You’ve decided to send surveys to your customers and clients, gain feedback, and use those insights to improve your business. But knowing what you want feedback on is only part of the battle — survey success also depends on choosing the right type of customer survey questions to get you the insights you need.

Last week, we talked specifically about how to phrase your questions to avoid biasing the survey results. In this post, we’ll break down the 7 types of survey questions and answer scales, and the pros and cons of each.

Types of survey questions

At a high-level, there are two types of survey questions: close-ended and open-ended.

Closed-ended questions are more quantitative, and ask customers to choose from a list of answer options. Those answers can then be tallied into scores, percentages, or statistics that are tracked over time. Closed-ended questions work best when you have a good grasp of the exact topics you want feedback on, and would like data that can be easily segmented for ongoing reports.

Open-ended questions are qualitative and allow customers to answer in their own words. Qualitative feedback is less about a measurement and more about collecting customer impressions and opinions. While it doesn’t lend itself easily to a statistic, it does give you insight into customer attitudes and motivations. These questions require more critical thinking and provide insights into your company that you may not have been aware of.

Using surveys that contain both open-ended and close-ended questions gives you the best of both worlds. Let’s go through the various types of close-ended questions you can use in your customer surveys first.

Close-ended survey questions

There are a few commonly used types of close-ended questions: rating scale questions, multiple choice questions, visual scale questions, dichotomous questions, Net Promoter Score (NPS) surveys, and demographic or firmographic questions. Each one is particularly suited for certain situations.

Rating scale survey questions

A rating scale is one of the most well-known survey options. It allows folks to indicate what they think about a statement or attitude on a 5 or 7-point scale. You can set up rating scales with either a bipolar or unipolar construct.

Bipolar means the scale runs from negative to positive with a neutral rating in the middle. For instance, from “very dissatisfied,” to “neutral,” and finally “very satisfied.”

A unipolar scale ranges from zero to positive, and is used when a negative rating wouldn’t make sense semantically. For instance, the star rating question, “How would you rate” wouldn’t have an option for negative stars, and would be a unipolar scale. A question rated along the lines of “effectiveness” would also be unipolar, since it’s impossible for something to be “negative effective.” It can only be “ineffective.”

Rating scale pros

  • Flexibility in creating the rating scale
  • Can be used to evaluate any part of the customer experience
  • Provides a statistic that is easily tracked over time

Rating scale cons

  • Doesn’t dig into why customers choose a specific rating
  • Requires some preparation to determine which facets of the business are most important to ask about

Rating scale tips

  • Use a balanced scale with equal positive and negative responses
  • Include a neutral response for those without strong feelings either way
  • Use this scale to find out what customers and clients think or feel about products, services, websites, advertising, or other aspects of your business

Rating scale example questions

The Customer Effort Score survey, or CES survey, is a great example of a rating scale survey. People respond on a scale of 1 to 5 on how strongly they agree with the statement, with 5 being the best. This type of disagree-agree scale is also known as a Likert-type scale.

[Company website] made it easy to find what I was looking for. The answers here would be:

  • 1: Strongly disagree
  • 2: Slightly disagree
  • 3: Neutral
  • 4: Slightly agree
  • 5: Strongly agree

The CSAT survey, or Customer Satisfaction survey, is another example of a rating scale survey.

How satisfied were you with [aspect of the customer experience]? The answers here would be:

  • 1: Very dissatisfied
  • 2: Slightly dissatisfied
  • 3: Neutral
  • 4: Satisfied
  • 5: Very satisfied

CES surveys measure how easy it is for people to accomplish their goal, while CSAT surveys measure satisfaction. Both questions can be modified to evaluate customer sentiment about specific customer touchpoints. For example, you could create custom follow-up questions after a customer support CSAT survey to ask for ratings on staff product knowledge, helpfulness, courteousness, and problem resolution. For more ideas on what to ask, here’s a full list of customer satisfaction survey question examples.

Multiple choice survey questions

Multiple choice questions might bring you back to grade school standardized testing — those timed tests that left you sweating while you frantically filled in the bubbles. In the context of a customer survey, these questions are much simpler for your customers to answer — that is, if you’ve provided a thoughtful, comprehensive set of responses.

To make things easier on your customers, you can also give them the option to select one or more options. Multiple choice questions are a great way to gather extra information to help you make new product decisions, understand where you can improve, or decide where to advertise to reach your audience.

Multiple choice question pros

  • Customers can choose one or multiple answers
  • Results can be compiled and analyzed easily for insight
  • Removes subjectivity from the answers

Multiple choice question cons

  • Limits answers to ones you’ve provided
  • Leaves out the reason why
  • Can be time-consuming to create

Multiple choice question tips

  • Should consist of at least three different options
  • Include an “other” option in case none of the choices fit
  • Answer options should be mutually exclusive
  • Answers should all be plausible and simply phrased

Multiple choice example questions

  1. How can we do better? Answers could be options for new or improved product features or service offerings
  2. How did you hear about [Company]? Answers could include TV, newspaper, magazine, [Company] website, or word-of-mouth

With Delighted, you can create your own multiple choice questions as additional questions to learn more about your audience after getting initial feedback on their experience with you.

Dichotomous survey questions

A dichotomous survey is a question with only two possible answers: yes/no, true/false, or agree/disagree. It is designed for fast, easy responses, and is perfect for straightforward evaluations. It also works well as a screening question. For example, you could ask your customers whether they’re aware of a certain product feature, and then dive deeper with a different set of questions depending on how they answer.

Dichotomous survey pros

  • Simple and quick to answer
  • Results are easy to understand at a glance
  • Allows you to divide customers into two different groups

Dichotomous survey cons

  • Doesn’t allow for higher sensitivity
  • Forces a yes or no answer when more information may be needed
  • Doesn’t have a neutral option for those who don’t feel strongly one way or the other

Dichotomous survey tips

  • Question should always be phrased for a yes/no answer

Dichotomous survey example questions

  1. Was your customer support issue resolved?
  2. Have you purchased/used [Company’s] product or service in the last 30 days?
  3. Have you ever used [Company] website to purchase a product or service?

Delighted’s Thumbs survey is a dichotomous survey. Instead of selecting yes or no, however, customers choose a thumbs up or thumbs down. When used as the initial question, it is always followed by an open-ended question so customers can provide more color to their answer. You can also create your own dichotomous questions using the Additional Questions feature.

Visual survey questions

Think emoji! Visual surveys make it easy for clients to select a rating because they elicit an intuitive response.

The smiley scale is well known in hospital rooms under the “rate your pain question,” with the crying face signifying intense pain and the smiley face signifying the least amount of pain. It is easier for someone to select an option when they can place an emotion behind it.

Visual scale pros

  • Easy to react to
  • Visually appealing
  • Transcends language barriers
  • Increases responses and engagement

Visual scale cons

  • Can only be used for satisfaction-style questions

Visual scale tips

  • Do not explain the scale, which counters the intuitive nature of the scale
  • Be sure that the question is phrased in a way that fits the context of a smiley face scale

Visual scale example question

How happy are you with the [Company’s] product or service?

Delighted’s Smileys survey is a fun and engaging way to gather product and customer support feedback from your customers. Follow up with an open-ended question for more details.

Net Promoter Score (NPS) survey questions

The Net Promoter Score (NPS) survey not only measures customer and client satisfaction, but also indicates brand loyalty. This survey question assesses the likelihood that someone will recommend your company to friends or family.

Even though the question uses a 0 to 10 scale, we set it apart from a traditional rating scale survey because of how the responses are scored.

Responses are sorted into detractors, passives, and promoters. Detractors are those who rate you 0 to 6, and are the least satisfied with your business. Passives are in between with a 7 or 8 score. Promoters give you the highest score with a 9 or 10 and are your most loyal customers.

NPS surveys are also always followed by an open-ended comment so folks can explain the reason for their rating.

Net Promoter Score pros

Net Promoter Score cons

  • More complex than standard satisfaction surveys to analyze
  • When used to measure the entire customer experience, it can be difficult to pinpoint areas for improvement

Net Promoter Score tips

  • Use this survey to understand your customers’ relationship with your brand
  • Send relationship surveys at regular intervals, such as yearly, bi-yearly, or quarterly
  • Don’t let the score be the only metric by which you evaluate customer loyalty — layer in other customer experience metrics such as lifetime value and usage frequency for a complete picture

NPS example questions

The classic NPS question is: “On a scale of 0-10, how likely are you to recommend [Company] to family and friends?” Follow up with an open-ended question asking why they chose a specific number. You can also modify the NPS question to ask about a specific product or support interaction.

Delighted has a templated NPS survey that you can easily customize to suit your needs.

Demographic and firmographic survey questions

Demographic survey questions show up at the end of almost every questionnaire. These questions help you understand who your clients and customers are and where they come from. They ask questions about location, age, income, gender, race, family information, personal habits, or even sometimes about pets or cars.

For B2B companies, firmographic questions are more common. These questions ask how many employees a company has, how much revenue, or how many locations they’re in for marketing and product development purposes.

Demographic and firmographic question pros

  • Tells you about your clients and customers so you know how to market and pitch your products
  • Helps you target specific audience groups for new customers

Demographic and firmographic question cons

  • Asks personal questions many customers and clients don’t like to answer

Demographic and firmographic survey question tips

  • Avoid asking what you should already know about your customers
  • Only ask for information that actually impacts your business strategy

Demographic and firmographic survey example questions

  1. What is your age? Provide mutually exclusive options such as 18-24, 25-34, 35-44, 45-54, 55+

  2. What is your annual household income? Provide multiple options such as 50,000 or below, 51,000-99,000, 100,000-249,000, 250,000 and above

  3. How many employees does your company have? Multiple choice options can include 1-10, 11-25, 26-50, 51-80, 81-120, 121-250, 251+

  4. Other questions can include race, marriage status, education, industry type, business locations, etc.

Demographic and firmographic questions are multiple choice questions. You can easily create them using Delighted’s additional follow-up questions.

Open-ended survey questions

Open-ended questions allow customers to give feedback in their own words. They’re perfect for following up on close-ended questions, so folks can give more context for their answer.

Open-ended question pros

  • Helps you understand the why behind their sentiment
  • Provides qualitative data
  • Can be handy for capturing simple customer information, such as email or product purchased, for surveys that are distributed in a more anonymous manner (e.g. kiosk or web)

Open-ended question cons

  • Time-consuming to answer and analyze
  • Less engagement

Open-ended question tips

  • Use open-ended questions to invite customers to explain their rating after a closed-ended question, so you can tie that open-ended feedback to a score

Remember that open-ended questions provide valuable insight into your clients’ and customers’ thoughts, but not statistical or categorical data.

Open-ended survey example questions

“Tell me more about why you chose [rating/option]” is the classic open-ended question for following up on a close-ended question. Asking “How can we improve?” or “Is there anything else you would like us to know?” at the very end of a survey can also capture any feedback your previous questions didn’t surface.

All of Delighted’s templated surveys (NPS, CSAT, CES, Smileys, Thumbs, and 5-star) contain an open-ended follow-up question so you can gain a deeper understanding of what your customers want.

Since analyzing qualitative data can be time-consuming, Delighted’s survey platform also helps you analyze your open-ended feedback to ease the customer feedback analysis process.

Choosing the right survey type

When creating client and customer surveys, follow survey design best practices to make sure you get the best results. How you design and use your surveys matters as much as the questions you select. Use these tips to create your surveys, and don’t forget to give it a preview before you send it off to your customers.

Here’s a quick summary of common best practices to follow:

  • Define clear goals for your survey
  • Distribute surveys through the best channel for your business
  • Keep your survey as short and straightforward as possible
  • Use skip logic so customers can skip questions they don’t want to answer
  • Enable conditional logic so customers are shown questions based on previous responses
  • Remove or rephrase any biased survey questions that might throw off your survey results

You can also check out our latest guide on the most popular customer satisfaction survey questions for more ideas on what to ask your customers.

To try out some of the survey question types above, sign up for a Delighted trial and start surveying customers for free. You’ll have feedback in minutes.