All Question Types Are Not Created Equal

Despite what your primary school teachers may have told you, there is such a thing as a bad question — especially when it comes to surveying.  The type and quality of the questions you ask will determine the type of data you receive, which ultimately determines the quality of the reports you create.  Good questions mean good data.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when creating survey questions:

1. If you want only one response to a question, do not give participants the opportunity to select more than one option.

2.When creating a rating scale question, consider making the scale smaller, not larger.  On a scale of 1 – 10, no one really knows the difference between a “9” and a “10.”  You will get more definitive data with a smaller scale.

3. Remember GIGO – Garbage In, Garbage Out.  If you ask participants to enter a certain kind of information but provide them with open space and no formatting parameters, the participant can enter anything.  For example, if you ask me for my annual salary in an employee survey, but you only provide an open-ended text box, what is to stop me from entering a bunch of &*%^ (junk) symbols?  Format the text boxes to receive certain kinds of data — numbers, percentages, ZIP Codes, Social Security numbers, etc.

4. Don’t double dip when writing your questions.  Double dipping is when you combine two questions into one.  For example:  On a scale of 1 – 5, rate the quality of the hotel accommodations and the cost for the perceived value.  What does the participant do if the hotel was amazing but not worth $600 per night?  Create separate questions for each item.

These are just a few helpful hints as you build your surveys.  Happy questioning!

Mama Always Said, “Box is Like a Life of Chocolates”

Did you ever have one of those moments when you have the exact, perfect thing to say — a hilarious quip, a snappy comeback, the answer to a Jeopardy question — but you get so excited to shout it out that when it leaves your lips the words fall out completely wrong. Don’t worry; it happens to me all the time.

If it’s just your friends who think you’re lame, that’s fine. But what about when your little mistake is sent to thousands of your colleagues, clients or prospects? Not as easy to say, “Oops.”

You can save yourself a lot of hassle just by taking the time to proofread your work. Unfortunately, proofreading is a lost art for two main reasons:

1. Spell Check — I’d argue that spell check has caused more embarrassing typos than it has saved. It’s a great feature but should not be used as a substitute for the old “once over.” Spell check won’t notice that you used the wrong “their” or missed a word, but other people will.

2. Haste — Reading and rereading takes time. So it really comes down to a simple question: Do you want it done now, or do you want it done right?

So slow down. Before you hit Send or (God forbid) “Reply All,” take a minute to check your work.  Remember, the Zarca platform includes a built-in spell check, plus you can always speak to a client representative about any concerns. Even though you can still edit your survey text once it’s live, have someone proofread it before hundreds of others get their hands on it.  You won’t receive compliments for your impeccable use of punctuation, but you’re not going to lose credibility either.

The Art of the Employee Survey

It’s 9:47 on a Tuesday morning.  You and your colleagues are gathered in the conference room brainstorming how you are going to create the new employee study requested by the CEO.  There have been some stirrings in the company about satisfaction levels, opportunities for improvement and a lack of corporate efficiency.  But before contacting vendors for project quotes, it is important to consider a few issues.

While you may have a general idea of what you want, make sure that you have a clear understanding of your project’s purpose.  Do you want to conduct a satisfaction study or an engagement study? 

Employee Engagement

Employee engagement is defined as the heightened connection that employees associate with their jobs. This association influences them to apply additional effort for the company. The predecessor to engagement studies were employee satisfaction studies, which simply explored the question, “Is the employee satisfied with her job?”  As satisfaction studies evolved, researchers realized that a significant piece of the puzzle was missing.

Employee Satisfaction

An employee can be satisfied with having a comfortably air-conditioned office, sufficient coffee supplies in the break room and a consistent paycheck.  None of these items, however, leads the employee to apply additional, discretionary efforts to her job.  She won’t necessarily work diligently to help the company meet its bottom line, if she is just satisfied with status quo.  Thus, satisfaction is a limited measure.

Reporting Considerations

In addition to the type of employee surveys you would like to conduct, think about the kind of information you want to see in the reports.  The best way to answer, “What do we ask in the survey?” is to determine the information you want to obtain from the reports.

How are you going to distribute the survey to your employees? Are there staff members who do not use their email on a regular basis?  If so, perhaps you should consider providing an email, paper and/or telephone option to accommodate all employees.

You might also consider if the survey should be conducted in multiple languages, the time of year it will be distributed, and how employees will be notified that the survey is on its way.  Remember, the pre-survey communication effort is just as important as the survey itself.

The possibilities are quite extensive but with the right partner firm and a clear sense of direction, you will succeed!

Show Them You’re Listening

On any given day, I have more survey requests in my inbox than I know what to do with.  As a consumer, if I can offer my opinion to a company that I do business with, I will.  I look at it as a way to improve my future experiences, plus it sends me a clear message — help us help you.

Businesses are interacting with consumers like never before. Software and technology have evolved to the point where businesses can reach out to their consumers in an instant and direct way. Social networking, Twitter, email and text messaging all give your business the unprecedented access of having your finger on the pulse of a target audience.

Unfortunately, as a consumer, I rarely hear about the findings or conclusions from the many surveys I complete.  How do I know if the valuable feedback I’m providing is read by anyone or even taken seriously?  If I knew that my feedback would lead to a better customer experience, I would be much more motivated to participate in these surveys.

Well, smart companies are beginning to address these concerns.  Survey software has advanced so much that we can easily highlight intricate trends and details.  No longer do you have to be an Excel or SPSS savant to create a quality report.  The hours spent on Excel, or your enterprise system, are not necessary anymore; that onerous work is obsolete, expensive and resource-heavy.  Companies can now easily manage their image, message and brand through direct customer feedback.

Survey software has made it possible for companies to demonstrate an appreciation for their most precious asset of all — their consumers.  Do you consider your company a good listener?  Tell me how you express an appreciation for customers.

How to Maximize your Survey Benefits

In my final post on participation rates, I’d like to explore the role of benefits. Benefits are any advantage a person thinks will result from completing a survey.  Examples of benefits can include anything from feel-good emotions to material rewards.  Because we don’t always know what every participant perceives as a benefit, how can we maximize survey results and appeal to everyone?

It is important to understand that benefits are usually less obvious to a person than the cost of completing a survey.  Costs occur as soon as a survey arrives in your inbox, whereas benefits are enjoyed in the future.  We must help people see that the long-term benefits are worth the short-term costs.

There are a few steps we can take to highlight a participant’s benefits:

  • Begin pre-survey communications several weeks before the survey period.  Not only do these communications provide basic information about the survey, but they also give information about the kinds of decisions that will be made — thereby highlighting the potential benefit.
  • Provide examples of past surveys that led to a specific change. These changes are tangible benefits that participants can relate to.
  • Personalize the survey invitations, along with the survey itself.  Include a participant’s first and last name when possible.
  •  Include images and videos in your survey.  Color and sounds help to make the survey come alive and feel “more real.”
  • Report the findings of the survey and explain how those findings will be used. Take every chance you can to show how the voice of your constituents is having an impact on business decisions.

This last step is particularly important because it proves that you value your respondents. Participants want to know that they didn’t waste their time, and that their voices are being heard.  If you follow all these steps, you should soon see an increase in your survey participation rate!

Thanks for reading my posts about Maximizing Survey Participation!

What’s the Real Value of Your Time?

I have already talked about how to understand survey motivation by using a cost-benefit analysis.  In this post, I will focus on the individual costs and how they affect a person’s motivation.

Some of the normal costs an individual encounters when participating in a survey include time, effort, and convenience.  If survey administrators don’t take these costs into consideration, it is immediately obvious to a participant! Our job is to decrease the costs as much as possible and increase participation rates.

Sounds pretty easy, right?

Remember, surveys should require as little time and effort to complete as possible.  Access to the survey should be easy and submitting a completed survey should require just one click.

Here are some helpful hints to minimize costs and prove that you value constituent feedback:

  • Provide direct access to the survey.  This is becoming easier with the Internet.  Emails can be sent to prospective respondents, a post can be added to Facebook, and results can be tweeted.  The difficult part is deciding the best way to connect!
  • Provide alternative access to the survey.  Not everyone has access to a computer, iPad, or smartphone.  Try working with community organizations to provide convenient access at places like churches, schools, and grocery stores.
  • Keep surveys short. Participants should be able to complete the survey within 5 to 7 minutes.
  • Use simple language. Surveys must be written in a way that avoids complex terminology or jargon. This will prevent frustration and drop-outs.
  • Protect your respondents’ private information and ensure that it will not be shared. Use your pre-survey communication to let participants know what kind of privacy settings are in place — if they know their responses are anonymous, they’re much more likely to give candid feedback.
  • Provide any necessary information about specific topics or questions before the survey period begins.

Following these steps will go a long way toward reducing personal costs; however, decreased costs are just part of the equation.  Next time, I’ll talk about the benefits of participation.


Want to learn more? Please read my report: Maximizing Survey Participation

What Survey Responses Have in common with Party Attendance

At Zarca Interactive, we talk a lot about driving up survey response rates. Sometimes it reminds me of my Sweet Sixteen party (I know, you’re thinking how’s that possible, read on, please). Surveys and parties are quite similar. You have to plan both carefully and every detail counts: the type of party (survey types), the guest list and invites (who to invite, how to invite), the decor and ambiance (look & feel), the activities (questions), and the thank yous (thank yous).

Despite how popular you are (or think you are), everyone does not want to go to your party. Sure, there are always the guests who show up just for the sake of partying. But for most people, they need to have a reason.The same can be said for your survey. Whether you are a Fortune 500 or a small non-profit, your survey response rates are not what they should be. To avoid feeling like that girl with only five people at her Sweet Sixteen, you have to analyze and plan for your invitees.

First, you need to minimize the cost for invitees. Make your surveys easy to find, easy to answer, and easy to finish. No matter how great your survey is (or you think it is), if it’s too far away, too boring, and too long, most people won’t bother.

Even more important, you need to give them a reason to show up. Are you giving away incentives? Using their feedback to make a great new product or improve a service? Tell them from the get-go. If you make the survey experience more about them, they will be more motivated to participate.

Remember, parties (and surveys) are never fun when they are all about the host!

How are you getting invitees to show up to your survey?