8 tips to create more effective online surveys

Start by defining tangible objectives. Then, identify the audience you want to reach, and start crafting a precise, concise set of questions.

8 survey tips

There are few things more valuable to a business than raw feedback from customers.

When you know what your customers want, you can tailor your business decisions and strategies to accommodate their preferences. Understanding your customers’ tastes, motivations and pain points is the key to creating a great experience—which sets a firm foundation for business success.

Fifty-five percent of customers say they are willing to pay more for a guaranteed good experience. Similarly, 79 percent of customers will avoid a vendor for at least two years after a bad experience.

If you’re keen to create better customer experiences, online surveys should be part of your communications strategy. Here are eight tips to do it right:

1. Define your goal.

Before doing anything else, determine what you’d like to achieve. Ask your team:

  • Why are you conducting this survey?
  • What do you hope to learn more about?
  • Who are your ideal customers?
  • How will you use this data help improve your business?

Unless you establish tangible goals, your survey will be a waste of time.

2. Identify your specific audience.

There’s no point conducting a survey if you haven’t clearly identified your target demographic. Before creating your survey, determine:

  • Who, exactly, is my target audience?
  • Is there more than one demographic I need to send this survey to in order to get the information I need?

If there’s more than one demographic you’d like to reach, you might consider writing separate surveys and segmenting your email lists. Here are 20 “buyer persona” questions to ask when sussing out your audience.

3. Write precise, concise survey questions.

Writing questions is often the hardest part of the online survey process.

If you lack question-writing experience, don’t panic. Here are five tips:

  • Avoid ambiguous questions such as, “Where do you like to shop?” Do you mean shop for groceries, or clothes? Be specific.
  • Avoid leading questions that could sway the respondent. For example, “How was your experience at the epic concert at the Gallivan Center?” Choose your words carefully, and don’t try to manipulate readers with sneaky wording.
  • Avoid loaded questions that assume something about the respondent that might not be true or applicable. For example, “Where do you go to school?”
  • Avoid absolutes such as “always” or “every,” which could skew your results. Instead, use “often,” “most” or “likely.”
  • Avoid double-barreled questions that ask more than one thing. For example, “How much did you like or dislike the food?”
  • Write closed-ended questions. Unless you are looking for personalized feedback, use mostly closed-ended questions that are easy to answer (and analyze).

4. Select a template, and customize it with your branding.

Once you craft your questions, it’s time for the fun stuff.

The sleeker your survey design, the better your chances of increasing your completion rate. Choose a customizable survey template that reflects your branding and dovetails with your messaging.

5. Optimize for mobile.

In 2014, the number of people using a mobile device to access the internet surpassed that of those using a desktop. The number of smartphone users has just about doubled in the short period since then.

So, if your goal is completed surveys, make sure yours is easy to read and fill out on a mobile device.

6. Test your survey.

Before publishing anything, send a test out to several people. Ask for feedback on content and design, and tweak your survey accordingly.

If your survey is particularly important, you might consider sending a “pilot test” to a small portion of your audience. This technique can help you uncover potential problems before sending your survey to the entire list.

7. Set up your email campaign, and test your workflow/trigger.

Email is one of the best ways to send out your survey—especially if you already have a thriving subscriber list.

If you have more than one survey that you’re sending to different target demographics, you must segment your lists. This will help you send the right surveys to the right individuals.

If you’re not sure where to start, try software such as Campaign Monitor to segment your lists, select an email template, and automate your messaging.

If you are sending a triggered survey, such as one after a support case closes, ensure the trigger is set up properly. Review and test the email and survey for any mistakes or incorrect information. Make sure the email fires when it should, and confirm that the responses map correctly.

8. Send your survey at the most optimal time(s).

Studies show that Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday are the best days to send a survey. It’s also typically best to send surveys after working hours.

The above are good general rules, but peak response depends on the habits and preferences of your specific audience. Your people might prefer reading email on weekends, or they may be lunchtime inbox surfers. Consistently ask members of your target audience how (and when) they prefer to read and receive communications. That insight will help you draft, design and send out more strategic surveys.

A version of this post first appeared on the Getfeedback blog.

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