When it comes to gathering feedback and information about your product or service, it’s important to choose the best survey tool for the job.

The terms survey and questionnaire are often used interchangeably, however, each serves a separate purpose. We will explain how these two terms differ and share tips on choosing between a survey and questionnaire.

In this post, we’ll cover everything you need to know about survey and questionnaire, differences, when to use, and how to become an expert in creating both:

  • Difference between survey and questionnaire
  • Survey vs Questionnaire: When to use?
  • How to design customer surveys
  • How to design questionnaire
  • Survey vs questionnaire: Common mistakes

Difference Between Survey and Questionnaire

A survey includes the compilation of information gathered from various observations and discussions that are categorized for analysis purposes.

A questionnaire collects details for a singular purpose.

Although the survey and questionnaire both ask questions to a group of people, knowing the difference between the two can impact your success in collecting the information you want.

What is a Survey

Survey is defined as an overall view or examination of a person, group, or object. A survey is used for gathering and analyzing statistical data, and survey questions are generally closed-ended rather than free form, focused on a specific group of people, and used to gather information or opinions about a certain topic.

The classic example of when to use a survey is in obtaining customer feedback directly after an experience.

These are usually based on demographics, behaviors, or interests, as a method for collecting specifics on either factual information or opinions about particular matters.

Survey example ⤵️

Ready-to-Use Demographic Survey Template

What is a Questionnaire

Questionnaire is comprised of a series of questions for the purpose of collecting information to provide a bigger picture. It can employ a range of question styles, such as

For example, a medical office asks a series of questions and the respondent’s answers help the physician gain insight into aspects pertaining to health status, potential risks, lifestyle and environmental habits that generally affect health.

Survey vs Questionnaire: When to Use?

Questionnaires are beneficial for compiling information for reasons including building an email list, acquiring details for payment processing, job interviews, etc.

If, however, you want to collect feedback on how many people prefer PayPal to Stripe or want to determine how much your customers enjoy your products or services, the survey will be the better choice.

Questionnaires can be created for a particular purpose and are completed by individuals. Also, questionnaires can include an array of different style questions.

These include open-ended, multiple-choice, yes or no, and so on, giving you the opportunity to obtain a lot of detailed data on a certain topic.

The answers provided on questionnaires can then be summarized and essentially become a part of a survey. However, because survey questions are broader, they cannot become a part of a questionnaire.

Questionnaires can be made available to a large audience base as a way of gaining a better understanding of your audience and the answers obtained can be used for various purposes.

However, in regards to surveys, you will want to set a laser-focused goal and make it available to an explicit target audience. Surveys are ideally used for the purpose of obtaining customer feedback directly after an experience.

For instance, by sending a survey to a customer immediately following their interaction with your customer support line, or after receiving one of your services or products will provide you with valuable data. The data collected will give constructive feedback.

Possibly, it will also point out shortcomings or issues, as well as positive aspects, depending on the goal of the survey.

When customers see that their opinion matters, they will feel valued and customer loyalty will be strengthened. Also, if you experience customer churn, a survey can be useful for discovering their reasons for leaving.

This beneficial data can then help prevent additional customers from leaving for the same reasons.

Free Reason for Churning Survey Template

Questionnaires and surveys can be used in a variety of ways and through gathering this information, you can increase revenues, customer satisfaction, and customer loyalty.

How to Design Customer Satisfaction Surveys

1. Avoid any assumptions

When it comes to asking about your product/service/etc it might be difficult to stay neutral.

Firstly, because you know a lot more about your product or service than your customer.

Secondly, because you care about your business and do your best to make it as good as possible. If you want your customers to tell the truth, avoid any superlatives and assumptions.

There's an example of what's know in survey methodology as leading questions.

Sample wrong question: "What do you think about our professional shop assistants?"

Sample good question: "What do you think about our shop assistants?"

2. Don't ask double-barreled questions

Similarly to the previous example, double-barreled questions are the type where you confuse your respondents. In this case, the source of confusion is you mentioning two separate things, but giving them the option to evaluate only one.

Here's an example of a double barreled-question and it's correct form:

Sample wrong question: "Please rate on a scale from 1-5: I am satisfied with the location of the office and my salary."

A better question(s): "Please rate on a scale from 1-5:  I am satisfied with the location of the office." or "Please rate on a scale from 1-5: I am satisfied with my salary."

As you can see above, unless you have the exact same feelings towards the two matters, it's impossible to answer.

3. Don't overuse open-ended questions

Is collecting descriptive text answers your primary feedback collection goal? If so, skip to the next point – otherwise, keep reading for your survey response rate's sake.

There are many factors that influence customer satisfaction survey response rates, but the most important one is making sure your surveys are straightforward, aren't suggesting any answers, and – lastly – are very convenient to take.

Many of your respondents will close your survey as soon as they see a text answer field; others might answer one or two questions, but will be exhausted by the time they have to write a custom answer for the third or fourth time.

Unless they're very close to the subject you ask them about or are forced by circumstances to answer all the questions, they'll likely drop your survey.

And it's not just caused by lack of time. Many respondents nowadays are approach with surveys while browsing sites or their emails on their mobile phones and tablets. If it's all closed-ended questions, they can easily tap a few times on the screen and complete the entire survey.

Conversely, if they must type the answers, they'll find it too challenging without a regular keyboard.

Another upside of closed-ended questions? Analyzing them is disarmingly simple with a tool like Survicate, whereas deriving insights from descriptive answers takes significantly more time.

While you'll have to come up with a fitting closed-ended list of answers yourself, here's an example:

Sample wrong question: "What is the most important thing you want to achieve through using our website? "Open answer"

Better question: "What is the most important thing you want to achieve through using our website?"

  • "Browse a favorite item category for inspiration
  • Purchase a product in the fastest way possible
  • Read the blog for educational purposes
  • Other "follow-up question with an open answer"

As you can see above, including an "other" option always leaves the door open for any off-the-script, open-ended answers your respondents might want to share with you. In time, you can use their "other" answers to expand the list of closed-ended questions.

4. Do not ask about a hypothetical situation

It is always important for your questions to be clear and easy to answer. It might be difficult for people to determine what would they do in a hypothetical situation. Ask only about real situations that actually happened to your customers.

Sample wrong question: "What would you do if the product you bought in our shop was incomplete?"

Better question: "Are you satisfied with the quality of our products?"

Free Product Feedback Survey Template

You may also use think about specifying the target audience. Using targeting will make you 100% sure that the customer actually knows the answer to your question.

5. Clarity is the key to a customer satisfaction survey

Make sure that a visitor has no problems with reading and understanding your questions. Use clear and comprehensible language. The more struggle participant has with your customer satisfaction survey, the lower is the chance that he will complete it.

Sample wrong question: "Is our website responsive enough for you?"

Sample better question: "Is our website easy to use?"

6. Ask only necessary questions

Don't forget to set a clear goal of your survey and do not demand information you don't really need. The fewer questions you ask, the higher is the chance, that respondents will answer all of them.

7. Use “how” if you need more detailed information

It is tempting to ask only yes/no questions like “Is our company customer friendly?”.

Asking “how” and giving scale to choose for respondents provides more detailed information about overall satisfaction.

Sample wrong question: "Is our company customer friendly? (yes/no)"

Sample better question: "How friendly for the customer is our company? (0-10)"

If you need some inspiration, here are some of the most common customer satisfaction survey questions.

How to Design a Questionnaire

Question style

It’s wise to use a mixture of open and closed-ended questions when constructing your questionnaire. Knowing exactly when either type is the best fit can be a bit of an art form.

However, a basic rule of thumb is: use closed-ended questions as the standard format and use open-ended questions sparingly.

Since they require in-depth responses, open-ended questions can be time-consuming. You don’t want to overwhelm your respondents and end up with half-finished questionnaires because they were too demanding or tiring. So aim to keep things simple, and save the open-ended questions for the areas of feedback you are most interested in getting in-depth, subjective responses about.

Leading the witness

When formulating your questionnaire, it’s important to avoid leading questions. This is where your question includes or implies a desired answer. Here are two examples:

“I saw you were having difficulty with the navigation. What happened?"

"Why did you have difficulty with the navigation?"

And here is how to phrase it so it’s not a leading question:

"What was easy or difficult about getting to the content you wanted?"

Can you see the difference? In the first two instances, the questions make fixed assumptions about the customer’s experience. They presume to know in advance what happened. In addition, they have a negative vibe that is likely to be off-putting or even insulting to the respondent.

In contrast, the third example is phrased in an open, positive, non-leading manner. It doesn’t presume to know what the respondent’s experience was. This is going to make the respondent feel more empowered, and therefore, more likely to offer an authentic, engaged response.

Sample size

A fundamental question to ask is: should I send my questionnaire to everyone or just a segment of my audience?

Whilst it might be technically possible nowadays to reach out to every single user or customer, it’s not always the best fit. It can be highly useful when you need to know some general feedback about a product or service, and it’s important to get the largest possible number of respondents.

However, there is a lot to be said for segmenting your audience. So long as it’s done intelligently.

Segmenting your audience can be a powerful aid in working out who your users are. You can break them down into distinct categories that tell you much about their lifestyle habits, age, gender, disposable income, and a host of other attributes.

This information can be of enormous value when considering your marketing and product development directions.

Segmenting your audience can also allow you to create more targeted questionnaires, and hone in on particular users. You are then free to use this information to make targeted decisions in product development and marketing. Or, of course, you can generalize the sample out to get an overall picture.

Survey vs Questionnaire: Common Mistakes

As with any marketing tactic, you want to have the main focus. Therefore the questions used for compiling data should follow that rule as well.

Survey vs Questionnaire common mistakes

When designing your questionnaire or survey, avoid these common mistakes.

Mistake #1: Asking too many open-ended questions.

It is acceptable to include a few open-ended questions that encourage your audience to leave feedback. But too many questions that require in-depth answers can result in incomplete surveys because of the time and think required.

Mistake #2:  Making the questions confusing or complicated.

One element of getting the most out of your marketing is through knowing your audience. Avoid using complicated language or posing questions that can be confusing.If you want your questions answered, design them so they can be read and answered quickly.

Mistake #3: Asking too many questions.

Keep in mind your audience will be answering your questions on their personal time. Hence, if they choose to complete it, the expectation is that it will only require a few minutes. Therefore, keep your questions brief, to the point, and limit them to ten or fewer per survey.

Mistake #4: Not making your questions mobile friendly.

Most everyone has a smartphone nowadays and use it as a tool to browse the internet while on break, waiting in the grocery line, or watching TV.

As mentioned, surveys will likely be completed during moments of spare time.

Thus, making your surveys accessible across mobile devices, is a must. If you need a mobile-friendly solution, check this out.

When designing your questions, you’ll want to focus on topics that matter to your customers. Perhaps you want to expand a product line or offer additional services. You need to gather information from your audience to determine their preferences. Or maybe you want to offer a customer satisfaction survey.

Whatever the purpose for creating questions, you must start by understanding your target audience. Structure the sentences using words and tones that will resonate with them.


Nowadays, there is a multitude of ways to reach out to your audience. Modern companies have a presence across a number of an online survey and questionnaire platforms.

Some of the more popular options include via direct email, through your website, or via an app. You can even send it as a link to your social media followers.

Gone are the days of pen and paper surveys and questionnaires sent through the post!

Surveys and questionnaires can be powerful aids for any company interested in knowing their audience better and improving their product or service. If you keep in mind the above advice when designing your survey or questionnaire, you’ll avoid any pitfalls and get the most bang for your buck.

Survicate is the leading expert in the survey and questionnaire design and implementation. They have the experience and the software to help make feedback gathering a breeze. As well as loads of helpful articles about the ins and outs of the survey and questionnaire design and analysis.

But the best way to learn about Survicate is to try it out. Set up your free account now!

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