automated workflow for consistency purposes.

Survey audience

Your audience is your employees. As with other surveys, you can segment these surveys so only the parties that are familiar with the survey’s topic receive them. If your survey is about your company’s benefits, you’d probably want to send one survey to employees who are currently enrolled to understand what they think of the current benefits, and another survey to the group who chose not to enroll and find out why they have opted out.

For employee satisfaction or happiness, it makes sense to constantly survey a different subset of your employees, so that you can consistently gather feedback and can also, over the course of a year, collect responses from the entire company.


There you have it; five survey types that you can implement to help you improve your organization. It’s extremely rare that a company gets everything right, all the time, so it’s important to make feedback part of your iterative process of improvement. The more you bake feedback into everything you do, the greater chance you have of being successful.

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*Net Promoter, Net Promoter System, Net Promoter Score, NPS and the NPS-related emoticons are registered trademarks of Bain & Company, Inc., Fred Reichheld and Satmetrix Systems, Inc.