Survey Tool for Websites and the Effects of Positive Surveying to Your Business

What is positive surveying?

  1. It is the act of starting a survey by asking respondents for a compliment rather than a concern.
  2. This sets the respondent in a positive disposition; they look more on the good things they experienced with your service rather than the bad.
  3. It will result to higher customer satisfaction, return visits, and sales.
  4. It must be done with a mindset of building good customer relationship and not manipulation for the sake of higher sales numbers.
  5. More research needs to be done in sensitive situations, such as getting a medical diagnosis wrong.


Most people would get a survey tool for their website thinking that they need to solve problems, such as when a customer would complain or when a product isn’t satisfying. While this is a very good way to use a survey, it’s a pretty negative way to look at it. However, a man named Sterling Bone found another way to look at it and he thought of “positive surveying.”

Who is Sterling Bone and What is Positive Surveying?

Sterling Bone is an associate marketing professor at Utah State’s Huntsman School of Business. He stated that the problem with how people use their website survey tools is that they’re always done in a way that makes customers always try to look for what is wrong with a product or service.

Bone took a Bible study course 10 years ago. He, then, discovered the power of gratitude and began to think that it could be applied to surveying. His idea was simple: instead of asking what is wrong, why not ask for what is right with a product or service?

Bone got a few colleagues together and they tried the idea out. After creating and publishing seven studies, Bone and his team found out the effects of positive surveying.

The Effects of Positive Surveying

The Effects of Positive Surveying

While making those said studies, the team found out that companies would receive more customer satisfaction just by simply starting a survey with “What went well during your visit?” These same customers would be seen revisiting the stores, making more purchases, and spending more money to purchase their goods or services.

The team called this first question as “open-ended positive solicitations.” By using this, many companies will benefit from having more satisfied customers with little to no costs at all. There wouldn’t be much need for costly methods, such as paid surveys anymore. What any company would need to do is start off with a positive question.

Bone said that “People are happier when they focus on the positive, yet companies rarely give them that chance.” Companies that do give them that chance will influence how the customers look at a product or service. They will be surprised to see how this changes the feedback they get – from more negatives to more positives.

Real Life Examples

During one of the studies, a national retail chain in the United States tried to use positive surveying. By asking their customers for a compliment during their survey, they received 9% more transactions. Also, more customers tend to revisit their retail stores by 8%, which is more than in the previous years.

Then, at another study at a B2B software firm, the company asked some their trail users what they like and don’t like about the software. The experiment showed those that got positive surveying were 32% more satisfied with the software.

As you can see, both studies showed that starting off by asking for compliments will improve the customer’s satisfaction. In fact, it also led to these same customers coming back and spending more money – because they will get the satisfaction they want.

Why Does This Happen?

It’s all about “reshaping” the mindset of the customer to think more positively. According to psychologists, doing this will make the more positive memories stand out more than the negative ones. In a way, they are accessing the brighter side of their minds and this will put them in a better mood.

Cognitive dissonance is another possible reason why this works. For those who don’t know, this is the uncomfortable feeling we all have when we have an unpopular opinion. By starting off positive in a survey – be it offline or with a website survey tool – it will make your customers feel uncomfortable to be negative

Is It Ethical

Is It Ethical?

You might be thinking, “Is this manipulation? Is it ethical?” Well, the answer would be no; it’s not manipulation and yes, it is ethical – if done with the right mindset. The company that will do the survey has to do it for the right reason, which is to build a good relationship with their audience. Without this, then yes, it will become manipulative, which is why it must be the responsibility of the company to focus on building friendships. As for the customers, it’s actually good for them too, because they get to access the brighter part of their brains.

Lonnie Mayne, president of InMoment, says that the survey technique builds appreciation between the customer and the company. He also mentioned that it’s like shifting the focus from “land mines” to “gold mines.” What he meant by this is that companies can still use compliments to improve by focusing on what people like about their offers; everything else needs to be rethought.


Remember, there is always an exception (or a few) to every rule. Hence, when it comes to positive surveying, you must also take into account whether the customer had a bad experience or a really bad one.

According to Kristen DeTienne, one of the authors of the seven studies, more research needs to be done in regards to using positive surveying after a client experienced horrible service (due to whatever circumstance). It is safe to say that using this kind of feedback could backfire, especially in situations like a client getting a wrong medical diagnosis.

Also, positive surveying should always be natural and organic. You should never try to force a positive response from a customer. An example would be a boss giving incentives to his employees for getting good responses. Of course, the employees may try to go over-the-top with this. Not only is this unethical, but it may also lead the company to believe that their services are improving when the reality is employees will just be forcing good responses from customers. For this kind of situations, it would be better to spend your money on conducting a paid survey instead.


Key Takeaway

Positive surveying is a great way to conduct questionnaires – whether it’s offline or on a website survey tool; it’s good for improving customer satisfaction without spending much cost. Just imagine not having to conduct paid surveys just to get more accurate data.

However, the company has to have the right mindset. This means that they have to be in it to build better relationships and improve their services, and not just to get their customer satisfaction numbers up.

Sean Si is the CEO and Founder of SEO Hacker and Qeryz. A start-up, data analysis and urgency junkie who spends his time inspiring young entrepreneurs through talks and seminars. Check out his personal blog where he writes about starting up two companies and life in general.

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