Best practices for creating effective online surveys that result in more business, loyal customers and a better bottom line.
Surveys are handy things because they can be used in so many different instances where a decision needs to be made.
- Thinking about painting your building? Survey everyone who comes in on the paint color.
- Want to add music to your reception area? Survey your clients on what they like to listen to.
- New marketing piece on the drawing board? Survey your staff.
Communicating the importance of the survey along with how the results will benefit your customers or staff directly is an important first step. If you plan on emailing the survey or using snail mail to deliver it make sure to give a good introduction to why you are asking for their help with your survey.
There are as many types of surveys as there are questions. Some are fun, some are serious and all of them can be useful if you do them right.
Here are 20 best practice guidelines for creating surveys that are effective:
1. Do decide what you want to find out and what results you want to obtain for the survey. What business questions do you have that you wish your customers would tell you. Decide on the PURPOSE of the survey.
Some examples might be:
a. Customer satisfaction survey - are our customers happy with us and the service we provide?
b. Product or service specific survey - Do the customers like the brand of pet food we carry? Would they buy more if we carried another brand or
b. Pricing - How do our customers feel we stack up price wise. There's a new procedure that we just found out about. Would our customers be willing to
pay more to have it?
c. Loyalty - What would we have to do to increase the loyalty our customers feel for our company. What can we do to engage them more.
d. Improvements - What other services or changes can we make that will improve our client retention.
Surveys are conducted for many reasons. By phrasing the questions and structuring the answers surveys can be used in a multitude of ways and for a variety of reasons. When compiling a survey don't lose sight of its purpose.
2. Do keep in mind WHO you will be surveying when formulating your questions.
Pet owners? Mostly women? Teens? Professional businessmen? Having an idea of who these questions will be answered by will help in the language and choices for your questions as you formulate them. If you're not sure or the survey is going out to a general public, include a demographic question(s) such as age group to your questions.
3. Do use plain English and be clear in what you are asking. Don't use jargon and acronyms that might confuse your respondent.
Take care in wording a question. If your question is not clear or has technical terms that might be confusing, your respondent may decide to abandon the survey at that point.
4. Do keep your questions short and concise.
Try to use short sentences wherever possible. Long questions tend to cause people discomfort and greater survey abandonment.
5. Do ask just one question at a time.
Avoid questions like 'Do you like hot dogs and hamburgers?' Break it into two questions instead.
6. Don't ask leading questions.
How a question is phrased may influence the answer so it's important to make your questions as neutral as possible. 'Should dishonest businessmen be prevented from running for city council?' is such a question. It has no real value (unless you happen to be that businessman's opponent).
7. Do format your question choices so that you'll have value in the answers.
While yes and no are the easiest type of questions to answer, yes and no answers often don't give you enough information to take action on. For example. the question, 'Do you think we can improve our service?' yes or no gives you an answer but you'll never know what can be improved without more information.
Ensure that the answer format used allows the respondent to answer the question being asked and those answers are useful for you when evaluating them.
8. Do think about how the answers are going to be tabulated after the survey is complete.
While often providing good insight, it's difficult to tabulate comment box type answers. A suggestion is to include an "Other" with a comment box option after multiple choice questions so respondents who wish to can add additional information to their answer.
9. Do group your questions when possible. Example: If you are asking questions about prices and you have more than one question on that subject, group them together rather than scattered throughout the survey. You should group the questions into clear categories as this makes the task of completing the survey easier for the participants.
10. Do let survey takers know that you'll keep their information confidential and that their individual data will not be shared with anyone and the information is not going to be used for any other purpose than what you tell them it will be used for.
11. Do let survey takers know how you'll be using the information and survey results after it is done.
12. Do let the survey takers know approximately how long the survey takes to complete.
Participant drop out can occur if the survey appears to be a stream of never ending questions. It is good practice to give an indication as to how long the survey is likely to take so the participants can leave enough time to complete your survey.
13. Don't have a huge number of questions.
One of the biggest issues I see with online surveys is their length. If you can, keep the length to no more than 5 - 7 minutes. That's roughly 20 - 25 questions MAX. More than that and you'll have people abandoning the survey before it's done. The time it takes to answer is more important than the number of questions, so have a few people take the survey and time it to make sure it falls in the 5 - 7 minute range before sending it out.
14. Don't include too many open-ended questions. You want to leave room for people to elaborate, but you don’t want to force them to. Open-ended questions that require a lot of writing will cause time-pressed people to move on.
15. Don't send your survey out without proof reading.
Proof, re-proof, and then have someone else proof your copy before it goes out. Typos and bad grammar are just bad.
16. Don't leave your survey cut off time open ended. Make sure you let your respondents know when the survey will be closing and send out a reminder at least once during the open survey time to remind them of the cut off date.
17. Don't send your survey to just your loyal, happy customers. What’s the point? A good survey would be to reach out to those customers who have left your business to find out why. Sure the truth might hurt but it will also help you improve your business.
18. Don't ignore audience timing. If most of your customers are seasonal or are extra busy during certain times of the year, don’t send out a survey during that time. And don’t send emails out on Mondays, Fridays, or weekends, when they are likely to be ignored or overlooked.
19. Don't conduct a survey and then not act on the results. This is an obvious point but when your survey results show an area of improvement or need and you don't act on it, your customers will notice your lack of action.
20. Do remember to say thank you
Here are some example survey questions taken from Gallup's customer engagement survey, known as CE11®, using a five-point scale that measures strength of agreement by scoring 1 for 'strongly disagree' and 5 for 'strongly agree'.
1. Overall, how satisfied are you with [your business name]?
2. How likely are you to continue to choose/repurchase [your business name]?
3. How likely are you to recommend [your business name] to a friend/associate?
4. [your business name] is a name I can always trust.
“ The data from all your customers will give you a snapshot of how engaged your clients feel with your business. ”
5. [your business name] always delivers on what they promise.
6. [your business name] always treats me fairly.
7. If a problem arises, I can always count on [your business name] to reach a fair and satisfactory resolution.
8. I feel proud to be a [your business name] customer.
9. [your business name] always treats me with respect.
10. [your business name] is the perfect company for people like me.
11. I can't imagine a world without [your business name].
Again, these questions are set up to score on a 1 - 5 rating basis and can provide you with some idea of customer satisfaction and loyalty.
And how often should you survey your customers? Most experts agree that 1 to 2 times per year is good, but, as I said at the start of this article, surveys can be used for just about anything and when they are done right, they show your customers that you care about them and their needs.
Bottom line? Use SURVEYS to Find Out What Your Clients Want
PS. Want a free resource for creating online surveys. Here is a link to a video that shows how to use Google Docs to do just that.