What Are Open-Ended Questions? Definition and Examples

Running a survey with open-ended questions? Read these tips and best practices.

When you’re designing a customer survey and want to collect in-depth data, asking open-ended questions can help you get interesting and even enlightening responses. While simple close-ended questions can provide useful data about a customer’s overall experience, open-ended ones can give you a better look at a customer’s feelings, satisfaction, disappointment, expectation, and overall experience with your brand.

So, what are open-ended questions? Read on to get to know the advantages that come when you include open-ended questions on a customer survey, and how you can use them to get the in-depth answers you need.

What are open-ended questions?

Open-ended questions are commonly used in customer and market research. They give respondents the chance to freely express their review or opinion on a topic, product, service, or even your entire brand in general.

An open-ended question invites the audience to respond based on their experience and understanding. Unlike a close-ended question—where responses are limited and narrow—an open-ended question allows for detailed, elaborate responses that create room for further discussion and improvement.

This question type opens a platform for conversation, helping researchers understand the thought process of their audience. They allow the researcher to ask questions like “why” and “how”—questions that generate thorough answers.

Since the answers to these questions can vary greatly from person to person, researchers often gain some interesting insights and unique perspectives. In the case of customer surveys, these questions help brands delve into the minds of their customers, so they can make choices and changes that improve the customer experience and generate the loyalty that businesses need to stay competitive.

Because open-ended questions encourage detailed responses and spark conversation, a platform like Voiceform can be very effective for asking them. When they have the opportunity to provide voice responses to survey questions, respondents are likely to provide more thorough and useful answers.

Examples of open-ended questions

As you craft a survey, the questions you ask will depend on your goals. If you’re conducting a customer research survey, open-ended questions can help you understand your audience better. By giving your respondents flexibility and freedom to be vocal about their opinion, you can gain new insights and ideas to help you better serve them. Here are some great examples of open-ended questions that you can ask on your next customer research survey:

  • What problem does our product/service solve for you?
  • What changed for you after you started using our product/service?
  • How would you describe your overall buying experience with our brand?
  • How can we make the buying experience better?
  • What do you like most about our product/service, and what do you like least?
  • How can our brand go above and beyond to serve you better?
  • What would you change about our product/service?

How to ask effective open-ended questions

If, at the end of a survey, you ask your customer or client, “Did you find our product/service helpful?” you’re asking a close-ended question, since the respondent can only answer “yes” or “no.” While it’s great to know that the customer found value in your product, you don’t know why they did or how.

On the other hand, if you ask a question like, “How does our product/service help you solve a problem?” you give the respondent an opportunity to provide more perspective. Plus, asking customers about value can help reinforce the concept in their own minds—not only are you able to get the in-depth answers you’re seeking, but you’re also able to strengthen their perception of value around the products and services you provide.

How can you ask open-ended questions on your next survey? Simply use the following steps.

Change close-ended questions to open-ended ones

Whenever you’re crafting a survey—or if you’re simply asking questions to prospects, clients, or colleagues—pay attention to the questions you’re asking. Rather than asking questions that generate a yes/no response, use strategic phrasing to ask questions that generate a more detailed response. Start questions with words like “why,” “what,” or “how,” or give respondents a prompt to describe a concept or topic.

Remember that the goal of your survey is to receive transparent feedback from your customers. Make sure you aren’t leading respondents with your questions, and give them a chance to provide any information or details they want.

Create a list of questions before implementing the survey

If you’re conducting a customer research survey, you should always plan ahead and write down all your survey questions before you contact potential respondents. If you find close-ended questions, replace them with open-ended ones. For example, instead of asking, “Did you like our product?” ask, “What did you like about our product?”

If you can’t avoid asking close-ended questions, always have an open-ended follow-up question ready. It’s not hard to add a “why” or “what” question after a close-ended one. Using the example above, you could ask, “Did you like our product?” then follow up with a simple “Why?” or “Why not?”

Use open-ended questions to spark conversation, rather than run through a script

Open-ended questions should be used as conversation starters. You should always expect the unexpected when it comes to respondents’ answers—don’t be surprised or thrown off if the responses lead to discussions of tangential issues. An open-ended question is successful when it sparks conversation, so make sure you’re actively listening to your customers and have a plan in place to ask follow-up questions on related topics or issues.

By asking the right questions, you can gain all sorts of useful insights from your customers. Whether you’re getting ready to launch a new product or you feel like your overall customer experience could be improved, ask the right questions to your target audience and use the insights you uncover to make the changes your customers want and need.

Voice surveys are the ideal platform for asking open-ended questions

When you’re crafting a customer survey, open-ended questions help you dig into the minds of your customers, so you can address their pain points and better serve them. With Voiceform’s voice data solutions, it’s never been easier to ask high-quality questions that help you get to know your customers better. Reach out to our helpful team today to schedule your free demo.

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