What is a Marketing Survey

An effective marketing survey, or research questionnaire, is a lot more complicated than just putting together some questions and asking customers, or random people, to fill it out. There is actually a method behind the madness.


One of the key elements to a good survey is the flow of the questions. The questions should start out with impersonal, yes or no (or true or false) questions and methodically transition to more personal questions. The reason behind this is you want to establish trust (and quickly) with the survey taker and as they progress and see that it isn’t painful, you want to get to the real questions with substance. Additionally, the ulterior motive behind starting with impersonal and moving to more personal questions is that once they start, they are less likely to stop due to the psychology behind escalation of commitment. They have already invested time in starting the survey and (most) people will naturally complete something when they start it. The questions should be brief and as articulate as possible with responses in one of the following formats:


- Yes or No

- True or False

- Lettered responses with A., B., C., etc.

- Numbered 1 – 5 or 1 – 10 with an indication of what 1 and 10 represents (1
    most likely and 10 least, etc.) or

- Verbal ranges (i.e. Very Important, Somewhat Important, Not Important)


In addition to the formatting of the questions, there are also objectives that should be used to categorize the questions. While the questions do not need to be in a particular order, there are 5 objectives, as follows:


- Reliability

- Assurance

- Tangibles

- Empathy

- Responsiveness




Reliability questions seek to determine what factors build trust with the consumer and what will keep them coming back. In short, they are “feelers” to find out what is important to the customer and may be used by the service provider as a tool to determine the key components of maintaining a customer relationship (longevity). An example of reliability questions are as follows:


                                             Not Important          Very Important

How important is price?              1      2      3      4      5


What price range do you expect to pay for an oil change?

A. Less than $15

B. $15 to $20

C. $20 to $25

D. $25 to $30

E. more than $30




Assurance questions are asked to find out what consumers seek in the relationship building process when looking for the particular service you are providing. They analyze the courtship behavior of the service provider when interacting with the consumer and view the personal relationship that is built between the consumer and service provider. In this area, a service provider may want to find out if the extra efforts are valuable, for example; asking if your extended warranty program is valuable or was an advertisement what brought them to your facility and if so, which advertisement?



Tangibles assess the impact of aesthetics and amenities. These questions seek to find out how important these attributes are to the consumer. If you are a car dealership and you offer a variety of amenities, which consume profits to offer, you may want to find out if the amenities are valued and worthwhile. An example:


Please rate the importance of the following amenities:

                   Not Important          Very Important

Coffee                   1      2      3      4      5

Internet                  1      2      3      4      5

Car Wash             1      2      3      4      5

Shuttle Service    1      2      3      4       5

TV                         1      2      3      4        5

Seating                1      2      3      4        5

*You will want the numbers to line up better than I have done and you will want there to be more space between the questions. You do not want the questions to be congested as this may overwhelm and deter the potential survey taker from taking the survey.



All of the above are expenses that cut into profits and if your customers don’t really value the Internet or TV, you can cut these expenses, save your company some money and still maintain the positive relationship with your customers.




Empathy questions seek to analyze the communication exchange between the service provider and the consumer. As a business, empathy is definitely an important attribute. If you are a service provider that offers a “comprehensive report,” you may want to find out how effective this additional service is. Do your customers value it or do they toss it. If they do read it do they find themselves getting lost in the technical jargon; would they prefer layman’s terms?




Responsiveness questions establish the degree of importance regarding timeliness and location. If you are a service provider, you may want to find out how your customers feel about the length of time the service takes to complete (waiting time), the location (do they drive the extra distance to come to your facility), and ease of access (both in seeking service and setting an appointment). If you are the facility that sells and does maintenance on a particular product, with competitors in the area offering the same maintenance services, you may want to find out if your customers are returning to you or if they are going to your competitors… and if they do switch between you and your competitor, find out why.