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

The one and only way to know what your customers feel about your company and the products and services you provide them is to ask them and surveys are a great way of asking feedback from your customers. For the customers, survey is a medium to convey their feelings about their experience with you and your products and services. With the help of customer surveys, you can gauge Customer Satisfaction , loyalty, do market research and get real customer insights about anything.

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While designing customer surveys, the biggest challenge you have to face is to decide on the different types of survey questions you should ask from the customers. One of the biggest confusion is whether you should use open-ended questions or closed-ended questions.

Closed-ended questions are quick and easy to answer, as well as the data so generated is also easy to analyze, whereas open-ended questions give you the opportunity to know the real customer insights in their own words. Both have their own pros and cons.

Here, we will give you more clarity about both the types of questions so that you can decide better on the questions you want to ask. We will cover what these types of questions are, how they are helpful, and in which conditions they are useful or what requirements they can fulfill so that you can choose the best type of questions that are most suitable for your business.

Table of Contents

  • What are Closed-Ended Questions?
  • Examples of Closed-Ended Questions
  • What are Open-Ended Questions?
  • Examples of open-Ended Questions
  • Comparison between Open-Ended Questions and Closed-Ended Questions
  • When to use which question Open-Ended and Closed-Ended Questions
  • Conclusion

What are Closed-Ended Questions?

Closed-ended questions are those questions that can be answered only by selecting the predefined answer choices given with the questions. They an be multiple-choice questions with some options to select an answer from or a rating scale question where the customers have to rate a product, service or any other aspect by selecting one of the predefined ratings or scores.

Basically, the customer is not free to write his opinion in his own words and can choose one or multiple among the provided choices only. The famous Ultimate Question of an NPS Survey is a Closed-ended question that asks the customers tell their likeliness of recommending a brand to their friends and family by selecting a rating from 0 to 10.

The other metric questions like CSAT survey question and CES survey question is also a closed-ended question that required the respondents to rate their experience and effort by selecting one of the available choices. Moreover, they can be questions asking to select an option from the dropdown list, to check one or more checkboxes or multiple choice questions with some options in the form of self-explanatory emoticons. Here are some examples of Closed-ended questions that will help you understand better about Closed-ended questions.

Examples of Closed-Ended Questions

  1. On a scale of 0 to 10, how likely are you to recommend us to your friends and colleagues? [The Net Promoter Score Question]
  2. How would you rate your recent interaction with our customer service team? [CSAT Survey Question]
  3. How much do you agree with the following statement: "The company made it easy for me to handle my issues and get my work done."?  [CES Question with options from Strongly Agree to Strongly Disagree]
  4. Please select your country from the dropdown menu.
  5. Which cuisine would you choose among these four options below?

What are Open-Ended Questions?

Open-Ended Questions are the questions that do not provide any predefined answer choices to the customers. Rather, they are provided with an open space to let the customers write their answers in their own way. Fundamentally, the open-ended questions enable the respondents to express their viewpoints and remarks as sentences, records, and stories.

As the name also suggests, customers while filling the open-ended survey questions are open to convey their feelings and elaborate their answers in their own words. The customers can write freestyle answers to these questions and share their honest opinion.

The follow-up question of an NPS Survey or any metric is usually an open-ended question asking the reason for the ratings given by the customers. The demographic questions asking about the details of the customers like name and address also also open-ended questions.

Examples of Open-Ended Questions

  1. Would you like to tell us the reason for your rating?
  2. Would you tell us how can we serve you better?
  3. Please describe your experience with our services.
  4. Please provide your full residential address in the space below.
  5. What did you like the most about this product?

Comparison Between Open-Ended and Closed-Ended Questions

When we talk about comparing Open-ended Questions and Closed-ended questions, both of them are effective when used properly. Let's compare some of the aspects of both of them.

1. Mode of Answer

For answering the closed-ended questions, the customers have to choose an answer from the predefined answer choices. It can be an option in the multiple-choice questions, a choice in the dropdown menu, a checkbox to be checked, a rating on the rating scale, or any other predefined option in the form of emoticons, adjectives, etc.

Whereas, for answering an open-ended question, customers have to write their opinion in their own words in the space provided to answer the question.

2. Time taken to Answer

Time taken for closed-ended questions is obviously lesser than the open-ended questions as in the closed ended questions, one has to just choose the right option with a single click whereas, customers think and write to respond the open-ended questions.

3. Free will to the Respondent

Closed-ended questions do not provide free will to the customers to describe their experience in their own words, rather they have to choose from the options available, whereas, in the open-ended questions, the customers are free to write what they feel to write about their experience.

4. Type of Data Collected

The type of data collected through closed-ended survey questions is quantitative data that can be easily recorded and analyzed. However, the authenticity of data is something that needs to be taken care of because cases arise when customers do not understand certain options correctly or the answer they want to give is not actually included in the options.

Whereas, the type of data collected through open-ended questions is rich and authentic. However, it is difficult and time-consuming to extract meaningful information out of it.

When to Use which question Open-Ended and Closed-Ended Questions

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. It would be appropriate to choose closed-ended questions where you don’t need an elaborate response and critical viewpoints.

Whereas, 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.

Let’s evaluate each and list out the situations in which these types of questions can be used.

When to Use Closed-Ended Questions?

  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.

When to Use Open-Ended Questions

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.

Some More Examples of Open-Ended and Closed-Ended Questions


Open-Ended Questions

Closed-Ended Questions

  • How was your experience with our products and services? (Awesome, Good, Average, Not Good, Poor)
  • From where did you get the information about our brand? (Newspaper, TV advertisements, Referred by a friend, Online)
  • If you have to choose one, which dishes would you like to be added to our menu as desserts? (Ice creams, sweets, candies, chocolates)
  • Please select your country from the dropdown menu.
  • Please select your state.
  • Please select your city.
  • How would you rate the experience with our customer service team? (Excellent, Good, Average, Bad, Poor)
  • Would you like to comment on your experience with our products and services?
  • Would you describe how you started using our brand?
  • Please suggest some dishes to be added to our menu as desserts.
  • Please write your full name here.
  • Please provide your address here.
  • Please provide your email id here.
  • Please provide your phone number here.
  • Would you please let us know the reason for your rating.


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.

Learn more about the Customer Feedback

Nikhil Dawer

Written by Nikhil Dawer

Jan 27, 2020

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