In a world of experience economy customer feedback is something really precious. Asking relevant questions and gathering applicable data may decide about the success or failure of the company.

There are many methods of measuring customer satisfaction. One of the most common and effective is survey. There are basic rules that should be followed when creating a survey — you can read about them here: How to create an effective customer experience survey.

In this article I describe basic know-how on question and answer formats that are used in surveys.



Question format

There are two main kinds of questions that are used in surveys: closed-ended and open-ended. Both have their advantages and disadvantages so the decision which type to choose will depend on characteristics of the respondents, the context of participation, the time they can spend on it and the purpose of the survey itself.

Open-ended questions are good for qualitative research because they allow infinite number of possible answers and enable respondents to describe their feelings and thoughts comprehensively. They can prove useful when there’s a small group of participants and they are involved with a company enough to spend some quality time on writing the answers. One or two open-ended questions may be added to all kinds of surveys since the more information the better. However, they shouldn’t be obligatory when the purpose of the survey is quantitative research.


Closed-ended questions are most common in online surveys for quantitative research. They allow to gather great amount of data, very quickly. Narrowing down the possible answers also makes it easy to analyze and interpret the results.

Closed-ended questions can prove useful in case of many respondents who have limited time or those who may be using mobile devices while answering.

Another advantage is that the results can be easily presented on statistics which makes it easier for stakeholders to understand the outcome. Statistics may also be more persuasive and often motivate to introduce changes.


Preparing closed-ended questions often proves more challenging than it seems, since it requires choosing the right response format, which is the next step of creating the survey.

Answer format

For closed-ended questions there are several possible response formats that may be used depending on the specific question.

One important thing is that the survey shouldn’t contain too many different answer formats — it may impede answering the questions by forcing respondents to think how a particular format works.

Here are some of the most common formats that most people are familiar with:

Dichotomous format



Multi-option format

Such format is useful when asking questions about specific things like product features, parts of the service or particular needs. The respondent is given a number of possible answers and has to choose one or several of them. If the survey allows choosing more than one answer, then their number should be displayed. It forces the respondent to choose only those answers that fit best. Allowing respondents to choose all the answers may lead to difficulties while interpreting the results.

Another thing that may be included to the multi-option format is an „other” answer, which can turn the question into open-ended one and therefore allow to gain more information.



Rating scale

This type of answer format gives respondents the option for gradating their opinions, attitudes and behaviors toward a product or service. The best choice when it comes to this format is to use a balanced scale, which forces the respondent to choose if his or her answer is positive or negative. Un-balanced scales — those which have a neutral statement often don’t provide enough information since respondents are prone to choose neutral option. So it’s much better to be a bit pushy and use a balanced scale.



Emoji scale

Another type of rating scale is an emoji scale. It’s a more and more common way of measuring the user and customer satisfaction. People are nowadays used to emojis, using them not only in private conversations but also at work. The phenomenon of emojis may be explained by the fact that people have difficulties in labeling their feelings. It is much easier to recognize emotion seeing a face than reading an explanation. That’s why it may be helpful to use emoji scale to ask general questions about overall experience. It also makes the survey more appealing to the respondent when after a series of formal, difficult questions they will see nice and funny emojis.




Appropriate questions and understandable answer format are necessary components of an effective survey. Planning to gather customer feedback, it’s worthwhile to carefully prepare questions and answers so that the insights are relevant and valuable.

Interesting links:

Post Views: 2069