Closed-Ended Questions
vs Open-Ended Questions

A beginner friendly guide to what and how to ask in your customer surveys

Surveys are a popular and effective way for companies, organizations, and individuals to gauge the opinions of their target audience, get insights, and decide on critical business decisions.

Closed-Ended vs Open-Ended Questions

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As such, surveys can be an important tool in measuring customer satisfaction or gauging public opinion on hot topics or issues. Surveys questions come in several types, but the two main types are closed-ended questions and open-ended questions.

This article will explore what these terms mean, how they affect your survey data collection efforts, and how you should use each type of questionnaire so that you can make the most out of your survey results!

Practical Examples to Help You Understand Their Differences

Closed-Ended vs Open-Ended Questions

Closed-Ended Questions Examples:

  • How old are you?
  • What is your favorite color?
  • Are you married or single?
  • Which social media platforms do you use the most?
  • Open-ended questions examples:

  • Describe what makes your business unique and what sets it apart from others?
  • How does it make an impact on people's lives and solve problems for them?
  • What are your thoughts on...?
  • How do you feel about...?
  • What's your opinion on...?
  • Benefits of closed-ended questions over open-ended questions

    When it comes to surveys, closed-ended questions are often better because they produce results that are easier to quantify and analyze. This is especially true if you're looking for a simple yes or no answer, or want respondents to rank items on a scale.

    Open-ended questions can be great for getting qualitative data, but analyzing this information takes significantly more time and effort as the answers can vary wildly.

    Additionally, closed-ended questions tend to generate responses more quickly than open-ended ones – which can be important when you're running a survey with a tight deadline.

    Closed-Ended vs Open-Ended Questions

    A customer is more likely to fill out a quick and easy survey over having to make the effort of thinking about an answer, which may result in much lower response rates.

    Finally, closed-ended questions are typically less ambiguous than open-ended ones, making them less likely to lead to misinterpretation or confusion.

    When to choose closed-ended questions over open-ended questions

    When choosing between closed and open-ended questions, consider the following:

    For specific detailed responses

    When you want to collect specific responses from your survey respondents, closed-ended questions help ensure that all participants answer the question, in the same way, making it easier to analyze and compare results.

    For a large number of responses

    When you need a large number of responses for your analysis, open-ended questions can produce more varied responses, but they also take more time for participants to complete. Closed-ended questions are typically quicker and easier for people to answer.

    For opinion-based responses

    When you want to focus on opinion or attitude rather than detailed information about someone’s experience or behavior, open-ended questions can solicit long, detailed responses, which might not be relevant to your research question. Closed-ended questions are better suited for obtaining specific information.

    No matter if you choose to use close-ended questions or open-ended, beware of going overboard and asking too many questions in one single survey, as a study made by Stanford University has proven that survey fatigue kicks in rather quickly.

    Closed-Ended vs Open-Ended Questions
    A good way to offset this might be to include some kind of incentive to increase the survey response rates.

    What is a good survey question?

    As you can see there are a few different ways on how to approach your surveys with different types of questions, but underlying all of this is the core principles that you should keep in mind:

    Your goal with the survey questions should be to get a clear understanding, insights, and solid data about your customer's problems, needs, and desires.

    These can include questions such as:

  • Who is your ideal customer avatar
  • What is your target market
  • What are the audiences main points of problems or frustrations
  • What are their key wants and needs
  • What are the common objections to buying your product
  • Why visitors to your website is not taking the CTA
  • Is your product or service pricing on point?
  • With that being said, now that you understand the difference between open and closed-ended questions, let's take a look at some tips for creating good survey questions:

    Keep your questions clear and unambiguous: Make sure that everyone who takes the survey will have a consistent understanding of what you're asking.

    Avoid bias: Ambiguous words can create problems with respondents interpreting the question differently than intended, leading to biased data collection results.

    Consider using rating scales or Likert-type scales for measuring opinions: Scales are good at showing how people feel about different topics because they allow them to easily share their level of agreement on a specific issue.

    Closed-Ended vs Open-Ended Questions

    Be careful with double-barreled questions: These types of questions ask more than one thing in each question, which can make it hard to get accurate responses from participants since they'll be confused by trying to answer two (or more) things at once.

    Make sure questions are relevant to your research: Don't ask about things that aren't related to your study – this can lead to irrelevant data and wasted time for participants.

    Closed-ended questions to ask customers in your surveys

    Below you'll find some great closed-ended examples to consider and take inspiration from when surveying customers for your marketing campaigns.

    Market research survey questions

  • What is your age?
  • Are you married?
  • Do you have children?
  • What is your occupation?
  • How much money do you make per year?
  • Where do you live?
  • Do you use Facebook?
  • How often do you purchase this type of product?
  • Sales & marketing survey questions

  • When did you first purchase this product/service?
  • How likely are you to purchase a product from us again?
  • Did you find our website easy to use?
  • Which marketing campaign was most effective in persuading you to purchase from us again?
  • On a scale of one to ten please rate whether or not if today's deal influenced you in making a decision to make a purchase.
  • Customer satisfaction survey questions

  • Are you likely to purchase this product again in the future?
  • Did the quality of our product meet your expectations?
  • Are you happy with your experience with us?
  • On a scale of one to ten, how satisfied are you with our product?
  • Was the price of our product reasonable for the quality received?
  • What did you think of our company’s customer service?
  • Did you find what you were looking for today?
  • Other types of survey questions to consider

    Facts vs Opinions

    Facts are objective, while opinions can vary. A factual question would ask respondents to share their views about the weather (e.g., what was the temperature like on Tuesday), while opinion-based questions explore more subjective topics (e.g., how did you feel about that day's forecast?).

    Multiple Choice Questions

    These types of survey questions allow respondents to select one answer from several listed possibilities; this is useful if you want responses that reflect a majority or at least a plurality of people's thinking or opinions, but you don't necessarily need to know the specific responses that individuals choose.

    Yes/No Questions

    Yes/no questions are exactly what they sound like – respondents can only select one answer (either yes or no). These types of survey questions allow for easy data collection and analysis; however, there is little room for nuance when it comes to these answers.

    Wrap up

    When using digital marketing tools such as surveys, it's important to use both closed and open-ended questions so that you can capture both quantitative and qualitative data. However, it's also important to keep your audience in mind when choosing which type of question you're going to use.

    Open-ended questions are great for gathering detailed responses, but can sometimes lead to respondent fatigue if there is too much text involved or the survey takes longer than expected.

    Closed-ended questions, on the other hand, tend to produce more consistent results and take less time for participants – making them easier for people with busy schedules.

    When designing your surveys, use both closed and open-ended questions to get a more complete understanding of your customer base.

    About Author

    Chris Starkhagen is an engineer turned entrepreneur, bringing tech expertise to digital marketing. On ChrisStarkhagen.com he writes about the best tools for content creation, tech, and raw marketing advice that works.