The Power of Open-Ended Questions for CRO

open-ended questions

When designing a customer survey, the choice between using closed-ended questions or open-ended questions in any given situation should ultimately be decided by your goal; are you trying to segment users into ever more refined persona’s or are you trying to understand them to refine your message. 

Usually the goal is a little of both, below I shall explain why.

When trying to understand buyer motivation, you are entering the complex world of human emotion. Here, logic and reason take a back seat, overwhelmed by the emotional need to solve their pain point (a problem your product or service can solve) before and the after emotional outcome of any purchase decision. 

Therefore, the answers you seek will be difficult to categorize, no neat little persona boxes here. To understand the benefits and purpose of each type of question an understanding of what they are is necessary.

What is a Closed Ended Question?

Closed-ended questions elicit answers that are precise, no shades of grey here, just black and white, yes or no, true or false. This does not mean you can’t deal with emotion within a closed-ended question. 

For example, you can ask them how they feel about a product in a multiple-choice question and supply a range of emotional responses to select from.

Alternatively, you can ask the customer to score how they feel about a product on a scale of 1-5. 

That being said, closed-ended questions are of limited use for eliciting feedback because by using them you limit their response to short one word, answers that you want to hear or those that you consider an acceptable response. It does not allow for any free thinking.

What is An Open-Ended Question?

An open ended question is one which you want the answer to be more than a few words and is an attempt to engage the visitor/customer in conversation. 

By using open ended questions you are attempting to learn more about the customer, to gain insights into behavior that can’t be generalized or grouped easily. You are seeking qualitative data rather than quantitative data.

Open-Ended questions are often used developing Persona’s, for the purpose of conversion rate optimization and the personalization of content to later target those personas. 

To improve sales, you need to optimize your sales proposition to take into consideration the emotional driving force and the emotional outcome buyers seek. By using open ended questions you can learn how this can be achieved.

The type of answer you seek should define the design of your survey and whether you use open-ended sales questions or closed-ended sales questions.

What’s the difference between an open-ended question and closed-ended question?

The key difference is that closed-ended questions are quantitative data while open-ended questions are qualitative, supplying qualitative data. 

What Makes An Open Ended Question so Valuable

The great thing about open-ended questions is that the qualitative data received (common answers) can then be used to create closed-ended multiple choice questions for example, which can then be used to further test concepts and ideas.

In a wider sense, open-ended feedback questions enable businesses to stay in touch with customers. Feedback enables manufacturers to adapt to the changing needs of their customers, thus ensuring customer retention and the building of loyalty. 

In this way feedback drives innovation in a world that is increasingly reliant on lean and Agile Methodology which is entirely dependent upon constant improvement.

The Typical Survey

Usually, a survey is a combination of both open-ended and closed-ended questions, this is because surveys are hard work and the close-ended questions let them feel they are making quick progress. 

If the survey begins with an easy close-ended question where little thought is necessary, then they are more likely to continue, and answer the subsequent thought intensive open-ended questions. 

What Are Situational Surveys?

With advancement in tools like OptiMonk, that can be used for implementing surveys online, surveys have become increasingly “on-demand” based on real-time, action based, in the moment responses to specific situations. 

For example, the purchase of a product triggers a multi-stage feedback popup:

  • “On a scale from 1-5 how do you rate your purchasing experience”

This popup is multipage, therefore a follow-up question could follow the first.

  • “How likely are you to share your purchase with friends and family?”

Whatever the response, a third stage of the popup could be a thank you stage, along with share buttons to help them to share it as well as a discount coupon to incentivize a follow-up purchase.

Surveys can be set to trigger based on any action taken on any webpage of your website, it could be simply triggered after any time period on a piece of content or by clicking a specific piece of text that looks like a link. 

Your question could be related to that content, effectively personalizing the content experience through your interaction with them. 

Increasingly, simple Yes/No questions are being used to ask for permission before asking for an email address. By asking permission they are more likely to provide their email rather than click the x at the corner to exit the popup. 

Here the email submitted would go to a specific email list related to the content and the product being sold via the content.


Asking questions of customers makes customers feel valued and included. They will feel listened to, and if you follow up the answers they provide, – even if it is just a thank you email, it will be appreciated. Even better, if you provide a discount code for their next purchase.

Eliciting product feedback generates loyalty to your brand especially if you then reward them with something they were not expecting, for example, as a reward, bump them up a package for a month so that they can experience all your product features/services.

The feedback your customer provides enables you to stay current to the marketplace, enabling you to take stock of the competition and make innovations necessary to keep in step and meet their changing needs, modify pricing to stay competitive and to find other opportunities. 

Moreover, learning more about your customers enables you to improve your targeting through conversion rate optimization and ultimately improve your conversion rate.

Canvasing for feedback is part of the customer service relationship, which is a relationship that needs tending, ultimately for the purpose of building brand loyalty.

Use a mixture of both closed-ended and open-ended questions, leading with a closed-ended question and be sure to give the customer the opportunity to vent their frustrations, so that you can then improve what you offer and make them feel listened to.

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