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From having a distinct focus on what information you want to obtain to sending it at optimal times, there are various tactics to consider when surveying your customers. — Getty Images/Inverse Couple Images

It’s important to occasionally check the pulse of your customer satisfaction rating. Regularly taking stock of ways your business can improve, as well as the things your loyal customers love about your business, can boost morale and help you stay competitive. And, if you don’t ask your customers for feedback privately, you could risk someone posting their complaints publicly.

Here’s how to conduct a customer survey that gives you deeper insight into how your business is performing, your brand reputation, and ways to continually improve the customer experience.

[Read more: How to Survey Your Customers and Why You Should]

Keep it short and focused

A customer is doing you a favor by taking the time to engage with your survey and provide valuable feedback about your company. Show that you recognize their time is valuable and limit your questions.

There’s no golden rule as to how many questions you should ask, but most experts suggest the ideal time it should take to complete your survey is between 10 and 20 minutes. If it takes longer than 20 minutes, participants will lose interest and may not complete the survey.

Limiting the number of questions you ask also forces you to think carefully about what information you want to gather. Is there a new product you want to test? Are you trying to learn what people think of your customer service? Are you developing a new loyalty program? Choose a specific area in which you need feedback and frame your questions accordingly.

[Read more: 5 Best Practices to Follow When Surveying Your Customers]

Timing is everything

To get the most responses to your survey, send it to customers at the right moment. Extensive research shows that to get the highest number of responses, send your survey on a weekday during a low-peak time of day, such as early morning, lunchtime, late afternoon, or post-work evening.

You should also consider where in the customer journey is appropriate to send a survey. Ask for feedback at different parts of the customer journey to get granular detail on each step of the process. “Specifically, in regards to [customer satisfaction] surveys, we recommend sending them as soon as possible after an interaction with customer support to capture the experience when it's still fresh,” wrote HubSpot.

Extensive research shows that to get the highest number of responses, send your survey on a weekday during a low-peak time of day, such as early morning, lunchtime, late afternoon, or post-work evening.

Make it easy to complete

Most customers prefer to complete a survey online. “According to our survey results, people overwhelmingly prefer to complete a feedback survey online at a colossal 91%, either through website submission (63%) or sending an email (28%),” reported SurveyMonkey.

There are plenty of free and affordable tools you can use to build and send surveys. Many POS systems include apps to gather feedback directly from your customers. There are also tools like Google Forms and Notify Visitors that make it easy to build your own survey. Once you’ve created the questionnaire, send a link to your customers via email and on social media to get responses.

Consider offering an incentive

Experts warn that offering an incentive for people to take your survey can backfire. You may risk getting responses that aren’t thoughtful or valuable from people who are just hoping to get a reward. But the right incentive can also motivate people to leave their sincere feedback.

Be strategic about what you offer. “Choose a reward that appeals strongly to your target market—otherwise, you'll end up with lots of survey satisficers and even professional survey-takers (yup, it's a thing) who aren't actually relevant and rush through the survey just to get the compensation,” wrote Zapier.

What can you offer to incentivize the “right” responses? Make the incentive relevant to the survey itself. For example, if you’re interested in getting feedback on a new breakfast combo, offer a free coffee to those who both order the meal and complete the survey. Incentives don’t have to be monetary either; you could offer loyalty points, discounts, or early access to sales. These rewards might just be the push a customer needs to give you their feedback.

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