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Improving your surveys and questionnaires

Why do you run surveys or feedback questionnaires?

hand holding a pen over a form

By hand or online, make your survey/feedback questions work for your business.

Sometimes, when I read questions in surveys and other forms, I do wonder how important the final data is for the person behind the questions – do they run them for fun rather than as a valid business tool?

Here are two questions I was recently asked to answer – and some tips on how to avoid the same mistakes…

Give everyone a possible answer

“When will you purchase a new car?
within a  month
1 – 2 months
2 – … months
… – 24 months
never – I don’t purchase new cars”

As we purchased a new car a week ago, I couldn’t give an honest answer to that question – we won’t be buying another within 24 months but ‘never’ is wrong, too.

TIP: make sure you provide an answer for all possibilities, even if one is ‘unsure’ or ‘don’t know’. If your format allows, ‘other’ not only gives options but can gain more insight for you.

Write questions to get the data you need

“Can you tell us if you are pregnant? Yes No”

Yes I can tell you but the yes answer may mislead you as I’m not pregnant and I assume that’s what you really want to ask me about… I could get really pedantic here and note that I CAN answer but choose not to ( writing ‘please tell us’ or ‘Will you tell us’ are grammatically better than ‘can you tell us’).

TIP: Make sure the question is asking for the information you actually want. In this case, the much simpler ‘are you pregnant?’ would have done the trick.

Getting meaningful and useful results

If you don’t plan your questions carefully, the results you get can be completely meaningless. For example, if 5% of respondents bought a car recently and answered ‘within a week’ you may mistakenly think the next week is prime time to sell a car. There is no way you can tell that someone gave a false answer to compensate for questions they don’t understand/misunderstand/can’t answer.

Depending on how you intend using the answers, skewing results like this can have serious implications. For example, if you plan a marketing campaign and spends thousands of dollars in April when the real results showed September to be effective, you’ve wasted money (in the survey and the marketing). What if you base a new product or pricing structure on the answers collected?

Checking, editing, proof reading and rechecking your questions may seem tedious. The details in faulty questions that I occassionally point out may seem trivial.

The bottom line, however, is that good survey and feedback questions are more fun to answer, give accurate and useful results, and build your credibility (through attention to detail and simplicity for respondents).

I suggest you always get someone else to read your questions before you finalise any form or survey. And, yes, this is a service Word Constructions provides…

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