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What better way to gather business insight than to run a survey? From polling customers to scoping the mood of your employees, surveys are a powerful tool.
Well, yes. Though it’s not quite as simple as pushing a survey out in the hope that searing insights will flood in. Nope, to get good quality, super-useful survey data requires preparation.
In this post, we’ve outlined our three steps to designing better surveys; we hope you find them useful.
Step 1: What do you want to know?
Before you plan your survey, decide on your objectives. As with any undertaking, the greater the clarity about your end goal, the greater your chance of achieving it.
We often find our clients have a fair idea of what’s going on. They have a suspicion about X, or are already aware of an issue around Y. The survey results may not be a complete surprise, then. Rather, they help clarify whether it’s X or Y at play.
Some example objectives include:
- For customer feedback – do we deliver a good service? (You may be after some metrics / targets)
- How are our customers getting on with our-new-best-ever-product-4.0?
- What’s behind our loyal customers?
With employee surveys – objectives are likely to be more woolly, for example:
- What is it like to work here?
- Are we happier than last year?
- How good is our employee engagement? Is it different for this year’s new intake compared to other staff?
- What do people think of the new WFH / flexible working arrangements? How can we make it work better?
Being clear on your objectives will help you decide what questions to include in your survey.
A word on survey length
We’re often asked by clients, “How long should my survey be?”
That depends on your objectives.
Our advice is shorter is better, but don’t get hung up on a maximum number of questions. If you have two or more objectives, do they make sense in the same survey?
What is crucial, is that you set expectations for the respondents upfront. Be clear about why you are asking for input and what you’d like to achieve (and for the respondents – is this a quick survey, or needs 10+ minutes). When you know what you want, it’s far easier to communicate it to others.
Step 2: What will happen after?
To prepare a great survey, you’ll also need to think about what you’d like to happen after the survey is complete. This goes hand in hand with the consideration given to objectives and can be summed up in the deceptively simple question what do you want to know and what do you want to do about it?
If something is nice to know but not really going to be used, do you really need to include it?
Think ahead to how the results of the survey will be reported, and to whom.
- Do you need to breakdown results by type of customer / employee department, etc. for comparisons? Do you need to collect any of this data in the survey to view these breakdowns?
- Who gets the results? Will individual teams receive their results? How do they use them?
- What about the comments? Could some comments be more valuable (or sensitive) than others? Will all comments be shared? With whom?
This step is really the second part of knowing your objectives. It will help clarify what questions or topics to include and help planning for the analysis and reporting after the survey has been run.
Should the survey be anonymous?
When surveying employees, the answer is almost definitely “Yes, your survey should be anonymous.”
In a customer survey, anonymity could be disadvantageous to the business. There is an opportunity to perform service recovery if you identify unhappy customers. Some of our most successful customer surveys pay for themselves many times over by helping the business identify and contact their customers at risk about issues raised in the survey.
There’s no right or wrong answer to anonymity – it depends on your objectives.
Step 3: Who are you asking?
You have your survey nailed down – what you want to know, how you plan to use the data and now the content of the survey is coming together. But who are your survey respondents?
You probably have a database in mind to grab all your customer records, or the HR system if it’s a staff survey. Great! Now check:
- Are you inviting everyone to take part? Are all records ‘active’ or relevant?
- Is this list everyone?
- Are there any people who should not be contacted? Your mailing lists should maintain suppression lists for spam complaints and other do not contact requests (also emails that are undeliverable). Remove these contacts!
- Do you have all the demographics you need for analysis?
Plan the comms early!
The survey needs promoting. The participants need to know “how do I take part?” and why is this important? (from their perspective – “what’s in it for me?”) Employees want reassurance of anonymity.
If using email, consider who the emails comes from.
Essentially, your survey needs a mini marketing campaign: introduce the survey and invite people to take part, Send reminders. For employee surveys especially, share status with areas and managers, discuss it in team briefings. Send more reminders. Can posters help? Say thank you, and when the survey is all wrapped up, share some findings or actions that came from the results.
We help you get the best from your surveys
From planning through to execution, each stage of a survey requires careful thought. Working with our clients, we’ll help you to discover key insights, supported by meaningful data. So, you’ll know where you’re at and have the information you need to go next.
Planning a survey? Contact us to discuss your project, we’d be happy to help.