Survey Writing 101: Basic Tips to Assist With a Customer Survey

Customer surveys can provide your organization with a wealth of customer data and insight. They are also one of, if not the most affordable types of market research projects to pursue. Online surveys offer a quick turnaround. If structured and designed well, they can also offer high quality feedback. However, if your online survey is designed poorly, it will warrant poor results.

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What problems can a poorly written survey cause?

Poor results could mean biased results. Biased in that poorly written questions could skew the results inaccurately. Poor results could mean vague. Vague in that a question is worded so general, no action can be taken from results. Poor results could also mean not enough data. A poorly written survey could produce negligible responses leaving your organization with sample sizes so small, no convincing recommendations can be made.

Survey Writing Basic Tips to Assist With a Customer Survey

Although many may feel like they can write an effective customer survey script, the quality control that goes into the survey writing process will influence the outcomes. Make sure you follow these basic 101 tips.

Here are 7 survey writing 101 tips to assist with your next customer survey:

Tip 1: Mutually Exclusive

Make sure each potential answer for your question is mutually exclusive. A simple example of this is asking for age ranges in your survey. If you list off categories make sure each range is separate from one another. List age ranges such as 18 to 24, 25 to 34, 35 to 44 and so on. Not 18 to 25, 25 to 35, 35 to 45 and so on. Do you see the mistake? It seems simple, but this is a very common mistake particularly in the demographics section.

Tip 2: Collectively Exhaustive

When writing your survey ensure you cover all of the possible answer choices for respondents. If your survey inquires about usage of social media and your choices include only Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram you may be collecting non-exhaustive feedback. What about LinkedIn? Is YouTube considered a social media channel? Some may, some may not. A default to ensure this is true is to include an "other" option with a "please specify".

Tip 3: Limit Open-Ends

Unless you are working with a third-party market research consultant you may want to think about limiting open-ends. By open-end, we mean free text boxes or comment boxes without giving the respondent an option or options to choose from. Open-ends can prove valuable in some situations because they are unaided. However, come analysis time they take a significant amount of work to clean, read-through, and code. If you are working with a customer survey company, they will complete this valuable but time-consuming work on your behalf.

Tip 4: Use Skip Patterns

One of the advantages of using a paid survey software or advanced tool is the ability to offer logic and skip patterns. When we say skip patterns we mean the ability to show and skip questions based on prior responses. So if you ask a customer if they have purchased from your organization in the past 6 months and they reply "no", they should not be asked a follow-up asking how many times in the past 6 months? This improves the user experience and limits frustration.

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Tip 5: Use Multiple Pages

One of the biggest rookie mistakes is not separating the survey across multiple pages if the survey is offered online. Separating questions across pages builds momentum and progress for the respondent. If a customer visits a link and sees all 20 questions on one-page it could prove daunting and they may drop-out. Another disadvantage is if the survey is completed on mobile, that's a lot of scrolling.

Tip 6: Create Goal Language

This is a helpful tip for your internal team but it is something you'll want to remove during the live survey. Think about writing a sentence or two underneath each question in your draft survey to show internal stakeholders what the goal of each question is so they are not left wondering while reading. This ensures everyone is on the same page from the minute they open your draft survey in-house.

Tip 7: Testing

Test, test, and test again. Send the survey to a few colleagues internally who can offer a fresh set of eyes. Much like any task in business, if you work on it long enough you will become engrossed and possibly miss some typos or small mistakes. The testers can identify issues with wording or misinterpretations which also help make your customer survey better.

Drive Research is a customer survey company in Syracuse, NY. We hope these survey writing 101 tips help you with your next customer survey project. Need some expertise or advice on the process? Contact us at [email protected] or by calling 315-303-2040.

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