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Open-Ended v/s Closed-Ended Customer Survey Questions - when to use which?

Open-Ended v/s Closed-Ended Customer Survey Questions - when to use which?

The best way to get customer feedback is to ask them directly. Sounds simple, right? But the feedback you get - the number of customers who give feedback as well as the quality of feedback - largely depends on the questions you ask in your customer surveys and feedback forms.

When designing a survey, the first major decision for you is to select from the different types of survey questions that you want to ask. You can choose to ask open-ended questions or closed-ended questions. Before picking which one is better to use for your customer surveys, let’s understand them a bit.

Close-Ended Survey Questions

A closed-ended question provides your customers some predefined choices of answers which may be in the form of options like Yes or No, ratings from 0 to 10, opinion from Strongly Agree to Strongly Disagree or a range of options depending upon the context of the question. Basically, the customer is not free to write his opinion in his own words and can choose one or multiple among the provided choices.

Some Examples of Closed-Ended Questions

  1. How likely are you to recommend this business to your friends and family? [The Net Promoter Score Question] 0-10
  2. How will you rate your experience on a scale of 0-5?
  3. Do you agree that this company is an awesome place to work? Yes | No
  4. Would you like to use our products and services again? Yes | No
  5. Please select your country from the dropdown menu.
  6. Which cuisine would you choose among the available four?

Open-Ended Survey Questions

On the other hand, an open-ended question is informative in nature and enables your customers to give freestyle answers, not only limited to predefined options. Fundamentally, it enables them to express their viewpoints and remarks as sentences, records, and stories. As the name suggests, customers while filling the open-ended survey questions are open to give any feedback in their own words.

Some Examples of Open-Ended Questions

  1. Please describe your experience with our services.
  2. Please mention one aspect which could be better and we should work upon.
  3. Please provide your full residential address in the space below.
  4. What did you like the most about this product?
  5. How do you feel while using our product?

Open-ended questions are wide and can be answered in detail by the customer in their own words, whereas closed-ended questions are generally answered with choosing one or more predefined options.

How to decide when to use open-ended questions and when to use closed-ended questions in your customer surveys?

Before taking a feedback from customers, you have decisions to make. First of course is what questions you want to ask and then through which medium the feedback form would be taken, who is the target audience and how long would the feedback form be. The decision should be based upon the considerations of various factors like the industry in which we are working, (for instance a restaurant feedback form is obviously very different from the questions in a patient experience survey), the demographic group from which you need feedback and the output you want to have.

While deciding on the feedback form, there are multiple types of questions you have and a major decision to take is to choose between Closed-ended questions and open-ended questions. Let’s evaluate each.

Closed-Ended Questions

It would be appropriate to choose closed-ended questions where you don’t need an elaborate response and critical viewpoints. The situations where you can use closed-ended questions are:


  1. When there is a requirement for quantitative or measurable data
  2. When you’re taking feedback from a large number of people
  3. When you want segment your data
  4. When you want basic or effortless answers

In these situations, Closed-ended questions should be put up to get maximum response and relevant output. Let us see how.

  1. When you need measurable or quantitative data: When you require the results of a survey in quantitative terms, then it is best to use closed-ended questions. With the use of closed-ended questions, you will be able to get statistically significant data that will help in decision making for your business.
    For instance, if you run a restaurant and you want to know where do maximum people get to know about your restaurant, you will ideally add a question ‘How did you hear about us?’ If you leave this as an open-ended question, people can fill up anything here. But to actually be able to measure and quantify this, you can add choices like TripAdvisor, Facebook, Instagram, Website, Passing by, Regular Visitor and like. This will help you know what percentage of your customers come through which source. Based on this, you can easily make business decisions like advertising on Facebook or posting more stories on Instagram to attract more customers.
  2. When taking feedback from a large number of people
    When you want to take feedback from a large number of people, it would be better to use closed-ended questions with almost all popular answers as options. Using closed-ended questions will not only ensure to find the exact statistics but will also help you to get a better response to the survey.
    This is due to the fact that closed-ended questions make the survey easier and quicker for people to answer. All they need to do is to select a predefined answer for each question from the options provided without explaining their thoughts in their own words.
    For instance - if you are running a retail store and want to take a feedback at the billing counter, it would be easier with the closed-ended questions as the customers wouldn’t be required to spend much time in writing answers, rather, they can select an answer from the given options and quickly fill the feedback form while billing. On the other hand, if you go for open-ended questions, this can create a total chaos as other customers would be waiting for the billing of their products while one customer is engaged in writing the answers in his own words.
  3. When you want to Segment Your Data
    A survey with closed-ended questions helps to categorize the answers easily. This will also help in targeting your customers better.
    For instance - If you are running a store of apparels and want to increase the range of products, you can create a feedback form in such a way that along with the feedback of your products, you can ask questions like age group, gender, marital status etc. This will help you to know the segment of people visiting the store and who are more likely to purchase the products so that you can target that group and increase the range of products accordingly. Moreover, if you notice that people of a certain demographic group are less interested in your products and visit less, you can make business strategies to attract that demographic group and increase your business.
  4. When you want basic or effortless answers: In situations where complex and unique answers do not add much value to your business, it is recommended to have closed-ended questions. Simple answers may be as simple as ‘Rate us on a scale of 1-5’. In such simple answers, it is most appropriate to ask closed-ended questions rather than open-ended questions.
    For instance, you are running an educational institute and planning to introduce a new e-learning software to make the studies interesting and help the students learn better. The software is taken for a demo for two months first and students are provided access. After one month, you can organize a simple survey with closed-ended questions to which students can respond quickly and easily so that you can have an idea that it is worthy or not. You can keep simple questions with options like,
  • On a scale of 0-5, how do you rate the e-learning software?
  • Did you find the software helpful enough to increase your learning?
  • Do you think that the e-learning software makes the studies more interesting for you?
  • Are you able to find the study material and resources easily on the newly introduced e-learning software?
  • Do you feel that this way of studying is better and more effective than the previous ways of studying through books and notes?

These types of closed-ended feedback questions are useful to ascertain the need and success of the new e-learning software and you can make a decision on the basis of quantitative data so generated whether to buy this software for long-term or the traditionally used method of education is better.

Open-Ended Questions

When you wish to have a more detailed data, it would be appropriate to use open-ended questions. There are cases when you want to know exactly how the customers feel about their experience, then it would be better to use open-ended questions in your feedback form as it enables the customers to provide their elaborative perspectives. With the help of open-ended questions, you get to have the real customer insight about your products and organization. Below are the situations when open-ended questions should be used over closed-ended data:


1. When you want to take someone’s personal view and perspective

2. When you have a small Group of Respondents

3. To get an expert view

4. To get personal details

Open-ended questions can prove to be very useful in these situations. Let's see how.

1. When you want to take customer’s personal view and perspective

Open-ended questions are great when you want your customer’s personal views and perspective. For example, a great way to take a Net Promoter Score Survey is to follow up the NPS question with a comment box to ask customers to fill in the main reason for their score. This gives you a personalized perspective and view of your customers, in their own words. It’s always a great way to allow miffed customers to rant and release their anger and for your team to know what really went wrong.

2. When you have enough time to take feedback

When you need to take feedback from a small group of people or have time to get feedback, open-ended questions can prove to be useful. For a small number of people, it would be easy for you to read the unique answers of each and every respondent and have a detailed customer insight. Open-ended questions are useful in obtaining rich content and a detailed perspective of the customers.

And when it is easy and less time-consuming to have detailed views of the customers, why to limit the survey with closed-ended questions only.

For instance, in a restaurant if you use a tablet-feedback system to take customer feedback and hand over the feedback form on tablet to the guest, the guest can give their comments about their experience while sharing their rating on food, ambience and more.

3. To get an expert view

When you want to get an expert view from someone, open-ended questions can be very handy. This allows you to get ideas and thoughts from the experts and use them in your business decision.

4. To get personal details in your feedback form:

It is nearly impossible to capture personal details using closed-ended questions except for demographic information like gender, marital status and like. For name, email address, mobile number, address and other information, open-ended text fields and questions are the best to use.

To conclude, both open-ended questions and closed-ended questions have their own uses and an ideal feedback form can be different for every use case. Consider all factors before creating your feedback forms, but don’t hesitate to use a mix of both closed-ended and open-ended questions to create the right kind of feedback form for yourself.

With Zonka Feedback, you can fully customize your feedback form using an online survey builder and choose from over 30+ feedback question types.

Published on Jan 27, 2020. Updated on Mar 13, 2020.

Nikhil Dawer

Written by Nikhil Dawer

Jan 27, 2020

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