Ditching the Questionnaire for Personalized Surveys

Modern consumers want modern experiences. Personalized surveys help brands collect better data and make smarter decisions with customer feedback.


Jana Barrett

June 5, 2017

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Modern consumers want personalized service from the brands they buy from. Research shows that 79% of consumers expect brands to get to know them on a personal level and provide tailored offers and experiences. That means brands need to incorporate personalization into every aspect of their business—from their email marketing and customer communications to the sales they run and they surveys they send.

Today we’ll examine how personalized surveys help brands collect better data and make smarter decisions with customer feedback.

What Are Personalized Surveys?

We usually think of personalization in the context of marketing—an email has my first name in it or a retail site suggests other products I’d like. But personalization isn’t just about the content. It’s also about the timing. A brand that excels at personalization doesn’t just talk to me about the right things—it also talks to me in the right way and at the right time.

The same applies to surveys. While the questions you ask matter a lot, how and when you ask them matters just as much.

Qualities of Personalized Surveys

  • They’re sent right after a customer has an experience with a brand. If I just chatted with customer service and I get a survey invitation from the company, I can guess what it’s about. I’m more compelled to click that “Take the Survey” button because I know what to expect.

  • They only ask relevant questions. If a customer consistently buys products online and you ask them about their in-store experience, you’ll throw them for a loop. Personalized surveys leverage existing customer data to ask the right questions—and only the right questions. This not only boosts relevancy, but it keeps surveys short. On top of that, adding personal details like the customer’s name or the product they bought makes a survey far more compelling.

  • They only ask new questions (or questions that need new answers). You’re bound to annoy customers if you consistently ask them the same things. It’s a bad experience that makes brands look disorganized and careless. Personalized surveys ask for new information or at least preface repeat questions with an explanation. For example, if you ask customers the Net Promoter Score® (NPS®) question once every few months, you may want to explain how you use their periodic answers as a baseline for customer happiness.

  • They sound like a human wrote them. At GetFeedback, we have this radical idea that surveys should be easy—even fun. Part of that means asking questions that people understand. Personalized surveys use human speak, and they avoid overcomplicated questions and answers. No need to read it three times before you get it.

  • They tie in seamlessly with the company’s messaging. You may not think of surveys as a core piece of your marketing messaging, but they are to your customers. A survey represents your brand just as much as any other interaction. Personalized surveys look and sound like your company, so customers don’t get inconsistent experiences when they visit your website and then click the “Feedback” button.

  • They’re designed for action. Sending surveys just for the sake of it is a waste of everyone’s time. It’s obvious when you’re taking a survey that won’t lead to any real change. You’re asked irrelevant questions that you can’t imagine anyone really caring that much about. On the other hand, personalized surveys stick to the essentials. They only collect information that the company actually plans to follow up on.

Why Are Personalized Surveys Important?

Like any form of messaging, surveys appeal more to customers when they’re relevant and consumable. We’ve all fallen victim to the 30-question trap. You start a survey expecting a few quick questions, and you end up mindlessly clicking “Agree” and “Not Applicable” over and over or giving up halfway through.

These generic, company-centric questionnaires give surveys a bad wrap. But they don’t have to be a slog! When companies tailor surveys to their customers and send them at the right moments, taking a survey can be a good experience. Customers are far more willing to give their 2 cents when they know why they’re being asked for feedback and how it will impact their future experiences. This obviously benefits the company in many ways too.

Benefits of Personalized Surveys

  • They increase participation. If I get a survey that checks all the boxes above, I’m far more likely to respond—not just this time, but in the future too. Plus, I’m more likely to respond thoughtfully because the survey was built thoughtfully. Higher response rates make for higher-quality data that helps organizations make smarter decisions.

  • They make customers feel special. A personalized survey shows your customers that you value their opinions and their time. If you’re not offering some sort of clear compensation, then a survey invitation is ultimately a one-sided ask. It’s up to you to prove to your customers why they should share their feedback and make their experience as seamless as possible.

  • They make survey analysis much easier. Ask a bunch of irrelevant questions and you’ll get a bunch of irrelevant answers. That becomes a major headache when it’s time to analyze the data and make decisions based on it. However, personalized surveys yield more accurate results because they’re focused. That makes survey analysis far simpler—and resulting decisions far more strategic.

Why Brands Struggle with Personalization

Consumers are willing to give brands access to all kinds of information, like income levels, hobbies, and buying habits, but brands often struggle to use it. Research shows that 48% of brands know the value of personalization but don’t use it effectively to engage customers or increase sales.

Personalized surveys can certainly be tough too. With an infinite number of priorities to attend to, companies often delegate surveys to low-level employees or no one at all. As surveys get de-prioritized, they also lose value. Here are some of the other challenges companies face with survey personalization, and how they can overcome them.

Challenges of Personalized Surveys

  • They get stuck on the design. We’re so accustomed to the long, boring questionnaire format that it’s easy to follow that pattern, but that’s a poor experience for your customers and your team. A poor survey design can even decrease data quality; if you’re responding to a survey and it’s an eyesore, that could realistically impact your mood and your answers. Designing a pleasant survey is easy with the right survey tool, and it can make a major difference in the long run. Like a nice email or webpage, a good survey can positively impact brand perception and boost customer engagement.

  • They don’t have the resources to dedicate to survey creation, distribution, and analysis. Companies often send surveys sporadically and from multiple departments, so no one technically owns the process. That makes it tough to scale, and survey quality suffers. Without anyone leading the charge, surveys become inconsistent and ineffective. If you’re just beginning to send customer surveys, we recommend assigning ownership to one or two people. They don’t necessarily have to build each and every survey, but they can review surveys before distribution to make sure they adhere to your brand guidelines and general survey best practices.

  • They don’t know how to integrate surveys with their other tools. We mentioned how important is it to avoid repeat questions and include personalized tidbits in your customer surveys. Well, to do that, you need some information-sharing between your survey tool and your customer relationship management (CRM) system. That may be a direct connection between two platforms—like the GetFeedback for Salesforce integration—or it may be manual data population. Either way, this information-sharing is essential for relevancy and data quality, so it’s best to establish it early and make it a habit.

Personalization Features That Make Your Life Simple(r)

Now that we’ve run through best practices, let’s take a look at a couple common survey features that can help you bring personalization to all your feedback asks.

Merge Fields

If you’ve ever used an email marketing tool, you’re probably familiar with merge fields. They’re basically unique codes that pull specific information from one source (like your CRM) and feed it into another (like your email or your survey). These fields represent specific details, like a customer’s name or support case number.

Typically, merge fields are added onto the end of a URL, and that’s how the data is communicated between systems. For example, here’s what a survey URL looks like when a company is “passing” contact information from their CRM to GetFeedback.

personalized surveys - merge fields

Merge fields are fantastic for information-sharing and relevancy. They help you attribute survey responses to specific people and keep your customer information accurate. Plus, you can use merge fields to personalize surveys by pulling in details about the customer. To do it, you just add bracketed merge fields to your survey questions, which automatically pull in the corresponding data from Salesforce or your email service provider.

For example, the survey question below would automatically pull in the customer’s name and the product they purchased, so they know exactly what they’re rating.

personalized surveys - merge fields in survey

So, let’s say you want to send a survey to every customer that bought a digital camera from your website in the last three months. You can use the [NAME] merge field to include a customer’s name and the [PRODUCT] merge field to include the kind of camera purchased. Mary Johnson’s survey would include her first name and ask her about the Canon t5i, while Bob Smith’s survey would mention Bob and reference the Nikon D3400 he bought. Each customer receives a relevant survey that encourages them to give relevant answers.

Survey Logic

If you’ve ever answered a survey question and then the next question seemed to reference your answer, then that survey used logic! Like merge fields, survey logic helps you boost relevancy, but it’s more about the flow of questions than the content of them. Logic is incredibly valuable for both the survey creator and the survey respondent. It cuts down on unnecessary questions and digs deeper into important ones.

Say a customer is dissatisfied with their purchase and they say so in your survey. You might want to ask them for a bit more info. With survey logic, you can ask a follow-up question when customers select “Dissatisfied” and skip it (or ask a different question) if they select “Satisfied.”

Advanced survey creators can get even fancier with their survey logic, using multiple rules to design a custom flow for practically every respondent. In the example below, respondents would be directed to question 4 if they select “Yes” for question 1, and they’d be directed to question 6 if they select 3 or greater for question 2. That might sound complex, but it’s pretty simple once you dive in. (It can even be fun!)

personalized surveys - survey logic

Logic can even help you boost brand promotion and case deflection. Say your customers give you stellar ratings and you want to ask if they’d write you a public review or refer friends. With survey logic, you can direct happy customers to a specific survey thank you page that asks them for a review or gives them a referral link they can share. Or if a customer says they need help updating their billing info, you could use logic to direct them to the knowledge base article on billing—and maybe avoid a support case in the process.

PRO TIP: Combine the power of merge fields and survey logic. You can create logic rules based off of the merge fields you pass to GetFeedback.


Personalization is a priority for many brands these days, especially in the age of information, when practically everything is at our fingertips. However, it can be daunting to create and manage these processes, especially when you’re using an array of tools and collecting new information every day.

But creating a seamless process to capture and act on feedback doesn’t have to be struggle. Personalization may take a bit more time in the short term, but it ultimately cuts down on the clutter and gives you data you can truly learn from. By using personalization tools to give customers a better survey experience, you can generate the feedback your brand needs to grow.

If you’re interested in learning more about how personalized surveys can work for you, shoot us a line or visit our site to try it out yourself.

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