Making a List, Checking it Twice

It’s the time of the year when everyone is making lists. From errands to shopping, if your to-do list is anything like mine, then it’s probably quite long. But — while lists are an effective way of organizing and planning — being able to access all of your information from an easily manageable central repository makes lists even more useful.

And, as a feature of our Engage platform, Contact Manager more than meets your list-making needs.

If you aren’t using Contact Manager, then you should begin because lists are a huge time saver. Not only can you send surveys to all of your contacts, selected contacts or random contacts, but just like your personal address book or rotary file, you can also add particular details to each contact.

And if you already have a contact list in Excel, no problem. Simply upload the file, and let our system do all of the work.

Once you have created your lists, make sure you periodically update them. The system will rate each of your lists based on their quantity (the number of contacts) and quality (active, bounced or unsubscribed addresses). This system allows you to easily edit or remove any outdated or unnecessary information.

With a clean and up-to-date list, you can tackle your next survey launch with the same ease and organization as Little Saint Nick!

Share the Wealth

My team members and I are big fans of the music streaming service Spotify. We’re always sending each other new songs or building playlists together. This is because Spotify makes it easy for users to find and share exciting music — both new and old.

Like Spotify, our Engage platform has a number of innovative features that make it easy for our users to share and collaborate with friends, colleagues and supervisors. You can email one of our dazzling reports, as well as post a link to it on your Facebook and Twitter pages. Sharing reports is a great way to keep team members up to date on the progress of your survey responses because they can view data and statistics in real time.

In addition to these features, you can also give your users a high-level overview of your results by posting charts on your account page. This is a great way to display demographic information such as age range and residency, among others.

The built-in sharing functionality of our platform increases workplace efficiency, productivity and collaboration, while promoting transparency and trust among customers and clients. Creating a culture around information sharing empowers decision-making based on verifiable results.

So what are you waiting for? Don’t just use our platform to design, distribute and analyze your surveys; use it to share the wealth!

Let’s Settle This

I remember a time in AP U.S. History when Lake — my only classmate who could grow a beard — decided to survey the class on whether or not he should shave it. Everyone chimed in — shave it, don’t shave it or make it into a crazy design. In Zarca terms, he conducted a public survey using a radio button question with an “other” option.

Since I work at a survey company, I tend to think about surveys more than most people. And, like Lake, I know that surveys are powerful and valuable, no matter how they’re being used. In my office, we use surveys to settle just about anything.


We take the awkwardness out of remembering if our colleagues prefer brownies, cake or ice-cream cake by sending a survey to new team members. After all, it would be quite embarrassing to get an ice-cream cake for someone who is lactose intolerant.

Naming Spaces

After repurposing some office space, we decided to name the new work area.* Instead of lengthy debates and potential conflicts, we conducted a survey to narrow down the potential names and another one to pick a winner.

*This post is proudly brought to you from “The Lab.”


During our Chili Cook-Off, team members taste-tested eight different types of chili. The winners were chosen via a survey that utilized unique URLs, anonymity and a ranking question. No ballot-box stuffing allowed!

General Debates

When colleagues can’t seem to agree on wall art, who makes the best music or where to have lunch, we use surveys to settle things fairly.

Surveying is a powerful way to acquire and disseminate information. And there’s nothing wrong with using our Engage platform to have a little fun, too. When you want reliable data — no matter what that data is — surveys or polls are the way to go!

Dig a Little Deeper

Living at home with your teenage brother has its perks — well, for him. Being a doting sister, I drive him to practice, bake him cookies and sometimes search his messy room for the “Orange Rocket” diagrams he forgot to take to school.

When he asked me to find them, I looked high and low. During my search, which went on way too long, I found some trash — namely, granola bar wrappers and empty Gatorade bottles. I also found things I didn’t want to see such as an AP Language quiz with a few too many red marks and, of course, more trash.

Surprisingly, I also found the Ray-Ban sunglasses he thought were lost and calculus homework (which was beyond my comprehension) that he scored a perfect grade on. All these disparate items were just lying around waiting to be discovered. Looking for my brother’s diagrams in a sea of papers, trash and dirty clothes was a lot like reading open-ended responses in surveys.

Even with features to prevent GIGO, some responses will still be useless junk. There will also be a few candid comments you won’t expect, yet provide helpful feedback nonetheless. But — buried beneath it all — you’ll discover some incredibly useful insights that validate your excavation efforts.

With open-ended responses, you may not always find exactly what you’re looking for (my brother had the diagrams the whole time), but allowing your participants to provide open feedback will give you a more substantial understanding of your respondents and a better idea of what’s working and what’s not.

Engage and Innovate

I love talking about our office projects and events, especially when I discuss how we use our survey platform, Engage, to plan nearly everything. As a member of the Happiness Committee and Product Committee, I see firsthand how useful Engage is — it allows you to keep everybody informed and organized.

Recently, the Happiness Committee, or “HapCom,” planned an internal Chili Cook-Off. So I created a survey that served as a registration page for people who wanted to make chili and those who would bring side items. During the event, I distributed a survey asking my colleagues to rank their favorite chili recipes. And, when voting was done, I ran a quick Bar Graph report that let me almost instantly determine the contest winners.

As a member of the Product Committee, or “ProdCom” as I like to call it, I’m the point of contact for all feature requests and system issues for clients and employees. To streamline the process of recording and sending these requests to our engineering team, I created a form that everyone can use. By enabling Rules & Alerts, I receive a copy of every submitted ticket, which I then send to the engineers. I use the collected data to trace ticket origins and filter responses based on request types. This becomes incredibly useful when we’re choosing features for the next release.

While these are definitely innovative uses of our survey platform, by far the most “important” way we use surveys internally is to stock our snack closet. Every two months, our administrative assistant sends a multiple text box question to the entire office asking for our snack requests. She then runs a verbatim report and uses the responses as the shopping list.

Honestly, I love having Engage as an internal resource — we’re always finding inventive ways to use the platform. I encourage you to also “engage” and innovate.

Off the Beaten Path

Exploration is the act of searching or traveling around a terrain for the purpose of discovering resources or information.

Many times, we are afraid to explore anything new or unfamiliar. Whether it’s because of a fear of failure or a lack of experience, we often fall into easy and comfortable patterns, especially when it comes to new technologies.

Although our Engage platform is quite intuitive, some clients haven’t taken full advantage of its best features, resulting in more work than is necessary.

For instance, I sometimes get calls from users afraid to explore the Export Manager Tab. Why, they ask, are their multiple-select check box answers clumped into one cell in the file when they run Response Table reports and export to Excel?

The answer is that they’re making extra work for themselves. If you simply want to view responses in Excel, just venture over to the Export Manager tab and use the Excel button.

Forcing yourself to investigate unknown sections of the platform, like the Training Tab or the User Guide, can end up making your life much easier. You may even find that utilizing our Power Reports or List Manager could save you and your company hours of work.

Now, go forth and explore!

Sometimes, It IS Complicated

February’s here. And for the shortest month of the year, there’s plenty going on. There’s the Super Bowl, Groundhog Day, Mardi Gras and Presidents’ Day. But everyone knows Valentine’s Day is the most important day of the month.

It’s the day people either love, or love to hate.

When I think of Valentine’s Day, I think back to third grade. My teacher would force us to create cards for everyone in our class, make little mailboxes and walk around the class delivering the cards we’d made. I didn’t realize it at the time, but Valentine’s Day was also the first time I participated in a survey.

As I walked around making special deliveries, my friend Brittany handed me a piece of wide-ruled notebook paper with one scribbled question:

Do you like Evan?

  • Yes
  • No

I checked “No,” and gave it back to her. Weeks later, Evan started “dating” Emily. I was heartbroken.

If I were to design that survey today, I would use one of my favorite features, Question Display Logic. That way, when I selected “No,” a text box would appear allowing me to explain why — that my other friend Sara already called dibs on Evan, and I was bound by the code of friendship, despite my true feelings. Remember, I was in third grade.

Surveys don’t have to be long and complicated. But if you’re asking Rating or Yes/No questions, it’s a good idea to allow respondents to explain their answers further. Understanding the reasoning and context of certain answers paints a more complete picture of the respondent — giving survey creators and takers some needed nuance.

Because sometimes it is complicated.

A Brave New World

I love all types of science fiction. From fantasy sci-fi to hardcore sci-fi, from Dr. Who to Children of Men, the best science fiction tells us something about who we are and where we hope to be. When I first read about prominent futurist Ray Kurzweil, he seemed like a quack straight from a cheesy sci-fi movie. Among other things, Kurzweil has predicted the integration of nanotechnology with humans, leading to our eventual immortality.

This seems crazy until you consider the number of events Kurzweil has correctly predicted, and that Google has hired him as their new Director of Engineering. In this role, he is working on a new search engine that uses artificial intelligence to answer questions before you ask them. According to Google Chairman Eric Schmidt:

This friend of yours, this cybernetic friend, that knows that you have certain questions about certain health issues or business strategies. And, it can then be canvassing all the new information that comes out in the world every minute and then bring things to your attention without you asking about them.”

Depending on your bent, this is either very exciting or very frightening. But the line “bring things to your attention without you asking . . . ” did make me think of the many ways we already rely on this type of technology.

The Zarca platform has characteristics of a “cybernetic friend” as it is smart and intuitive enough to prevent you from making survey design mistakes, protecting the integrity of your data.

The platform intelligently prevents ballot-box stuffing, uses data validation to prevent GIGO and utilizes true anonymity to encourage participants to provide better feedback.

While not the cybernetic best friend of Kurzweil’s musings, the platform is more like a parent who won’t let you enter text into a numerical allocation box, or stops some troll from skewing your results by taking the survey 50 times.

I’m not sure what the world will look like 20 years from now, but with quantum computers, self-driving cars, virtual reality glasses and survey platforms that “care” about the integrity of your results, we’re headed toward a brave new world indeed.

Survey Security, Minus the Pat-Down

Getting the old holiday pat-down by a TSA agent last month got me thinking about security.  Here at Zarca Interactive, the protection of your data is our top priority.  We’ve recently moved to a highly secure office space and installed high-resolution cameras within our office to ensure that your data has more protection than Britain’s Crown Jewels.  Our safeguards are in place, but are you doing everything possible to ensure the safety of your survey data?

Enabling SSL (Secured Socket Layer) in your surveys adds an extra layer of encryption to all transmitted data.  SSL is essentially the TSA of the online domain.  It serves as a checkpoint, only allowing your participant’s browser and our web servers to interact after we have given proof of our authenticated SSL certificate.

The SSL feature enables a uniquely encrypted channel for private communications. When participants submit their survey responses, you can rest assured that nobody’s eyes but yours will see the data — you get full-scale security without the full-body pat-down.

Planning Ahead with the Survey Calendar

My 2012 New Year’s resolution is to become more organized.  This year I’ve made a conscious decision to clean my desk, make my to-do lists, and start thinking one step ahead.  Just as our personal lives need an occasional re-examination, a survey project also needs a well-defined plan and basic organization to be successful.

Zarca Interactive makes it easy to organize your survey from creation to deployment with the Survey Calendar.  The Survey Calendar helps you create a strategic plan, which answers several important questions about each survey, including the intended audience, the department(s) involved, and what will be included in the final report.  Not only does the Survey Calendar make it easy to plan ahead, it ensures that you won’t over-survey any of your participants.

Once you’ve created a calendar of survey deadlines, you’ll be able to see whether you risk over-surveying.  If one department is planning to send three client satisfaction surveys each month, and a manager is going to send bi-weekly post-event surveys, your participants will quickly suffer from survey fatigue and stop responding altogether.  Begin planning every project on the Survey Calendar, and watch your response rates soar!

Stop wasting your time trying to organize the details of each survey by hand.  Just like my desk dividers, pencil holders and daily planners are helping me manage a variety of projects in 2012, the Survey Calendar is a powerful tool that will improve the way you approach each new survey.