Why are client satisfaction surveys important?

Qualitas Research

Are you thinking about doing a client satisfaction survey? What does a client satisfaction survey measure? Why is it important, and how will it help your organization? What will you learn from it?

Read on to find out!

What is a client satisfaction survey?

A customer satisfaction survey is a questionnaire designed to help organizations understand what their clients, customers, participants, or employees think about their services, events, or other initiatives.

What does a client satisfaction survey measure?

A client satisfaction survey measures participants’ satisfaction with your service, program or event. Satisfaction refers to a client’s attitude, based on their perception of the quality of a service, or other event.

Satisfaction can be an indicator of effectiveness (the extent to which an initiative produces its intended outcomes). If something is perceived as effective, it is more likely that the intended outcomes will come about. It is not surprising that client satisfaction surveys are often carried out as part of an evaluation of a project or program.

What a client satisfaction survey measures varies between different contexts. Overall satisfaction with a service might consider a number of elements.

  • Physical – the environment, building, supplies, equipment, resource availability
  • Service provider – empathy, competence, reliability, responsiveness, communication, information
  • Service – quality, continuity, efficacy, outcomes, accessibility, appropriateness
  • Client – needs, perception, attitudes, behaviours, expectations

Who needs to do a client satisfaction survey?

Public and private organizations and nonprofits that provide a service, or deliver an event, to people will benefit from a client satisfaction survey.

We use the term ‘client’ broadly, to refer to the people who use a service, business, program, or event. This also includes employees of an organization, or the people who attend an event – such as a training course or workshop.

Why do a client satisfaction survey?

Asking your clients what they think about how your organization is doing can demonstrate openness, and a willingness to listen and change.

A satisfaction survey will help you:

  • Collect valuable information about the quality and usefulness of your service.
  • Identify areas of success, and areas in need of improvement.
  • Learn more about how to achieve your desired outcomes.
  • Gather helpful information to develop positive relationships with your clients, employees or customers.

When should you do a client satisfaction survey?

A satisfaction survey may be implemented as a one-off exercise, or at regular intervals, such as monthly or quarterly. You can do a satisfaction survey immediately after an initiative or event. And if you’re really keen, you can follow up with another survey later on!

You can use periodic satisfaction surveys to measure satisfaction over time, or any changes in satisfaction. This is super helpful when you are making changes to a service, or want to learn how to improve. It will provide really useful data to base your decisions on.

If you run periodic surveys, you can use satisfaction surveys for ongoing improvement of your program or events. If you are running a series of workshops, for example, you can use feedback from the first one to make improvements to the event design or implementation before the next one. Sounds useful, doesn’t it?

What methods should you use to measure client satisfaction?

Client satisfaction is often measured using surveys. Surveys are popular because they are a relatively inexpensive way of collecting large amounts of information, from a large number of people. Other methods we can use are interviews and focus groups, when you want to collect more in-depth information from a smaller group of people, to understand the How and Why.

Designing your survey

A survey can be administered online, by email, by mail, or by telephone. Questions are carefully designed to provide useful data to inform decision-making.

As well as asking questions tailored to your particular service, a survey may include questions from published, validated survey instruments, or measures, to increase the validity of your survey results. Typically, we also collect demographic information from clients (age, ethnicity, etc.) so we can compare survey responses for different groups.

Data analysis will uncover any relationships between different factors. From this, you can assess the factors contributing to satisfaction and dissatisfaction. This helps you make more informed decisions, and fine tune your service to address the needs of different target groups.

Getting the data you need

When designing the client satisfaction questionnaire, it is important to pay attention to survey reliability and validity, so you can trust your survey results.

We will consider just one of the main concerns about satisfaction surveys in this article. We will discuss more on how to improve reliability and validity in another article. 

One problem is that satisfaction surveys tend to have ‘courtesy bias’. Clients may provide misleadingly favourable responses. This may be a greater problem when a survey is administered directly by the service providing the service, especially if this takes place at the place the service is delivered.

Research has found that reported satisfaction can be biased upward for subjective questions regarding service quality, but not for objective questions about a facility (such as the condition of a building, or questions about facilities or supplies).

Client satisfaction surveys provide useful information about a service, but if you want data you can trust, consideration must be given to how the survey is conducted, where, with whom, and who by.


What are client satisfaction surveys, and why are they important?

  • A customer satisfaction survey is a questionnaire designed to help organizations understand what their clients think about their services.
  • A client satisfaction survey measures participants’ satisfaction with your service, program or event.
  • A satisfaction survey measures different aspects of a service: physical, service provider, service and client elements.
  • A client satisfaction survey will help you collect helpful information about your service. You will learn about successes, and how to improve.
  • Client satisfaction is often measured using surveys. A survey can be administered online, by email, by mail, or by telephone.
  • One limitation of satisfaction surveys is that clients may provide misleadingly favourable responses. To reduce this we need to carefully plan survey design and implementation.

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