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How To Measure Customer Feedback With Semantic Differential Scale

Kate William

8 min read

Are you a business owner? 

If yes, do you take feedback from your customers regularly? 

If the answer to the above question was a “No,” then we are sure that there are more pressing problems that you need to handle than forgetting to collect customer feedback. Why? 

Because we genuinely believe that if you miss something as important as taking online or offline surveys, you might have ignored many other things too. 

Customer satisfaction surveys are a great way to understand what customers think, but there is more that you can do than just send online surveys. 

The information that you can gather from customers with the help of customer feedback surveys is severely limited. How to increase the validity of your data and get the best responses?

Semantic Differential Scale is your answer. 

What is a Semantic Differential Scale?

Developed in the 1940s by Charles.E.Osgood, semantic differential scale measures individual perceptions, including the feelings and ideas that people have towards the topic that is being researched. It does so by asking questions to respondents to make a judgement on a point-scale between two bipolar adjectives. 

A scale is often used to understand people’s experience or rating about a product or a brand. A semantic differential scale is one of the best ways to understand a person’s attitude towards any topic. 

The research by Charles was based on the fact that terms have different connotations based on culture and other factors. 

While trying to understand how connotations work, he realized that there are three dimensions of affective meaning universally accepted across different cultures, irrespective of the languages they speak. 

Advantages of using Semantic Differential Scale:

#1 Gives an objective picture

Since a semantic differential scale questionnaire is easy to take, the respondents may find it fulfilling to be fully comprehensive in their responses. Since they would be giving their most honest opinion, we are bound to get the most accurate and statistically significant results.

#2 Easy to make

It is a type of survey that is not only easy to take for the respondent, but it is also easy to make for the surveyor. All that the surveyor should find are opposite terms to use as a measurement tool for the survey to be successful. 

#3 More authentic

Since a this scale asks about the attitude of the respondents, they are more likely to receive answers that are closest to what they feel. The other types of rating mechanism don’t provide this kind of authenticity.

#4 Information is reliable:

The information that is collected with the help of a semantic differential scale is considered reliable because the respondents can easily understand the choices that are presented to them. They will be able to make an easy decision as to which one to choose and will not even spend a lot of time figuring out if they are right or wrong in their choosing.

#5 Semantic differential scale questions are great to understand:

The behaviour and attitudes of customers towards different aspects of your business. They are also great if you are looking to use it as a customer satisfaction survey

#6 Best uses

A semantic differential scale is great for doing market research, academic research, visualizing overall positivity and negativity, doing psychological evaluations, etc. 

Since all that a respondent has to do is either agree or disagree or choose the two polar opposites; it is extremely easy to choose one. In other scales, respondents have to declare the level of agreement or disagreement with a particular topic. 

Here’s a customer satisfaction survey created using SurveySparrow..

To create similar customer satisfaction surveys and customer feedback surveys, you can create a FREE account on SurveySparrow..

Examples of Semantic Differential Scale:

Osgood found that there are three scales that were the most effective and was common understanding for all people- Evaluation, Potency and Activity.

Evaluation: It has good to bad, safe to dangerous, excellent to poor.

Potency: High to low, strong to weak.

Activity: Fast to slow, Active to Passive.

Using the above combination, you can understand customer’s outlooks about a variety of aspects, starting from what they think about the product to how satisfied they are. Businesses use this differential scale extensively to ask the respondents to rate products, services, organizations, advertisements, marketing copy, etc. The multi-point questions with bipolar adjectives at the extremes of the scale provide a lot of insight. 

Some popular scales that are used for semantic differential scale questions:

Slider Rating Scale:

In this type, the question features a graphical slider which offers an interactive way for the respondent to answer the semantic differential scale question. 

Non-slider rating scale:

In this type of semantic differential scale, the question uses radio buttons which is a format that most people are extremely familiar with.

Open-ended questions:

This question type gives the respondents ample time and space to express their emotions about the brand or the particular interaction touchpoint. 


In the ordering type question, it offers scope to rate the parameters which a respondent feels is good or bad, according to their personal experience. 

Satisfaction rating:

In what is one of the easiest ways for customers to respond, this type of questioning uses emoticons to put across its point. 

What is the difference between Semantic Differential Scale and the Likert Scale?

While a semantic differential scale allows the respondents to share their emotional perceptions about a topic, the likert scale allows them to communicate their opinions in terms of the degree of their agreement. 

The Likert scale asks the respondent to tell the extent to which they agree with a statement. A semantic differential scale allows the respondent to make the assertion in terms of their emotional perception.

While a Likert scale only allows for an agree or disagree answer in terms of varying degrees, a semantic differential scale offers a far more flexible option that encapsulates their true feelings.

Since semantic differential scale allows for options that are emotive in nature, its qualitative findings are considered more authentic and close to reality.

If you want to gain insights into a respondent’s perception of a particular product or service, then the Likert scale is your best bet. Let’s say you are looking to understand the respondent’s overall perceptions of a good product or service; then a semantic differential scale is better suited for it. 

When you use a Likert scale, you are asking the following:

This picture is beautiful. Disagree/Neutral/Agree

When you use a semantic differential scale question, you are asking:

This picture is….. Beautiful/…./Modern

The Likert scale defines the picture while the semantic differential scale question removes any sort of opinion from the other side. If you are looking to reduce bias, then the semantic differential scale is something you should surely try as it allows the respondent to express their true feelings and attitude towards the topic under contention. 

How to make an effective semantic scale questionnaire to measure customer feedback

#1 Use the EPA scales

Use the Evaluation, Potency and Activity scale that we spoke about earlier in the article. There is a lot of research that has gone into semantic differential scale since it was developed for academic purposes in the beginning. These are considered the most effective scales to gauge the emotional perception of the respondents towards a particular subject. 

#2 Create an appropriate design

Now is the time to use an online survey tool like SurveySparrow to create a fantastic design that bodes well for your objective. Make sure that you use all your branding elements so that the respondent knows that it is coming from you. There are a lot of survey templates that can be used on the SurveyMonkey alternative, that is, SurveySparrow if you are choosing semantic differential scale surveys. 

#3 Ask the right question

What you are trying to ask is important when it comes to the semantic differential scale. You should remember that the objective is to get insights into customer behaviours, feelings and affinity for your brand. The question should be presented in such a way that you get a deep understanding of what the customer has in his/her mind. 

#4 Use the right bipolar adjectives

The most important part of getting a successful result from the semantic differential scale is to use the right bipolar adjectives. Finding the right adjective to describe the emotion and the opposite word for the adjective is crucial. If you get this wrong, then your respondent will be confused and will not be in a position to provide clear answers.

#5 Keep alternatives handy

If you are not able to find the right adjectives, then it is wise on your part to have easy alternatives ready. Getting the right opposing adjectives can be tricky, in such a case, just list positive and negative words for the respondents to choose from. 

#6 Don’t overwhelm the respondent

A semantic differential scale is easier than a Likert scale as it is less confusing for the respondent. If you overwhelm your respondent with too many options or too few options, they may get confused. 

#7 Collect responses:

Once you are done with creating your survey, make sure that you distribute it via different channels. Collect the responses and view the results on your dashboard. It will give you real-time insights into what the customers responded to. 

#8 Analyze your findings

Customize the responses that you have got based on what you want to know. You can use different filters on the dashboard of the online survey tool to get deeper insights into the results. View trend analysis and see if there are any patterns that deserve your attention. SurveySparrow, the Typeform alternative, has a feature-rich dashboard that gives you interesting insights based on the responses. 

When to use Semantic Differential Scale?

You can use a semantic differential scale for a variety of reasons, but they are used mainly for the following:

  1. Gain a deeper understanding of the customer’s attitudes, affinity, and goals. 
  2. Understanding a specific part of your service in terms of satisfying your customer

As we had mentioned earlier in the article, make sure your rating scales stick to at least one of the three dimensions- Evaluation, Potency and Activity. 

When you use a semantic differential scale for your online surveys, you will understand not only the strength and weaknesses of your company, but also the areas that you need to focus on to keep growing better. If you follow the feedback properly based on the respondent’s replies, you will be able to increase your customer retention rate. 

Let’s walk you through an example to give you a much deeper understanding of how semantic differential scale works.

When a customer’s response to your question about customer service is “bad” but if the overall satisfaction rate is listed as “high”, then the customer might be happy with the product/service, but some aspect of the customer service did not bode well with their expectations. During instances like this, you will get a clearer idea of the minutest of things. It can make a lot of difference to every single thing surrounding your company. 

Do remember that the goal of semantic differential surveys is getting quality information, so it will take time for you to smoothen your questions. If a customer responded to something, then you need to analyze why they felt that way and take steps to rectify it. 

With a semantic differential scale survey, you will get an intimate understanding of your customer’s attitudes and goals. Therefore, you should not just be looking at numbers but take a deep interest and try to understand what each response really means. 

Wrapping it up..

For those who are looking to truly understand their customers, semantic differential scale surveys are a powerful tool. While it is not as fast and easy as other types of surveys to create, it is well worth the effort that is made for them. An NPS survey or customer feedback survey or a CES survey might take only a little time to create and send, but it pales in front of the results that semantic differential scale surveys offer. The results that you will get from a semantic differential scale survey will have huge implications if done rightly. 

If you are looking to try out a semantic differential scale survey to understand what customers feel about you, then the team at SurveySparrow will be more than happy to help you with it. SurveySparrow is an award-winning online survey software that comes with a variety of top-notch features that is one of the best in the market. Get on a call with us to understand how we can help with your survey needs. 


Kate William

Content Marketer at SurveySparrow

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