Times are tough for anything in this economy, including surveys and their authors, says the recent 7 Habits of Highly Successful Surveys whitepaper from Vovici, a survey software company. Phone surveys don't get the responses they once did, as people often assume the Do Not Call list exempts them from surveys (it doesn't) and many households only use cell phones (which can't be called in an automated fashion because of U.S. law).
To make things worse, Web survey responses also are down because of the increase in spam and the accelerating use of smartphones to check e-mail (few people bother to complete a survey on a smartphone).
Nonetheless, surveys remain a proven way to gather accurate data about customers, producing a representative sample of the target population and boosting the satisfaction level of respondents. Here are four ways for survey authors to improve the fortunes of the survey:
1. Develop a Goal, and Then Focus on It
Sounds simple, but Vovici makes it clear that the survey author must be precise about what information needs to be gathered before beginning to write. Stakeholders and company department heads will weigh in; then it's necessary to come up with a narrow goal that will greatly simplify the survey.
2. Pick the Right Number of People
Usually, the census approach (trying to get feedback that represents the total population) or the sampling approach is chosen. If you choose the former, note that it works best for populations less than 1,000 individuals. To get adequate participation, you may need to employ incentives along with reminders and deadlines.
3. Be Objective With the Questions
Improperly worded questions will produce inaccurate results and even worse conclusions. It's key that respondents have no idea where you stand on any topic, so employ nonjudgmental wording and remove any ambiguity in the questions. Also, jettison any industry jargon or esoteric questions.
4. Make It Shorter!
Make the survey shorter; then watch the response rate jump. To help you make it shorter, take out the questions that don't directly deal with the original goal of the survey. Use only the essential questions, and remove queries that duplicate others in any way. Delete questions that may raise issues that your company can't address, such as free services for customers.