Survey tips

Creating and conducting surveys is a complex topic. In order to make getting started easier we have compiled the most important tips:

Before the survey

Surveys can be used in numerous ways. Thus it is important to define goals and expectations beforehand. When creating a questionnaire it should be ensured that all questions are constructive. Moreover it should be assessed whether conclusive measures can be derived from the prospective survey results.

The contents of the questionnaire should be directly derived from the objective. Data quality is dependent on the quality of questions. If the questions aren't valid, the results are useless.

In principle one would like to query as many topics as possible in a survey to get a holistic view of the subject matter. However the general rule applies that a survey should be as short as possible in order to not overstretch the participants' willingness to take part in the survey.

When planning surveys, the time frame for creation of the questionnaire as well as the survey period should not be underestimated. Holiday and vacation times or other seasonal events that have a direct effect on the amount of available participants thus need to be considered when planning the survey.

Creation of the questionnaire

Rules of thumb. From general to concrete. From simple to abstract. These two rules of thumb should be considered in order to simplify starting the survey for the participant.

Spark interest. To get high response rates the interest of the target group needs to be aroused. The questionnaire should thus be designed in a way where the introductory questions create motivation to answer the questionnaire.

Follow logic. For the participant a division into different topic areas with connecting questions can be very helpful for recalling own thoughts, feelings and knowledge at the right time. Topics should follow a clear logic for this.

You should always consider the following basic principles as guidelines for the phrasing of questions:

  • Questions should be short
  • Phrasing should be precise and in everyday language
  • Good questions are not suggestive
  • No double negatives
  • Neutral phrasing, no use of biased terms
  • No hypothetical questions
  • Questions should allow for positive, negative and neutral answer options
  • Participants need to be able to recall information from memory
  • One-dimensional questions - do not query multiple issues

  • Efficient analysis

    In order to class the results of the survey correctly, it is essential to competently assess the values. Besides of looking at indicators, single questions should also be analyzed seperately. For example, customer satisfaction can be very high in general, even though the satisfaction with service quality is rather low. With this comparison, substantial aspects for improvement of customer satisfaction can be identified.

    Another useful step is a cross-comparison. Results of single groups (age, gender, departments) are put in relation to each other in order to determine possible differences between these sub-groups. In the context of benchmarking, a comparison with other companies, schools or doctor's offices can be appropriate in order to consider influences specific to the busines sector.

    The survey process does not end with the initiation of measures. If you want to profit from surveys in the long-term, they need to be understood as a continuous cycle. In order to be able to assess the effectiveness of measures, an evaluation or second survey should be carried out after an appropriate amount of time. This way it can be determined whether the measures were successful and which changes in the survey results are a consequence of this.