Customer Surveys Part 2: Closed vs. Open Questions

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In Part 2 of our Customer Surveys series, we review the difference between closed-ended and open-ended survey questions.

Closed-ended questions are much quicker for survey respondents to interpret and answer because they offer a defined set of response options, or ask for a specific piece of information such as a number or date. On the other hand, open-ended questions are more subjective, allowing respondents to answer in their own narrative style. Open-ended questions are more time-consuming both to answer and to analyze, but can provide a varied array of information to explore.


An example of an open-ended question might be:

“When was the last time you visited OhMySoap, Ltd?”

The respondent can reply in any way they choose.  Possible responses might include: “last week”, “1987”, “a few years ago”, or “the last time I needed to buy bubble bath.”

However, you could alternatively create a closed-ended question to capture the same information.  This strategy could offer a list of specific months (e.g., Jan 2015, Feb 2015, March 2015, none of the above) or timeframes (e.g. less than one month ago, 1-2 months ago, 3-4 months ago, 6 or more months ago) from which the respondent would choose the most appropriate answer.

The responses for this closed-ended question might look like this:

January 2015
February 2015
March 2015
None of the above

Both types of questions can be valuable in different circumstances. If you need to generate a statistic, such as a percentage or level of frequency, a closed-ended question with a list of responses can achieve this more effectively. If you’d like to gather descriptions, opinions, or reactions, then open-ended questions provide this flexibility.

Choose your question type based upon the information you wish to collect, your analysis plan, and the way you’d like to use the data. 

>> Click here to read Customer Surveys Part 3

Missed Part 1? >> Click here to read Customer Surveys Part 1