Don’t make things complicated for yourself.
In all likelihood you haven’t got the time nor energy to design a groundbreaking customer survey and even if you do, you really need to know what you’re doing methodologically in order to alter best practices. In other words, stick to the basics and follow the lead of others that have gone before you.
If you are trying to measure an attitude, concept, or behavior, there’s a pretty good chance someone has done this before. In the course of your literature review, pay careful attention to how others are measuring the concept you want to measure. They may have already tested the reliability and validity of a measure. An identical question also allows for comparisons across surveys.
Pre-test your survey
It’s always a good idea to try out your survey on a small sample of potential respondents before you conduct the full survey on the entire sample you’ve selected. If this is cumbersome, just ask some of your friends and/or colleagues to take it and write down their views and considerations.
You might come to realise for example that having various open ended questions was not the best way to structure your survey and so, it would be better to include more closed-ended questions that will make posterior analysis easier.
Think about the mode in which you’re going to carry out your survey
There are many ways in which you survey can be administered (mail, in person, phone or online) all of them affecting the design it should have. Think about it for a second, how often do you miss things when they are being said over the radio or when you get a phone call? Isn’t easier for most of us to understand more complex issues when we have them written before us and we are able to go back seamlessly if we didn’t quite understand something?
If an interviewer is asking the questions, think about how they will sound. If a respondent is filling out the survey on paper or over the Internet, think about how they will look.
- Give instructions: If the interviewer conducting the survey is some one other than yourself, do not assume the interviewer is physic! Provide clear instructions so that he can conduct the survey in the manner you had intended and specifically write out any special instructions to the respondent.
- If the respondents are not able to read the question response options (I.e.: you’re calling them out over the phone) be sure to keep options concise and have the interviewer read the possible responses as part of the question.
- One of biggest issues with mode is whether you offer an explicit “Don’t Know” or “Not applicable” box. As a general rule, allow these type of responses particularly when conducting phone based surveys.
Keep Your Questionnaire Short.
The truth of the matter is that neither you or I are really amused by having to answer surveys, particularly if it isn’t about a topic we are actively interested in. We all have lots of things to go through in our jobs and taking surveys (unless you’re the one conducting them or waiting for the results that will come from them) is not ranked number one on our priority list.
Keep Question Order in Mind
You would be surprised to see how much the question order affects the overall outcome of a survey. Always take into account the context in which respondents are hearing/reading your questions.
- It is advisable to always start any survey with an introduction.
- General questions go first: General questions are generally easy questions that do not provide much insight, as such it is a nice way to get the respondent involved with the survey as it is more unlikely that someone will drop off mid-way through the survey once they have completed a couple of questions.
- It’s usually best to ask any sensitive questions, including demographics (especially income), near the end of the survey. If you ask these questions at the beginning of your survey, you risk alienating the respondent and making him either refuse to continue or become overly defensive, thus negatively influencing his remarks.
- If you are asking a series of similar questions, randomize the order respondents will hear/read them. People tend to answer along the lines of the questions they have been recently asked, this includes the ordinal responses, thus changing the way you present questions/possible answers can have a positive effect on the quality of your data.
- Nothing irritates more a responded that having questions read out to him (or reading them themselves) that do not apply to them. Be sure to filter questions so that they are only answered by relevant respondents.
If you keep to these guidelines, you’d be well on your way to conducting a survey that will provide actionable data for you and your company.
This blog is part of a series where we’ll continue to address ways in which you can gain deep insights into stakeholders through carefully designed surveys.
If you believe your business could do with support in data analysis, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.