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Make Or Break The Customer Survey

Co-authors: Codie Henry & Jenna White

Customer Surveys are a powerful tool for public relations (PR). Why? In the early years of PR, companies used a one-way communication approach, which means they interacted with their chosen audience but didn’t care about what their audience thought of the interaction. However, PR has switched to a two-way communication approach in today’s globally connected society, which means PR professionals interact with their target audience and rely on their feedback. This brings us to surveys, which allows for that needed feedback from your audience to ensure your strategy, be it marketing or brand building, is being received well.

Essentially, all businesses need to track customer feedback, and individual stylists are no exception to this rule. With each survey you run, there should be clear objectives about what you want to know from your clients. Use surveys to ask for their feedback about your availability, services, and/or other aspects of the salon. You may think that having behind-the-chair conversations like this is enough to learn from, but the trouble with a verbal approach is that it doesn’t lead to measurable, specific actions you can take. It’s also hard to tell if one client’s opinion is unique to them or if the majority of your clientele agrees with them. Not to mention that most people don’t want to be hurtful to the person that control their appearance.

Why should stylists run customer feedback surveys?

  • To improve over time and/or prepare for changes.

  • To proactively seek feedback and catch problems early.

  • See how comfortable the salon is for clients.

  • Creates a private scorecard of yourself without being a public entry like Yelp or other review platforms.

    • It can also stop a potentially harmful review from being published if done correctly.


How should you conduct customer feedback surveys?

Questions can be asked in an open-ended or close-ended format. Open-ended allows clients to input their specific opinion without a predefined response. The downside to this approach is that it can be hard to track everyone’s feedback uniformly and is unrealistic to measure.

When it comes to surveys, the questions will make or break it - specifically biased questions. These are questions, which hint at a specific answer and can be broken down into Leading, Loaded, and Double-Barreled (just to name a few). If you have ever taken a company survey and found it boring, bias avoidance is the reason. Here are a few examples of each:

  1. Leading Question

    1. "How awesome of a job did I do?”

The issue with this is that it leads a respondent to the “correct” answer, which negates the results.

  1. Loaded Question

    1. “What do you love about our product?”

The issue with this is that you presuppose that the client loved it at all, which risks them ignoring the question or dropping the survey. Essentially, you are stacking the deck to manipulate a positive response.

Leading and Loaded seem so similar. What makes them different?

Given the examples, yea, they look somewhat similar because both question types push a respondent to a specific answer. Where they differ is how, exactly, they do it:

Leading Question: For the leading question of: “How awesome of a job did I do?” The issue falls to the word “awesome,” which makes any negative answer feel harsh to a respondent. To be clear, you totally can include a question about yourself in your survey. You just have to use neutral language when doing so to get accurate feedback. For example, how would you rate my performance today?

Loaded Question: For the loaded question of: “What do you love about our product?” You will find that it also commits the same issue as the leading question example (and vice versa). However, the flaw of a loaded question comes from an assumption made: they “love” the product.

  • Double-Barreled Questions

    • “How happy or unhappy are you with the color you received and the Kenra color line?”

Double-Barreled Questions are a common mistake on surveys, which force your respondents to answer two questions at once.

  • For the example, the better way of asking would be:

    • “How happy or unhappy are you with the color you received?”

    • “What do you think of the Kenra color line I use?”


Words to Avoid:

The best way to phrase questions for surveys is to avoid words overcharged with negative or positive emotions (love, hate, obsessed, annoyed) or words that imply a positive or negative feeling (pleasant, unpleasant, like, dislike) to a question. Another thing to avoid is absolute words (all, always, awful, gorgeous, true, false) due to it forcing users to think in black and white terms.

We recommend using an open-ended format to obtain more direction from your responses.

If possible, try to use at least two of the three approaches below to get the most action-oriented results:

  1. Measurable Format: Multiple choice questions are quick and easy to compile later for analysis.

  2. Specific Asks: Make sure to identify potential problems and what your client thinks the solution is. You could also conduct a solution-focused survey as a follow-up for further research.

  3. Seek Actionable Advice: Provide multiple-choice responses that lead you to make targeted changes if needed.

  4. Scaled Answers: Consider using a scale of one through ten or base it on feelings of “Poor,” “Satisfied,” and “Very Satisfied” to get a better understanding of the client’s feelings.

  5. Avoid Absolutes: Avoid the typical Yes or No answers. The reason being is that it’s a catch 22. While you can get unbiased feedback from absolute questions, you are also getting bias because you aren’t getting the whole story.

    1. For example: “Do you come to the salon regularly?” - Yes or No.

    2. This type of question tells you absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of things. Thus, you would need nine other absolute questions just to find the answer.

    3. A better question would be: “How often do you come to the salon?”

A) Every Two Weeks

B) Every 1-2 Months

C) Every 3-4 Months

D) Every 5-6 Months

E) Other


What types of questions should you ask?

  • Timing: By knowing how often your client does something, you'll be able to cater to them. You'll know what hours of operation capture your guest or how often you should restock products.

    • Ex: “How often do you use the product?”

  • Feedback: There’s always feedback you won't want to hear, but you’ll need to listen to it to grow. Instead of asking, “did you like the product or service,” try the following examples.

    • Ex: “Did the product help you achieve your goals?”

    • “What would you improve if you could?”

Possible Answer: Timing, music, chairs, and language are all appropriate choices for this question, but it's impossible to list everything. Thus, writers need to include an "other" option.

  1. Excitement: Surveys are a marketing tool. Dropping hints in a survey can generate an insider feel to your marketing.

    1. Ex: "I will use your feedback to plan events, products, and in-salon services that more closely fit your interests."

  2. Health and safety: Some questions could help you gauge your guests’ perception of some of the more critical matters.

    1. Ex: “What safety precautions would you like to observe during your visit?”

  3. Demographics: Things like your client’s age, gender, or zip code.

    1. Ex: What gender do you identify as? What is your age? Please specify your ethnicity to target your needs.

    2. Demographic information may sometimes feel intrusive to clients. So, the common practice is to either use general categories or an option to ignore.

A general category for age can be:

A. 18-25

B. 26-35

And so on.

An option to ignore can be simple:

I prefer not to answer.” - (This is a powerful option that shouldn’t be left out.)

When it comes to asking personal or in-depth questions such as Health & Safety and Demographics, always ask them at the end to avoid survey dropout.

Other tips on making it easier for your clients:

  • Create a QR code that can be placed at your chair.

  • Anonymity.

    • If you find that people are not completing a survey, you can also try removing questions that ask for their name. Anonymity also helps to ensure customers are honest with their answers.

  • Create incentives for customers that respond to your survey. Find what’s convenient for your guests. Let them know it will only take a moment of their time. Keep the survey short.


Examples of how to apply the information gathered:

  • Make changes to your website.

  • Alter your hours of operation.

  • Change your booking platform.

  • Determine new marketing objectives and strategies.

  • Use testimonials on your website and social media.

  • Adjust your behavior during the timeline of the process from introduction to payment.

  • Decide prices and sales.

  • Adjust your target audience.

Websites for creating online surveys

About the Authors

Codie Henry

Codie Henry is a former stylist based in Arizona and the Communications Director of The Sovereign Stylist. Having finished his bachelor's degree in public relations, he has been accepted to law school for Fall 2021 for criminal defense. Codie’s blogs are typically focused on legal issues, marketing, and public relations topics. Codie believes that knowledge and language is the strongest weapon one can wield and that people should always strive to be life-long learners. Jenna White

Jenna White is a stylist based in San Francisco with over six years of high-end dry-cutting and styling experience. Her high-demand services have supported brands via collaborations with influencers, models, makeup artists, salon owners, photographers, and clothing companies. She is also a Marketing and Community Advisor for HairLooks - an app she believes will empower communities of hairstylists and barbers to elevate their craft together while influencing culture as a whole. The following is a combination of two posts she published on hair discrimination during 2020 on her blog, The Weekly Comb.

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