Regardless of business or industry, getting feedback is important. Without it, there is no clear path forward to improve and grow. Conducting a survey is one of the best ways to collect feedback, however, the process isn’t always simple and straightforward.

  • Onsite paper surveys are the traditional route, but there are inherent challenges with this strategy. Customers may pick one up when they visit the business, but that requires filling it out and returning it. Also, this does not reach non-customers. 
  • There’s also the option of mailing surveys, but this comes with the obvious cost of paying for postage. Plus, there is no guarantee that the surveys will be returned.
  • Email makes it easy (and more affordable) to connect with survey participants.  The main drawback is that this removes the anonymity some people appreciate when returning a survey. If people don’t feel like their responses are anonymous, then they may either offer responses that won’t paint them in a negative light or worse, simply not respond at all. Both scenarios obviously reduce the value of the data received.

This is where online survey tools come into play. These tools solve many of the challenges posed by more traditional survey methods, and most importantly, give businesses access to the type of data needed to make important decisions about products, services, and policies.

Of course, not all surveys are used solely for conducting market research. They can also determine employee satisfaction or follow up on previous interactions like customer service experiences. 

There have been a number of innovations as it relates to surveys. The traditional method of asking questions may not always be the most effective or exciting, especially when lots of businesses are conducting surveys that use unique features to make the surveys more engaging, like gamification.

Survey tools need to be as easy-to-use for the creator as they are for respondents. Spending hours creating a survey isn’t always the best use of time, which is why many survey tools offer templates and other methods that speed up the process on both ends. 

There are a number of different variables that make the right tool for your business different than what may work for others. Here’s everything you need to know.

Why do you need online survey software?

There is a wide range of uses for surveys in a business where a selection of data is needed to base a decision, internally or externally.

Customer engagement and feedback

Getting new customers often requires a considerable amount of effort – from marketing to customer service to sales – all working towards the common goal of turning prospects into paying customers – and retaining them.

Customer feedback is the most important information that a business can collect for retention. A survey, when done properly, is the perfect way to gain insight into the thoughts and feelings of customers. 

One of the most common ways is to send surveys after a customer has interacted with a business in some way. For example, follow-up surveys after customer service interactions are incredibly common and very helpful in identifying what’s working well, and what needs improvement. These surveys may also highlight staff members making a difference, policies causing friction with customers, and potential processes that affect someone’s willingness to spend their money.

Sending a follow-up survey after a customer completes an order can help understand what they like about the website, the sales staff, product availability, and pricing. All of this is valuable information when growing a business.

Regardless of how feedback surveys are used, they help drive customer engagement. People appreciate it when they are heard and staying in touch is important for any relationship. 

Conducting market research

Understanding the market outside the four walls of the business is important for staying competitive. What do customers want? What do they like? What do they dislike? What drives them to make a purchase? Who are they purchasing from? Without knowing this information it can be hard to make the right decisions to grow the business.

Market research surveys can be used to help identify top competitors by simply asking customers the names or brands that they know, trust, and spend their money with. These surveys can also identify shortfalls within a business and highlight areas where customers believe the business is ahead of the competition.

Market research surveys can also be used to determine other aspects of customer behaviors. When do they like to shop? How much do they spend, on average? How often do they make a purchase? This data can help drive future marketing efforts and promotional efforts to grow sales in an effective way, as opposed to creating costly marketing plans that may or may not work.

Gathering employee feedback

Employees often have the best insights about what works, what doesn’t, and how improvements can be made. The problem is that many employees are hesitant to openly share this information for fear of reprisal or upsetting others. A survey is a great way to quickly glean information from employees in a way that’s secure and anonymous.

Employee engagement surveys are becoming very common in businesses that are seeking to improve the morale within their operation. These surveys highlight areas where employees may be dissatisfied. They also offer employees an opportunity to share thoughts or solutions that may only be visible to those working in the heart of the business day-to-day.

An employee engagement survey doesn’t just serve to highlight the areas where employees may not be happy; it can also have a positive effect just by itself. Employees like to know that their opinions are valued and enjoy having the opportunity to share their thoughts. 

Employee retention is always important for any business. Finding qualified, high-quality staff isn’t always easy. Maintaining the existing staff can help secure a businesses’ future and reduce the costs associated with hiring and training new staff. 

Crowd-sourcing decisions

For many small and medium businesses, there’s no time or budget to send out a team to conduct market research and report their findings. A survey is a quick way to gather input from a number of different people and help make important decisions.

Things like new product launches, changes to products, or even launching a new logo can all be tested through the use of surveys. This is a very cost-effective way to get opinions from a wide range of people in a relatively short time frame. Best of all, the people that take part in the survey will feel like their opinion matters and may be more likely to support your business in the future as compared to a business that doesn’t seek crowd-sourced opinion.

Cost-effective

As mentioned previously, surveys can be a very cost-effective way to gather data. For small businesses, there simply isn’t money available to conduct large-scale research efforts. Many survey tools offer free surveys that are quick and easy to create. Anyone can make a survey regardless of their experience level so there is no need for large marketing teams and campaigns that cost a lot of money.

Delivering these surveys is equally budget-friendly. With the many sharing methods available from online survey builders, there’s no need to print hard copy materials, pay for postage, or even conduct paid social media campaigns. Surveys can be shared through the channels that a business already uses, like Facebook, or sent out to email subscribers that have already been compiled into an email marketing list.

When do you need online survey tools?

There are a number of scenarios where a survey proves to be a handy tool for gathering data quickly and without breaking the bank.

Launching a new business

Launching a new business is a daunting task. There are countless moving parts that all need to come together to make a business successful. A survey is a great way to get some insight as to what potential customers may want to see or what the competitive landscape is like. With this data, business owners can then make educated decisions about how to move forward with the launch of their business.

The information gathered from surveys prior to a business launch could reveal which competitors have a majority share of the market, where consumers feel that businesses are currently falling short, products people may want to see, and the kind of service they expect from businesses in order to earn their money.

Even things like hours of operation, new logos, and location can all be decided with the help of crowdsourced information gathered through surveys. Best of all, for new businesses with limited budgets, surveys are one of the most affordable ways to get data from consumers.

Discovering new opportunities

It can be incredibly difficult to get into the mind of a consumer. A survey can help with this, especially when trying to find new ways to earn business from customers. This could be through new product launches, improved services, and any number of other opportunities that may help boost the bottom line.

Without actionable data, businesses are simply playing a guessing game as to what it is that customers actually want. Surveys can deliver this kind of data and may reveal areas where customers feel underserved. It’s also possible to use surveys for A/B testing of different ideas like new product launches, promotional materials, or policy changes.

Day-to-day business operations

It’s important to understand that surveys don’t have to be just for some kind of large event like a new product launch. They can also be used in regular day to day business operations to gain consistent insight on customers. One great example of this is in follow up surveys after a customer has placed an order.

Using this data, businesses can map out the changes and improvements in their operations over time. Perhaps customers identify the checkout process as being clunky or slow. Using survey data, you can monitor how changes impact customer survey responses and see if the desired results are being achieved. The same can be done for customer service experiences to discover employees that are delivering exceptional experiences and working with those who need to improve.

These surveys can also help identify top performers within the business when it comes to customer feedback. Employees with great reviews can be more easily rewarded to increase retention once there is hard data to view and analyze.

Building a marketing list

It can be challenging to build a marketing list for reaching out to customers with new promotions or announcements. A survey is a great way to draw people in, gather information, and add them to the list for future communications.

One way to incentivize people to join the list is to offer a reward for completing a survey. Even something like being entered into a draw for a gift certificate is enough to drive survey engagement and increase the number of responses. Not only can a lot of helpful data be gathered, but there is now a list of people that have shown willingness to engage with you. This can come in handy when it’s time to send out that next email blast.

Generate leads

Finding new business is always a challenge. A survey is a fantastic way to help funnel leads through the sales process. Of course, not every lead will be hot, but a survey can identify those who may be in the market for certain products or services and help sales focus on the leads most likely to produce results.

How to choose the right online survey tool

There is a wide range of survey software available on the market, each with its own unique features and offerings that helps set them apart from the competition. Finding the right one is important.

Create surveys quickly

One of the main reasons to choose a survey platform is to reduce the amount of time and money spent on doing market research or gathering feedback. So, it should only make sense that creating a survey should be a quick and easy process. Otherwise, the main benefit of using an automated survey platform has been completely negated.

Many of the top survey tools offer fast survey creation. Some platforms may even offer one-click surveys based on pre-existing templates that can be either used as they are, or customized to meet your unique needs. Editing surveys should be simple with nothing more than a few clicks and strokes of the keyboard.

Of course, there are some more complicated survey tools that offer deeper customization like the ability to include custom images or logos. Even still, these tools have attempted to make the survey creation process as fast and seamless as possible. The more time spent creating a survey, the less time that survey is actually out in the wild gathering information.

Unique survey design

Different survey platforms offer a number of unique ways to make customized and engaging surveys.

One popular way that surveys have evolved is by gamification. This adds a game of competition element to completing the survey in order to drive engagement and increase the chances that the respondents will actually complete the survey to the very end. 

Other surveys allow the ability to ask questions or provide answers using images that can be easily uploaded. For people who prefer a visual experience to one more based on typing and reading, this could be the solution to help increase completion scores.

Chatbot surveys engage the respondent using a chat-like experience. Based on the answers provided, the chatbot may be able to ask different questions in a more conversational manner. With this type of survey, people may not actually feel like they’re doing a survey but, rather, having a normal discussion.

Not all types of surveys are appropriate for all uses. It’s important to find the right one for your specific needs and the demographic you’re trying to reach.

Asking smarter survey questions

With modern survey platforms, there are essentially two ways to design a survey: there is the traditional question and answer method and then there are smarter questions that are based on previous answers. This is typically referred to as question branching.

Question branching uses the answers from previous questions to determine the next question to ask. This can be very helpful as it eliminates irrelevant questions and asks the most important questions based on the unique person’s answers earlier in the survey.

With question branching, you get better data and a higher likelihood that someone will complete the survey. However, it should be noted that this feature is not available from all survey solution providers, and is typically a premium feature that requires payment in order to use.

Deeper analysis

Many platforms offer advanced survey results and analytics for review and sharing. Results can be exported to a variety of formats like Excel, for those that love spreadsheets.

What’s more, some survey platforms will even go as far as to identify bottlenecks in the survey. For example, if a number of people choose to close the survey without completing a specific question, this can be identified and the question can be changed or removed in order to help increase completion statistics.

Other interesting stats to know about surveys could be where people were referred to the survey from, how long they spent completing the survey, where they’re located, among other details. For some businesses, this information may not be incredibly important while for others it could be an essential piece to a larger puzzle.

Reaching the masses

The data from a survey is only useful if people are actually completing the survey. One or two people completing a survey generally doesn’t provide a wide enough set of data to be of any value. It’s also important to note that not everyone who receives the survey will actually complete it. Getting your survey out to as many people as possible is important to ensure the data that you get back is actually valuable.

Most survey tools offer basic sharing options like the ability to share a link, share on social media, or email to a list of people. However, there are some more advanced sharing options that may prove to help increase survey responses.

One example of this is the ability to embed a survey into a webpage or email for easy completion. People who get the survey can quickly answer the questions without having to be redirected to a new window in their browser. This only serves to help lower the barrier to completing the survey and increasing the range of data sets that you get in return.

Other platforms may offer offline surveys that can be used on a device like a tablet or a smartphone. This is handy for completing surveys on-the-go where there may not be an internet connection. The survey is created and then the data is stored on the device until an internet connection is established where the data can be compiled and exported for analysis.

Get paid through surveys

There may be times where a survey is designed to collect information and payment. In many cases, this would have to be a separate transaction, however, some survey platforms allow businesses to embed payment options directly within the survey itself.

A good example of when this would be necessary is if there was a survey for an event where tickets had to be purchased. At the end of the survey, after the respondent has completed all of the information, the survey would be able to collect payment. This makes it simple for both consumers and businesses as the information and payment are all in one place.

This also helps to reduce the chances that someone may complete the survey and then have second thoughts about actually following through with payment later down the line. When people have the opportunity to pay right away, it can help increase on-time payments and reduce the number of people that back out.

Platform support

The wide range of available platforms can be a huge benefit to businesses that are trying to find the best way to connect with their audience.

The standard survey platform directs customers to a website where the survey is completed in their browser. While this is the most popular option, it is far from the only way to complete a survey. There are self-hosted surveys, surveys that can be embedded into websites, and even chatbot surveys that can chat with people through popular messaging apps like Facebook Messenger. All of these are unique ways to connect and ensure the greatest return of survey responses.

What is the cost of running a survey?

There are a number of free online survey tools available for small businesses and individuals to use. Many of the most popular survey platforms have a free option that allows users to easily create customized surveys and begin connecting with their audience.

With that said, free plans are often very limited in what they offer. For example, free plans may limit the number of surveys a user can operate at any one time. This number is typically around 3 surveys. In addition, the number of responses is limited when using free survey tools. Often, they are capped at around 100 responses. This means that a free survey is probably not the best solution for those who are hoping to reach thousands of people. However, they could be a great solution for more basic survey needs like small businesses that want to conduct an employee engagement survey among a staff smaller than 100 people.

Most online survey companies also offered tiered subscription pricing that unlocks more features for businesses to use. These paid tiers will usually start by offering a greater number of active surveys at any one time, increasing the number of responses allowed for each survey, and introducing features like the ability to create white label surveys. 

Within paid tiers, you will also find a number of more advanced features like better data analysis. Those who live and die by Excel will likely find that exporting to an Excel spreadsheet is only available on a paid plan although this largely depends on the survey provider being used.

Other features like chatbot surveys, testing surveys, branched questions, and image upload are premium features that will come at a monthly cost. Depending on the size of the team and the number of surveys being run, the cost for these tiers can range from around $20 per month to $100 per month, and even higher for enterprise needs.

The best survey platforms


 

SurveyPlanet

SurveyPlanet logo

  • Overall: 4.5
  • Features: 4.5
  • Pricing: 4.5
  • Ease of Use: 5
  • Customer Service: 4

SurveyPlanet is a very popular option with a full-featured free offering. This easy-to-use survey platform allows users to create an unlimited number of surveys, with unlimited questions and responses. This is unusual to see and offers a lot of value for budget-conscious businesses. There are dozens of pre-written surveys to choose from, so creating a survey is as easy as just making a few clicks. Sharing surveys by email or embedding the code on a webpage is also included in the free plan.

The $20 per month paid tier unlocks advanced features like question branching, data export, image uploading, and custom themes. This still includes unlimited surveys and responses, in addition to all of the other free features. When it comes to value, SurveyPlanet has packed in a lot of features for a price that is amongst the most competitive of all the survey platforms on this list. Some specific features like the ability to add a chatbot are missing but, overall, SurveyPlanet has everything a business needs (and then some) when creating a survey for any number of purposes.


 

SurveyMonkey

SurveyMonkey logo

  • Overall: 4.25
  • Features: 4.5
  • Pricing: 3.5
  • Ease of Use: 4.5
  • Customer Service: 4.5

SurveyMonkey is one of the most well-known and popular survey platforms on the market. The company offers a wide range of features across several different pricing tiers for both personal users as well as business teams. The free version is somewhat limited, as it only allows 10 questions per survey, with a limit of 100 responses per survey. It still includes full use of its mobile app for easy survey creation and response collection on the go, however. At higher pricing levels, users have the ability to accept payments through the survey, as well as collaborate with team members on survey creation. Priority support is also included, with responses promised in under 1 hour.

Users can also use SurveyMonkey to do more than just create basic surveys. For example, quizzes can be built using one of the many survey templates available, with quiz results delivered immediately to respondents. There are also advanced analytics and the ability to export data into a format that is most desirable, including .xls and .csv. The pricing for SurveyMonkey is higher than other options on this list but for the cost, there are a ton of features packed into each pricing tier. Best of all, SurveyMonkey makes it easy to create surveys, and simple to share them with a number of available third-party plugins, including Zapier.


 

LimeSurvey

LimeSurvey logo

  • Overall: 4.1
  • Features: 4.5
  • Pricing: 5
  • Ease of Use: 3.5
  • Customer Service: 3.5

LimeSurvey is an open-source survey platform with a free option that users can dive into to begin creating custom surveys. The company offers both self-hosted surveys, as well as surveys hosted by LimeSurvey. Unfortunately, the differences in hosting methods and the various tiers below each method can make the pricing somewhat confusing. While there are free options for using LimeSurvey, the free plans are amongst the most limited in the industry. For example, the free hosted plan only offers 25 responses per month and includes advertisements on the final completion page. For small survey needs like an employee engagement survey, however, this may not be a huge negative.

Stepping up to paid tiers enables more responses, but unfortunately, there is no plan that offers unlimited responses. And thankfully, ads are removed at even the lowest-paid tiers. Where LimeSurvey shines is in the customization of each survey. Questions can be asked and formatted in dozens of different ways, deep analytics and survey timing are available with all paid plans, and branching of questions is also available. LimeSurvey promises to have users up and running in 5 minutes or less, but the number of customization options could mean that creating the perfect survey takes a little longer. For users that want to dive deep into customization and analytics, LimeSurvey is one of the best options available.


 

QuickTapSurvey

QuickTapSurvey logo

  • Overall: 4.5
  • Features: 4
  • Pricing: 4.5
  • Ease of Use: 5
  • Customer Service: 4.5

QuickTapSurvey is a survey platform owned by FormStack, which is one of the more popular online form building tools available. For businesses that already using FormStack and are familiar with the platform, using QuickTapSurvey is a logical and easy next step to make. The company promises easy setup, with form creation taking just a few minutes using one of the many available templates. QuickTapSurvey also allows for offline surveys to be completed using mobile apps, which makes it a fantastic option for those who want to make a kiosk-style survey with a tablet or smartphone sitting out for customers to complete surveys.

One downside of QuickTapSurvey is that there is no free plan. Free trials are available, however.  Plans start at $16 per month, which includes unlimited surveys and responses. For more advanced features, like the ability to custom brand a survey, enable email notifications, and deeper analysis with survey scoring, users will have to step up to more expensive tiers. QuickTapSurvey aims to offer one of the easiest-to-use platforms, which it certainly delivers on. This ease-of-use does come at a cost, however, which means more advanced features may be missing.


 

YesInsights

YesInsights logo

  • Overall: 4.13
  • Features: 4
  • Pricing: 4
  • Ease of Use: 4.5
  • Customer Service: 4

YesInsights promises better customer engagement with easy to complete one-click surveys. These simple surveys that can be answered by users with just a single click, which is designed to increase the number of responses businesses collect. YesInsights allows you to embed surveys right into the email body or into your website using their survey widget, which makes it super easy for people to respond to. While this can help to increase response rates, surveys tend to be more limited in scope, which may not make this survey format ideal if you’re trying to get deeper answers to a wide range of questions.

There are free trials available for all levels of pricing tiers, but unfortunately, there is no free plan available. Also, the number of responses is limited to each tier. Unlimited responses are only available with the enterprise plan, which is based on custom quotes. YesInsights surveys are best suited for quick answers rather than in-depth data collection. Ideally, you would use this type of survey for something like customer service follow-ups or an email unsubscribe survey where a single answer is all that’s needed to get the insight you need.


 

SurveyMethods

SurveyMethods logo

  • Overall: 4.5
  • Features: 4.5
  • Pricing: 5
  • Ease of Use: 4.5
  • Customer Service: 4

SurveyMethods promises one of the most advanced, easy-to-use, and affordable survey platforms. The company puts major emphasis on data analysis and third-party API integrations like the ability to integrate with MailChimp, Facebook, and Gmail. Plus, SurveyMethods can help with newsletter marketing efforts.  This platform offers simple survey creation, with dozens of templates to choose from, which makes it quick and easy to create a professional-looking survey in just a few minutes. Once the survey is completed, analysis tools make it just as easy to break down data into graphs and charts that are ready for boardroom presentations and team discussions.

In addition to these features, users can enjoy branched questions, poll creation tools, and even set quotas to shut down surveys once a specified number of responses have been received. Best of all, their free plan includes many of these features, but limits responses to 500 per month. Paid tiers are affordable and very competitive with other options on this list. Moving up to even the lowest-paid tier unlocks features like unlimited responses, reminders for survey participants, and event creation. At the highest level, users can take things to the next level with hands-on live training with a dedicated support rep. For value, SurveyMethods is one of the best survey tools available.


 

Survey Anyplace

Survey Anyplace logo

  • Overall: 4
  • Features: 4
  • Pricing: 3.5
  • Ease of Use: 4
  • Customer Service: 4.5

Survey Anyplace helps businesses create beautiful and stunning surveys. It’s easy-to-use images and design functionality will have you creating professional-looking surveys in just a few minutes. One of the most innovative features of Survey Anyplace is the gamifying surveys available. For example, users can scratch to win through the survey or complete a spin wheel-style game as part of the survey. This makes interacting with customers more engaging, which means that more people are likely to follow through and complete the survey. Plus, when the survey is complete, Survey Anyplace offers detailed, refined reporting that can be exported to the file format of your choice.

There is no free plan with Survey Anyplace, and pricing is higher than some competitors, with base plans starting at $25 per month for 400 monthly response. For a higher number of responses, as well as access to other features like email support and third-party plugin integration, businesses will have to opt for the higher-priced tiers. 


 

Surveybot

Surveybot logo

  • Overall: 4.1
  • Features: 3.5
  • Pricing: 4
  • Ease of Use: 4
  • Customer Service: 5

Surveybot puts a unique twist on collecting survey responses. It’s actually a chatbot survey platform that connects with Facebook messenger to give users a unique way to connect. Best of all, chatbots make completing a survey feel more like having a conversation rather than actually completing a survey. Based on customer answers, the chatbot will ask smart questions, which makes it easier to get quality answers from directly inside Facebook Messenger, which is one of the most popular messaging platforms available today.

The obvious downside of choosing Surveybot is that it only supports Facebook Messenger. This means things like email surveys would have to be done through another platform, which would add an additional cost. Also, the pricing for Surveybot can get pretty expensive quickly. Their pricing is based on the number of responses received. The first 50 responses are free. 100 responses are $6 and pricing increases from there. For businesses that receive thousands of responses per month, this could prove to be a very expensive platform. 


 

SmartSurvey

SmartSurvey logo

  • Overall: 4.1
  • Features: 5
  • Pricing: 3
  • Ease of Use: 4
  • Customer Service: 4.5

SmartSurvey is a very user-friendly survey platform with a lot of customization and power built-in. Businesses can create beautiful surveys and then send them out via a number of different channels including email and SMS, to help increase the number of responses. One truly unique feature of this platform is the ability to buy survey responses based on target demographics. This can help increase the pool of data available, and deliver survey responses even more quickly. What’s more, data analysis is king with SmartSurvey. Businesses can monitor responses in real-time, create custom reports, and analyze data in a number of unique ways, like using word clouds.

While a free plan is available, it’s limited to just 100 responses per month, and paid tiers for SmartSurvey are amongst the most expensive paid survey options on the market. For the data-oriented business owner, however, SmartSurvey certainly delivers some of the most advanced tools.


 

Client Heartbeart

Client Heartbeart logo

  • Overall: 4.38
  • Features: 4
  • Pricing: 4
  • Ease of Use: 4.5
  • Customer Service: 5

Client Heartbeat is a survey platform dedicated to customer relations and following up with clients to collect their feelings on your business. In fact, every feature of Client Heartbeat is geared toward businesses that want to connect with customers for feedback. CRM integration is available, which makes surveying customers and logging data quick and easy. All plans include custom branding, which is important for businesses that are looking to put their best professional foot forward. Another unique feature is the ability to compare results with competitors in the same industry so that you can gauge where your business stands.

For businesses that want the most professional appearance, coupled with easy integration, Client Heartbeat is a great option. Pricing is higher than other competitors in the market, with plans starting at $29 per month and a limited number of connections. For larger businesses, expect to spend hundreds of dollars per month on surveys. 


 

SurveyGizmo

SurveyGizmo logo

  • Overall: 4
  • Features: 4.5
  • Pricing: 3.5
  • Ease of Use: 4
  • Customer Service: 4

SurveyGizmo excels at integrating with business services that you already use. For example, companies that use Salesforce can connect SurveyGizmo to workflows and retain relevant customer data in the correct profiles. Because of these integrations, SurveyGizmo does all the legwork to centralize data in one convenient place, which is easier to analyze when it comes to making big decisions. With data-oriented dashboards and countless integrations, SurveyGizmo is built for the business that loves data and wants all of their systems to seamlessly work together.

While there is a free account available with SurveyGizmo, but it’s limited to 3 surveys with 100 responses per month. Stepping up to the next paid tier unlocks unlimited responses, email support, and 25 additional question types. For more advanced users, the customization power of SurveyGizmo is seemingly endless. It’s not the most affordable solution for surveys, but it is competitive and offers some of the best data collection methods available.