How and when to use surveys, what questions to ask and how to combine findings with other CRO methods.

Conversion rate optimisation (CRO) takes in a range of disciplines and techniques with the broad aim of increasing on-site conversions.

In this article, I’ll look at how direct user feedback can help with your optimisation efforts and, indeed, with efforts to improve the user experience. There are differences between UX and CRO of course, but also plenty of crossover, though this is a topic for another article.

Gathering customer feedback is a great technique, which can be used alongside A/B testing and usability testing to improve website performance.

Customer surveys and feedback have a couple of major things in their favour.

The first is the speed of gathering insights. When you launch a survey you can begin to gather useful insights right away, as any single user opinion can reveal something interesting about your site that you didn’t know.

Unlike A/B testing, there’s no need to wait for a number of results to be gathered so they’re statistically significant.

In addition, surveys can deliver very precise insights. For example, users can pinpoint the exact point in their journey where they are encountering problems, which enables sites to find the exact source of any issues.

What should you ask visitors?

According to analytics expert Avinash Kaushik, there are three questions that should be asked in every customer survey:

  • What was the purpose of your visit to the website? This question should help you to understand what customers are trying to do on your website, and may also yield some useful information about how they arrive at the site.
  • Were you able to complete your task today? This helps you find out how effective users think your website is at providing the information they need.
  • If you were not able to complete your task today, why not? An open text answer to this will allow people to get into detail about any problems they may have had. It can provide some very direct feedback, and by collating the responses, you can see how often certain issues are cited by customers.

These three questions, or variations of them, will enable you to understand a lot about how visitors use your site, and whether they can do what they need to do without encountering any problems.

It can be a good idea to ask the following question as well: ‘How likely are you to recommend this site to a colleague or friend?’ This will help you to calculate your NPS (Net Promoter Score).

There’s also a balance to be struck here, so that you can gather useful information from online surveys without asking too much of your users.

Keeping surveys relatively short means that more people are likely to complete it. It may be tempting to ask lots of questions to try and gather as much information as possible, but keeping it brief will help you to gather a wider range of responses.

Surveys should also be usable. Lots of white space and clear text makes forms easier to navigate and understand.

When and where to use surveys

Timing and placement of surveys is crucial. The context in which you’re asking questions impacts the type of responses you’ll get, and how likely people are to sacrifice the time out of their day.

For example, if you want to gather some feedback from buyers, you could show a feedback form at the end of checkout, or send a follow up email with a link to a survey.

Alternatively if you want to find out about any problems customers may have with the site, you can target them with a survey as they’re about to leave (when the cursor is heading for the close tab button for example).

Alternatively, for logged in users, you can sent an email asking why they chose to abandon the site on this occasion.

Some sites get this timing wrong, and fire surveys almost as soon as you arrive. This is bad timing and is likely to be counter-productive in some cases.

Gathering feedback is useful, but it’s important not to distract users from selecting products or placing an order.

Learning from feedback

It’s one thing to gather feedback, but it’s only valuable if customer responses are analyzed properly, and findings acted upon.

Processes should be in place to collect customer feedback from a range of sources, so online and email surveys can be assessed along with other sources, such as customer service contacts.

It’s also important not to look at user feedback in isolation, but to use it along with other data sources. For example, user feedback about issues completing checkout could be combined with analytics data on drop outs at different stages of the purchase process.

There’s a lot to learn from direct user feedback, and this should form part of any conversion optimization strategy, but effective CRO should use a variety of methods to achieve the best results.

If customers tell you about issues in completing tasks, then it’s a good idea to follow up with user testing to confirm the problems. If you observe users having the same issues, then this tells you where improvements are needed.

It’s about finding the blend of complementary techniques that produces the best results for the website you’re looking to improve.

To understand the current state of UX research in 2018, download our brand new State of UX in the Enterprise 2018 survey report. 
state of ux 2018