You’ve decided to launch a survey to get some feedback from your clientele. You’re off to a great start. After all, surveys are a great way to assess and quantify your audience’s perceptions and behaviors of your product, services, or organization. But are you asking the wrong questions?
I’ve seen clients launch surveys only to be met with ambiguous responses. Upon deeper inspection, their survey questions, while thoughtful, did not lend themselves to organic and objective answers. Fortunately, some careful revision in survey language can make all the difference between a good survey and an excellent one.
Here are some things to avoid and exclude when writing effective survey questions:
1. Emotional and Complicated Language
Instead of: “Do you easily feel impacted by the new time-saving technology of our convenient services?”
Try: “Do you feel impacted by our new line of services?”
Think of it this way: In a survey, you’re essentially having a conversation with your target audience. So what’s the best way to collect honest and useful information from a conversation: using lengthy, flowery language or asking simple and easy-to-understand questions?
The best survey questions are short, straightforward, and free from any sort of emotional language that can unnaturally sway opinion. Use plain language, short sentences, and avoid unnecessary adverbs and adjectives, particularly ones that can evoke any sort of positive or negative connotation.
2. Assumptions/Your Own Opinions
Instead of: “Knowing that our company has earned numerous awards in customer satisfaction, how would you rank the performance of our sales team?”
Try: “On a scale of 1-5, how would you rank the performance of our sales team?”
Don’t make assumptions about your audience unless you can back them up with preexisting data. Ensure that your questions get straight to the point. In order to curtail researcher bias, read the questions aloud and examine if they fail to express neutrality.
3. Double-Barreled Questions
Instead of: “Are you satisfied by and would recommend our new product to others?”
Try: “How would you rate your satisfaction with our product?” “Would you recommend our new product to others?”
If your survey question can be separated into two entirely different questions, then it should be. Make sure that every question drives inquiry into a single, unique topic. Exercise caution and mindfulness with regards to conjunctions such as “and”.
4. Qualifying Instead of Quantifying
Instead of: “Do you agree or disagree with the following statement?”
Try: “On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being ‘strongly agree’ and 5 being ‘strongly disagree’, how would you rate your agreement with the following statement?”
Most surveys involve a combination of questions measuring quantitative and qualitative data. While the latter can easily be achieved via open-ended text fields, the former often requires strategic implementation. Consider adding net promoter scores to your survey language in order to tangibly measure responses.
5. Lack of Examples/Definitions
Instead of: “Do you prefer tablets or smartphones?”
Try: “Do you prefer tablets (i.e. iPad, Kindle, Pixel C) or smartphones (i.e. iPhone, Android, etc.)?
You want your survey questions to be as clear and concise as possible, but sometimes explanations bring about greater clarity. Don’t assume that your audience knows exactly the point you’re trying to get across. Provide examples and definitions where appropriate.
Simple, straightforward, and objectively-written survey questions will give you the honest and open responses that you’re looking for.