Length of a feedback survey – 2 principles

When you create a feedback survey, you make an important decision on its length. The length decision is a trade off between survey completions and useful information. 

If the survey is too long, customers won’t complete it. If it is too short (e.g. 1 question), you may not get the information you need.

I’d suggest 2 principles as you think of the length of a survey –

  1. The length should be proportional to the time spent with the experience
  2. The length should always be a few questions shorter than what you think you need

A simple example to illustrate these points. I had an email exchange with the support team of the company that manages US embassy appointments to change the location of my appointment in their system. It took me a minute to write the email. They sent me a response and asked for feedback. However, the moment I clicked the survey, I decided to close it. That’s because I saw what felt like 30 radio buttons. If I spent 2 minutes (at most) on an exchange, I’d like the survey to be a simple “Happy” or “Not happy” with an optional text box. I’d be more inclined to spend 5 minutes on a survey if it was for a 1 day boot camp that I attended.

As a general rule, we tend to over complicate surveys. My sense is that most feedback surveys would be far better if they just stuck to 3 questions –

  1. How likely is it that you’d recommend our ___ to your friends?
  2. What did we do well?
  3. What could we do better?

All of this is subject to what you are trying to achieve of course. But, I would hazard a guess that some feedback is better than none. Uber, for example, does a great job with this trade off by leading with the rating. You can add comments if you want to but you don’t have to. They’ve taken these principles to heart.

And, their results (a thriving feedback community) follow what is an excellent process.