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Online Surveys – Less is more

January 25, 2013

Want to find out what people think? No problem. Today’s online survey tools are quick to set up, cheap to run, and simple to analyse. But beware. Just because you can ask a question, doesn’t mean you should. A few surveys we’ve come across recently have reminded us of the pitfalls.

The first is from a breakdown company following a call-out. First, you’re asked for your name and address. If you’re answering this on a mobile device it’s too fiddly and if you’re on the go you’re unlikely to continue.  If you do persevere, you’re then asked for your membership number. We’re guessing the drop-out rate starts to increase rapidly at this point.

Another is a questionnaire from an online white goods retailer. It starts with a single question:  ‘Would you recommend us to your friends?‘ This is a great model in that it is a simple format of answering yes or no.  But a ‘yes’ response then takes you directly through to social media sites so you can post a recommendation. There are two potential problems here. The first is that people are being asked to give more time than they expected. The second is that the request sets up a social obligation. However respondents react, there’s a big risk of causing resentment and turning a positive interaction into a negative one.

The third survey is circulated by a large online fashion retailer. In asking you about the various services provided, it forces you to give an opinion whether you had experienced that particular service or not. No N/A button. What happens when you make impossible questions compulsory? People either give up, or tick boxes at random. 

Surveys are a great way to get feedback on your customers’ experiences and can prevent them from moving on to a new provider.  Here’s a quick summary of four key points to bear in mind if you want to get accurate data and avoid annoying respondents:

  1. Keep it short. Don’t try to find out everything at once.
  2. Don’t ask for information you already have. Use autofill if you need to include specific data with the results.
  3. Always include an N/A button or make the question optional, unless you can be sure the question is applicable to everyone being surveyed.
  4. Remember: you’re already asking a favour. Don’t push your luck by linking through to a request for further actions.
Happy surveying!

Posted by Paul Latham
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