Capture Feedback With Web Surveys

Web surveys are great for customer feedback, but how do you figure out what feedback to capture?


Sara Staffaroni

March 3, 2020

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Deciding what to eat is a delicate dance. Though our resources for finding restaurants have grown, choosing a specific place hasn’t become any easier. In fact, plenty of research shows that the more options we have, the more difficult it is to make any choice (the catchy term is “analysis paralysis”). Thus our restaurant problem. 

We in the business world can have the same issue when collecting feedback. Tools like web surveys have given us greater access, but, like choosing a restaurant, the real success is in the details. Knowing you’re after customer feedback in general isn’t very useful. You need to know what customer feedback you’re after specifically. By targeting exactly the kind of insights you’re looking for, you can get more value out of the feedback. In fact, research by Forrester found that insight-driven companies grow at a rate of 27% annually

Almost nothing is as disappointing as wanting a cheeseburger but getting a salad. We’re here to, metaphorically, stop that from happening. In this article, we discuss three methods you can use to figure out what customer feedback you want to collect.

Define your goals upfront  

Collecting data is, typically, a means to an end. Meaning your main goal is probably not simply to have collected data. You want to take some action based on what you’ve learned. Otherwise, what’s the point? 

In order for that to happen, you do need to have at least some general direction from the start. Perhaps you want to reduce churn or find areas of friction in your checkout process. No matter the case, that end goal will give you direction when you first go to collect data. 

To use the second example, perhaps you’re seeing a larger amount of shopping cart abandonment. That gives you a few things you can work with from the get-go. You might want to send a web survey to a customer who successfully completed the purchase and ask how the experience could be improved. Since they went through the process, they’ll have additional insight they may not otherwise share. 

Also, knowing your goals will inform the types of questions you ask. Perhaps you could have them rate the level of difficulty and then have a comment section to explain how it could be simpler. Knowing what you’re interested in means that you don’t waste valuable resources asking for information you don’t need. 

Bloated data is actually a huge issue. According to research, the majority of a data scientists’ time is spent cleaning data-which most considered their least favorite part of their job-not the actual analysis of the data. Along with that, once you exceed a certain number of questions in a survey there tends to be a decent amount of drop-off. So, being as concise as you can is helpful in multiple ways. 

Consider the audience 

Have you ever heard someone utter the phrase “read the room?” Typically it’s said in response to a statement that was inappropriate for the situation. Maybe someone mentioned a taboo topic, or got too personal too soon. Fundamentally, they weren’t considering their audience and it cost them. 

The same is true when you’re collecting data. You need to be cognizant not only of the data that you’re collecting, but who you’re collecting it from. This principle can help guide the types of questions you ask and decide what type of data to collect in a given circumstance.  

For example, if you’re conducting a pop-up web survey on your site that’s only triggered for first-time visitors it won’t make sense to ask for their thoughts on branding changes you’ve made over the past year. They have no frame of context and won’t be able to offer much insight. 

You should also be aware of the types of questions you’re asking. Think about it like a first-date; you might ask someone where they’re from but probably not how much money they make. Well, not if you want to have a second date, that is. 

When you choose your audience consider what point you’re at in your relationship. If they’re a long-term customer you can probably ask more complex and deeper questions. If they’re new, you may only want to ask for more basic information. 

Know what’s allowed

We all have that friend that’s very frugal. They find coupons and deals for everything. When they stay at a hotel, they make sure to grab all the toiletry items before they leave the room. However, they know there’s a limit. The soap and shampoo? No problem. The hotel towel? Well, now you’ve crossed a line and will get charged. 

When collecting data there are some limits that are more cultural or circumstantial, but there are also legal limits on what you can collect. Though it’s slightly different than the items mentioned above, it is a way in which you know what information to ask for in a survey. Typically there are two things you need to be aware of: sensitive personal information, and age restrictions. 

Sensitive Information

Certain things like social security numbers, or credit card numbers are highly sensitive information. In some cases, you will need to collect it but before you do so you do need to make sure that you have all the infrastructure in place needed to handle that information. If not, then those are things you should avoid.

Another type of sensitive information is medical records and information. In that case, there are regulatory bodies that oversee standards of collecting that information. In the US HIPAA is the governing body and most other countries have something similar. Again, if you’re not HIPAA compliant, then you’re not able to legally collect that type of information. 

Age Restricted Data

There are also limitations on what information you can collect from children. It may not be something your organization needs to worry about, but it is something you should be aware of if it’s a possibility. COPPA is what provides the guidelines for interacting with children under 13 in the US. 

It may not always be top-of-mind but as concerns around data privacy and security continue to rise, there will-most-likely-be more legislation around how you can collect and store data. Being ahead of the curve is what will serve you best. 


Knowing you want to use a web survey is a great start to gathering data, but that’s only a small part of the project. After you know how you’ll collect data, you need to consider what data you want to collect. That can be a daunting task, but there are some guidelines you can follow to make it a little easier. 

First, make sure you define the goals you have for the survey. If you know what you want to learn about, it’ll make coming up with the right questions easier. Next, you need to consider who you’re collecting data from. Certain audiences may be more appropriate for different types of feedback. As we mentioned above, it not only helps you decide what data to collect in the first place, but could improve your survey response rate, too. 

Last, be sure you’re aware of any legal issues you could run into. Different countries and age demographics have governing bodies that regulate what you can collect, so be sure you’re staying well-informed on those rules to avoid any trouble. 

Remember, gathering feedback is a process and one that will continue to evolve. As long as you’re thinking critically about your approach, you’ll be on the right path.

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