Best Practices for Creating Surveys
By now you should be sold on the benefits of surveying your customers and understand how to set up a survey for free using Google Forms.
However, you might find creating your first survey to be more difficult than you expect. If you’re running a survey with thousands of respondents, you should consider hiring professional researchers to craft and deliver a survey that will get the right results.
For small businesses on a limited budget, however, it probably makes sense to do it yourself. Here are some guidelines to help make your survey successful.
Write Your Objectives
Before you begin writing questions, consider what your objectives are. Identify specific goals for your survey and know in advance what kind of response data will be most useful. Having these things done in advance will help you create questions that provide good value and skip ones that won’t be actionable.
For example, your objective might be “to understand why our business is slow on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and determine how to increase business on those days”. Once you have set a goal, you will know what kinds of questions you should include.
Create a Survey Outline
Create a survey outline after coming up with your objective(s). Think about the chronology of your survey and the order in which you should ask questions to get the right data.
This is a good time to think about if you’re going to segment your survey audience. If you want to ask some questions only to parents, for example, you’ll need to create a question to separate your audience and show parent-related questions only to parents. You can then apply skip logic to your survey.
Creating an outline in advance also helps you determine how to break your survey up into sections rather than present it as one long page.
Don’t Ask Leading Questions or Provide Leading Answers
Since you want to know what your customers really think, avoid asking questions that will lead them to a particular answer.
For example, if you were to ask the following: “Our company prides itself on its award-winning service. How would you rate our service?”
By setting things up this way, your initial statement plants an idea in the customer’s mind and makes them less likely to select a low rating. And while that can be good for your ego, it doesn’t really provide useful data.
You should also strive to avoid leading answers, and balance the response options. Consider these sample answers to the same question:
- It’s the best!
- It’s really good
- It’s good
- It’s above average
- It’s not that good
These answers include one below-average rating. While the results might make you feel good inside, they won’t provide actionable intelligence to improve your business.
Use Ratings Scales People Can Easily Understand
Some survey questions can be difficult to answer and, as a result, lead to false results. For example, if a survey were to ask a person how many times they eat out per year, that would be really hard to answer, and their subsequent guess could be wildly inaccurate.
Instead, if the survey asked how many times they eat out per week, it would be easier respond with a fairly accurate number.
Similarly, if you ask someone to ‘rank from 1-5,’ it’s helpful to explain the criteria someone should use to choose their response. Saying 1 is the worst and 5 is the best is a good start, but also giving some guidance for 2-4 will give you more accurate data.
Don’t Use Insider Terms or Jargon
There are lots of terms business owners use that only make sense to people in the business. Restaurants use the term “front of the house” and “back of the house” to segment their employees.
If your customers aren’t familiar with this term, they’ll be befuddled by a survey that asks “How friendly are our front-of-the-house employees”?
Also, avoid using acronyms without explaining what they mean. Don’t ask people about your TRZ services—be sure to explain it fully.
Randomize Response Order
Randomize the order of survey responses in multiple-choice questions when the answers aren’t on a scale or chronological. This helps prevent an answer from being selected most just because it’s listed first.
For example, if your question is “What is the primary reason you buy from us rather than a competitor?”, use answer randomization. Randomization is available in most survey tools (including Google Forms) and will rotate which order answers are shown.
Consider Both Closed-ended and Open-ended Questions
Closed-ended questions are ones that have specific answers such as yes/no, the year you were born, and the number of times you eat out per month. Most survey questions are closed-ended because you can easily compare the data you get from them. Think multiple choice questions.
Open-ended questions are ones in which the respondent has to give a full, reasoned answer. Think questions that are answered in phrases, sentences or paragraphs.
When used correctly, open-ended questions can enhance a survey by generating ideas that you haven’t considered before.
Expand Yes/No Questions
Whenever your survey asks a question with a simple yes/no answer, consider if you can expand the question to get more granular data.
Think about the question “Are you likely to recommend our business to a friend?”
The answer could be a simple yes/no question, but you can learn more by asking “how likely” with these answers:
- Very likely
- Somewhat likely
- Neither likely/unlikely
- Somewhat unlikely
- Very unlikely
The better the options you give, the more useful the data will be.
Only Ask Questions that You Can Act Upon
The shorter your survey the more likely it is that people will complete it. With this in mind, try to ask only the questions that will give you actionable intelligence. Don’t ask questions that won’t generate data you can use.
Test Your Survey First
Even if you think your survey through and follow these guidelines, it’s likely that some people will misinterpret some of your questions. This will be obvious after the first dozen or so people respond to the survey.
With this in mind, send your survey to 10 or 20 trusted friends or customers first. Ask them to let you know if they were confused by any questions or have feedback.
The benefits of surveying your customers are big, so don’t be intimidated. Just put a bit of extra prep work into creating your survey so you get the results that will help your business.
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