Proper Survey Construction

Begin With Your Plan To Use The ResultsSurvey Construction Checklist

It is convenient and tempting to begin your survey construction by choosing an online service like Survey Monkey or Zoomering as your first step in the process.  This gives you the satisfaction of feeling that you have gotten the project started.   You think all you have to do is “fill in the blanks” and click send.  Proper survey construction is like most things – success is based on proper planning.  To take a page from Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People:  Begin with the end in mind.   Habit #2 to be exact.  Don’t make the mistake of trying to formulate questions before you have your overall plan in place.  Your planning can begin by asking yourself a few questions:

  • What am I hoping to learn by conducting this survey?
  • Is this survey necessary, or can I obtain the information from other sources (sales results, stored customer information, etc)?
  • Have I determined alternative courses of action based on the results I obtain?

Here are some other tips for proper survey construction:

  1. Let the respondent know why you are seeking to obtain this information.  A good approach is to tell them you are seeking to improve your product, service, customer service, etc.  This increases the chances of getting engagement from the recipient.
  2. Keep the survey short – long surveys will likely not be filled out or the validity of the answers will tail off at the end.  The respondent will tend to rush their answers at the end, just to get done.  
  3. Start with an “easy” question – ideally one that is easy to answer.  This can be a yes/no question.  While basically a “throw away”, his will get the respondent engaged early.  This increases the chances they will complete the survey.
  4. Except for the “easy question” avoid Y/N questions.  Multiple choice questions are generally very effective.
  5. Strive for only one or maybe two “open-ended” questions.  These are questions like “Tell us about your experience with our Customer Service Team”.  These are best saved for the end of the survey.  If you place them up-front, they can scare away the respondent.
  6. Avoid leading questions.  Don’t ask things like “We have recently made dramatic improvements to our customer service team.  Have you noticed an improvement with our customer service experience?  A better questions would be:  “Please rate our customer service experience (1-5)”.

Good survey construction is part art and part science.  If done well you can acquire very useful actionable information.  You will have to dedicate the proper amount of time to do it right.  Note – it is not a 15 minute experience! Please also consider surveying as an ongoing marketing function.  You dont want to make judgements based on a “one and done” survey.  Repeated surveys to different groups will provide you with useful trending.  This is more beneficial than a mere “snapshot” of sentiment.

As always, remember the “genius” formula, modified for this use case.   Survey, measure, refine the initiative, re-survey.


One thought on “Proper Survey Construction”

  1. Thanks for this quick and readable post about surveying! I especially appreciate the reminder to start first with What do we want the survey to find out for us? It’s such a simple question but one that is too often overlooked. And I think the person taking the survey can tell when it hasn’t been properly constructed.


Comments are closed.