Surveys are an indispensable tool for understanding your key demographic, whether they’re event attendees, seminar participants or employees. They are arguably the most time and cost-efficient way to collect feedback from a large group of people.
More than just a method to amass positive testimonials, they are vital for determining areas of improvement, and ascertaining how your target audience views your company. Alas, not all surveys are created equal. To get the information you want, you have to do it right. Here are a few essential tips for crafting a stellar survey and maximising survey responses.
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Don’t ask for any information that’s not going to add value to you. Every single question listed should be essential non-negotiables that directly offer key insights. It’s easy to get greedy and overreach with a comprehensive, 30-minute questionnaire. But the truth is, the longer the survey is, the less likely the respondent will produce consistently useful answers.
This tip includes the way you phrase each question. Instead of beating around the bush with unnecessary words, be direct and succinct and stay away from vague terminology. For example, “Thinking about your entire experience at this event, what are your thoughts on the way you were treated as a customer?” could have been shortened to “How was the customer service at this event?” Likewise, don’t pack two questions into one. You’ll end up getting unclear and incomplete answers. Also, make sure each question is distinct from the others to prevent wasting space with similar, repetitive answers.
2. Avoid framing pitfalls when crafting questions.
The most ineffective surveys are filled with leading questions—meaning, questions that lead respondents to reply a certain way and prevent them from forming their own thoughts. Such questions typically come with adjectives. By asking, “How exciting was the event?”, you’re leading the individual to think of the event in terms of its excitement, when they could have described it with other, more accurate adjectives.
Loaded questions are another no-no. They make unjustified assumptions about the respondent. Your job is not to tell the individual what to say, but to serve as an objective party. While it’s tempting to use questions to promote a brand, doing so will disallow the respondent to share honest opinions. Don’t tell them the core values that your event stands for. Use the survey to see if the event worked to communicate those core values to its audience.
3. Speak your target audience’s language.
Get rid of jargon, unexplained acronyms and abbreviations, and complex language. In cases where the use of jargon or specialised references is necessary, always provide a clear explanation. You don’t want your questions to be misunderstood, leading to low-quality answers that are easily misinterpreted as well. The trick is to craft your survey as if it’s for the mass public, both locally and globally. This will give rise to utmost accessibility and effective communication, so that every respondent from every walk of life will understand the same question the same way.
Another way to appeal to your target audience is to construct your survey like a regular conversation. This means it needs to have a logical flow. An example is to group your questions according to the topic, and go from macro to micro (broad to specific) in each sequence of questions.
4. Don’t hit them with the hard questions at the get-go.
Ease respondents in with easier, more straightforward questions in the beginning, before transitioning into ones that require more thought and a lengthier answer. Those that require sensitive information from the respondent can be moved to the end of the survey. This tactic ensures the individual doesn’t abandon the survey before they even begin – an issue that’s just as important as the art of crafting questions itself. If you can’t even get people to start or finish the questionnaire, your well-constructed questions would have gone to waste.
5. Replace yes-no questions with scale questions.
We’re not saying that all yes-no, true-false questions are bad and ineffective. Sometimes, they’re necessary. Other times, they become wasted opportunities for you to obtain more insights and information. The beauty of a question that uses scales is that the respondent doesn’t have to go too in-depth, yet still be able to offer a level of specificity in their answers.
Be careful though. If you're creating text options for a scale question, remember to include every single possibility. Don’t limit the respondent to “good, bad, and neutral”. The point of a scale is to have choices like “very good, moderately good, and fairly good” that mimic a spectrum. Don’t forget the “not applicable” option, where necessary.