The Responsibility of Inviting Feedback

Have you ever had a discussion during which a friend asks for your thoughts on a particular issue? You think carefully and provide the best advice you can muster.  Your friend “listens” and, when you are done says, “Yeah, but I think I am going to go ahead and…”  You think to yourself, “Why did you ask my opinion if you already knew what you were going to do?”

When friends engage in this behavior it can be a mere annoyance, but when you engage in this behavior with your customers it can be detrimental to the relationship.  Obtaining feedback from your customers is an awesome responsibility.

While you cannot and should not comply with the opinion of every person who participates in your surveys, you should go into the initiative with an open mind, prepared to change positions and alter your approach.  What you thought your customers needed may not in fact be the case.  The rewards program you were planning to end may be a greater draw than you previously anticipated.  The factors that you thought motivated your employees may not matter after all.  Be prepared to revise the plan.  Otherwise, why are you even asking for feedback?

The Fine Art of Email Delivery

You built a survey so powerful that you sent test invites to all of your colleagues with the subject line, “Look How Amazing Linda Is!”  Your colleagues agreed, so you’re ready to launch your organization’s annual compliance study.  It is imperative that everyone participates because the data obtained must be shared with the federal government. This survey is a big deal.

Before you hit the “Send” button, however, ask yourself if you developed a launch plan and attended to the email delivery logistics.  If this sounds unfamiliar, here’s what you should do:

a) Determine a date and time to launch the survey, and inform prospective participants that the survey will be released then.  This way, people know to expect a survey and can contact you if they don’t receive it.

b) Inform the company’s email administrator that you’re planning to launch a survey and provide the specific date and time in advance.

c) Present the email administrator with the Zarca Readiness Plan.  This document includes valuable information to ensure email delivery.

d) After the Readiness Plan is implemented, confirm with the email administrator that both Zarca’s mail server and application server are white-listed.  (Essentially, you’re looking for a “yes” to both items.)

e) Speak with the email administrator about threshold limits to determine the number of emails the mail server is prepared to process at one time.  If you’re planning to send a survey to 10,000 people and the threshold limit is 500 per hour, you’ll need to consult with the email administrator regarding the launch plan.

Once the launch plan is in place and you’ve sorted out the logistics, send the survey to yourself and your colleagues.  Participate in the test run to ensure that everything goes smoothly and according to plan.  Once you’ve confirmed that everything works properly, distribute your survey.

Good luck and happy surveying!

Battle of the Features: Branching vs. Question Display Logic

In a platform as robust as Zarca’s, with a breadth of features not available in most online survey solutions, we occasionally encounter a question about “redundant features.”  This question often arises with respect to my two favorite features — Branching and Question Display Logic.  While these features may be similar in concept, they each perform distinct functions, giving the survey creator an opportunity to enhance surveys in unique ways.


Branching, also known as Skip Logic, is a feature that allows survey creators to determine the questions that participants should and should not see based on previously answered questions.  For example, if a survey contains a question about the highest level of education you have achieved and you respond by stating you earned a bachelor’s degree, you should not be prompted with additional questions about the experience of receiving a doctorate.  Branching ensures that participants do not have to see questions that are not applicable to their circumstances. This further ensures that the survey creator will receive the best data possible.

When implementing the Branching feature, the survey creator must direct the participant from one survey page to another.  Based on how a participant answers a question on one page, he/she may be directed to another page for a series of follow-up questions.  For this reason, we say that Branching is “page-to-page dynamic.”

Question Display Logic

Question Display Logic (QDL) is similar to Branching in concept because it allows the survey creator to display certain questions based on how participants respond to preceding questions. Unlike Branching, however, QDL is not page-to-page dynamic.  With QDL, the follow-up question will pop up on the same page.  For example, if a survey contains a question asking the participant to rate the quality of a conference, and the participant selects “Poor,” the QDL feature can prompt a text box to appear immediately below the original question. The participant can then offer additional feedback and further explain their selection.

When survey creators ask me, “Which feature should I use?” I share the following tip:  If you are asking multiple follow-up questions that are best placed on a page by themselves, use Branching.  If, however, you are simply looking for a simple response to a single follow-up question, use Question Display Logic.

Happy surveying!

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!

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!