5 Tips for Writing Better Surveys

5 Tips for Writing Better Surveys

Survey design is both an art and a science.

Did you know there are entire graduate-level courses and even academic disciplines that are devoted to learning the intricacies of surveys? In other words, designing a decent survey is not as easy as it sounds.

Sure, putting together a list of questions and calling it a “survey” is easy; however, understanding how best to design them so that they actually help you make better business decisions is not as easy as some may think.

To help you create more impactful customer surveys that influence business decisions, remember these five key considerations.

1. Be sure you understand the goals of the survey.

Ask yourself, would you agree to take on a project, support a cause, or join a gym without first understanding your goals for doing so? Why should designing a survey be any different? A survey is after all a project alike any other that requires intent, vision, and strategy.

Therefore, before drafting your instrument answer the following questions:

  • Why do I need to collect information?
  • What kind of information do I absolutely need?
  • Whom do I need to collect information from?
  • How will I act on this information?

Answering these initial questions will help you design the proper survey (yes, there are different types), ask the right questions, and ensure greater response rates.

2. Ask the right amount of questions.

Survey length matters. Most people don’t like long surveys, which means that putting together a survey of adequate length (a survey that is not too long or too short) is crucial in survey design.

There is no ideal length for a survey. The proper number of questions to ask will vary by your type of audience and your goals.

The objective is to:

  • Determine what information you absolutely need
  • Tease apart the nice-to-have from the need-to-have and adjust the length from there

Asking too few questions means you risk having an  incomplete understanding of the context at hand. Asking too many questions runs the risk of losing respondents and ending up with an embarrassingly low response rate. In order for your surveys to be beneficial, it’s important to be intentional and selective. What information will yield you actionable insights? Remember, you don’t need to ask everything and the kitchen sink!

3. Be mindful of your audience.

It’s simple, what resonates with you may not resonate with your audience. You want to be sure you’re speaking the language of your audience. You pose a question, others respond. But often the meaning you intended to communicate is not what was received creating a form of dissonance between the question and the answer. This occurs for a multitude of reasons.

It’s easy to get so caught up in business’ verbiage that you forget that our audience may not know the meaning behind an acronym or business’ very-specific lingo. Or, just because it makes perfect sense in our minds, somehow it also makes perfect sense in the survey.

To ensure you’re speaking to your audience in a way they’ll respond to:

  • Write your questions as if you were the respondent
  • Be concise (short and to the point) when framing a question
  • Spell out your acronyms (better yet, don’t use them at all)
  • Define your terminology
  • Get another pair of eyes to review

4. Prioritize your questions.

Rule of thumb: Ask the most important questions first. List the questions that will yield the most relevant information right at the beginning.

5. Have a mix of both quantitative or qualitative questions.

If you think politics are divisive, try talking to a data nerd on their preferences for qualitative or quantitative data. The data community essentially is divided into these three “political” leanings (or schools of thought): the Quantitative Enthusiasts, the Qualitative Enthusiasts, and the Mixed-Methods Proponents. There is value is leveraging both numerical (quantitative) and more open-ended (qualitative) questions in most surveys for several reasons:

  • Both types of data complement each other, fill in the blanks, and capture a greater range of attitudes
  • Both the survey respondent and those responding to the data will resonate more or less with one type of data
  • Both types of data yield for a richer and more nuanced findings

Surveys are one of the most effective instruments to gain insight into the mind of your customers.

In order to ensure that you collect the best information, be sure you’re following these rules of thumb.

Need help designing better surveys that give your business more insight into the mind of your customers? We’re here to help. Contact us today!