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Ask the right questions the right way

Top 12 Survey Best Practices

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Here are the top 12 surveys best practices to assist in building your survey. elevenX has these best practices after sending 100K + surveys and compiled over years of delivering successful surveys. While seemingly basic, we are surprised at how often we see these rules broken, weakening survey performance:

  1. Be brief.  There is a reason this is first.

This applies to every marketing message.  You are competing for readers’ valuable attention; don’t waste it on fluff. The fewer the questions, the more responses you will get.  

    1. Limit survey questions to <10 (<7 is better).
    2. Never ask questions just to satisfy your curiosity.  For EVERY question, have a well-defined plan to use the responses.
    3. When possible, ask questions when freshest in your respondent’s minds (e.g. web survey at the time of online purchase to measure satisfaction with the ordering process).  
    4. Get a few tidbits now; take another bite at the apple later.
  1. Introduce the survey.

    Explain why you are asking your questions (in terms of the benefits for responding), and how responses will be used. People appreciate understanding the reason for the survey.

  2. Ask the most important questions first.

    Responders may not get to later questions or lose interest.

  3. Know as much about your audience as possible (segment) beforehand. 

    This will allow you to ask more concise and relevant questions. As an example, you wouldn’t ask a teenager about Medicare supplement insurance, nor 65-year-olds about the high school electives they plan to take in the coming semester.

  4. Avoid emotionally charged and “leading” survey questions.

    Question phrasing can influence results (e.g. Consider “Describe your purchase experience” instead of “How fantastic was your purchase experience?”).

  5. Make it easy to respond.

    If online, the fewer clicks, the better.  If direct mail, include a self-addressed postage paid envelope. Make sure the survey is responsive to mobile devices.

  6. Make questions easy to understand. If people get confused, they bail.

    1. No Jargon (unless you are SURE that your audience understands it).
    2. Find a proofreader (for spelling, grammar, and readability) who does not know your business, so that they are not skewed by insider knowledge.
  7. Never ask questions if you already know the answers or can get them easily elsewhere.

    Doing so communicates that you do not know your audience, or that you are not very resourceful.

  8. Always use a consistent scale – and explain what each selection means.

    1. If using a 1-5 scale, describe what each number represents, and keep it the same throughout your survey.
  9. Always make sure that all possible options are represented.

    What is missing below? We forgot about people ages 21-24!

    Is your age:

    1. 0-5 years
    2. 6-10 years
    3. 11-15 years
    4. 16-20 years
    5. 25+ years
  10. Thank respondents for participating and share the results with them when you are done (if possible).

    People appreciate when the loop is closed.

  11. To improve response, strategically consider offering premiums (or an entry to a drawing) for participation.  This can improve the survey response rate by 30% or more in our tests.

As you begin to survey your customers or prospects, start slow and small.  The data and processes can be more challenging than anticipated. Begin with a few questions to verify the direction for the survey effort and move to expand as processes, reporting and data are in place.  Work your way up to more complex measurement, questions, and data segmentation.

At elevenX, we have created surveys for service experiences, sales experiences, full customer experience monitoring, and quick one-off experiential measurement. We are excited to assist you in your next project.  If you have questions, we are here to help.

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