These days, I’ve become a bit of a survey Scrooge. I've never minded filling out one or two in my spare time, but it seems every online business interaction has a survey component attached at the end. In just the past hour alone, I’ve been inundated with requests to fill out half a dozen surveys requesting feedback for everything from a recent doctor’s visit to how I’m enjoying a particular streaming music service or what I think about my last purchase of dental picks. Some web pages even require you to answer a survey question before you can access the page! Call me a curmudgeon, but this is extremely annoying.
Of course, I understand the reason for the proliferation in surveys. Market research, particularly conducting surveys, is a huge business in and of itself. According to ESOMAR, the global association for the research industry, the market generated approximately $57B worldwide in 2021.
The data culled from these surveys can be invaluable to supporting myriad business decisions, from company expansion strategies to inventory options to customer service. The ways in which survey data can inform are limitless.
But this data is only as good as the construction of the surveys they’re gathered from — in order to yield the best possible data, it’s important to keep your surveys clear, concise and customized for your specific purpose.
According to Dr. Marisa Maio Mackay, director of Complete the Picture Consulting, a strategy research analysis firm, these three C’s are key. Here are the questions Mackay says to keep in mind as you design your surveys:
Clear: What do you want to learn or find out about? From whom? How do you want to use the results?
Concise: Each question should be short. Use terms familiar to the respondent, and only ask about one aspect or feature at a time. Do not lead the respondent. Does the question help the company address the purpose of the survey? In addition, good flow — where the sections and questions follow a logical sequence for the respondent — is important.
Customization: If you need information on the same topic but from different stakeholders — for example, customers and employees — you must design separate surveys for those groups.
Of course, there’s much more to the fine art of designing surveys. After all, there are entire companies out there whose sole area of expertise is to design surveys to help you get the feedback you need. But if you’re considering deploying your own simple surveys to get started, I hope you find this helpful.