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  • Writer's pictureDavid Jenkins

Six Tips To Customise Your Survey Experience

Updated: Jul 26, 2019

The experience your stakeholders have when completing your survey is fundamental to both the quantity and quality of the responses you receive. Here's a few tips on how you can customise your survey experience to maximise your response rates.

The experience your stakeholders have when completing your survey is fundamental to both the quantity and quality of the responses you receive. Beyond the data you collect, a survey can also serve as an effective platform for engaging, communicating and listening to your audience in a meaningful way. In fact, in most cases surveys can reveal as much about your team, department or school to your stakeholders as they do about your stakeholders to your team, department or school.

As such, it is important to make sure your stakeholders have the best experience possible when completing your surveys. Here’s a list of things to get you started when considering survey design:

i) Be clear about your objectives (1)

Before you begin to draft any type of survey, make sure you are clear about what you want to achieve. No survey should be treated as a blanket fishing expedition. The most effective surveys have a single unique objective, with each question testing a related hypothesis. Any questions that aren’t contributing to achieving that objective must be removed. This will help keep your survey short and concise.

ii) Frame your objectives for your stakeholders (4)

Once you have a clear objective, it becomes far easier to convince your stakeholders to complete your survey. Communicating a specific purpose for your survey to your stakeholders can increase your response rates by up to 11%.

iii) Ask stakeholders for their help (2)

Social responsibility norms have associated the act of helping others with high levels of personal satisfaction, even if doing so comes at a high personal cost. Framing the call to complete your survey using ‘help language’ (such as ‘could you help us out?’) can boost responses to your survey by up to 18%.

iv) Combine highly-correlated questions (3)

When designing your survey, it is tempting to try to solicit feedback on every single engagement you have ever had with your stakeholders. How would your rate our Events? Emails? Social media? Archives? Open days? Website…? and so on.

If all these questions are contributing towards you achieving your research objective, then they should be included; but it is unlikely that you will find much variation in responses. A highly unsatisfied stakeholder is likely to rate you poorly on most (if not all) of these questions, and vice-versa. Try to design questions that combine your measurements - this will help protect your survey’s ‘prime real estate’.

v) Start your survey with quick, easy questions (1)

One of the most common mistakes in survey design is to kick-off with an open question. It immediately gives the impression of ‘this survey is going to take ages to complete’. Start with some easy to answer MCQs to get your respondents in to a rhythm. When they eventually hit the open-ended questions, they’ve already invested time in completing most of the survey; so spending a few extra minutes completing those questions that demand a more detailed response will feel like less of a stretch.

vi) Don’t ask questions you already know the answer to (1)

Your stakeholders are helping you out by completing your survey. Don’t waste their time by asking questions you already know the answer to. This might include their job titles, location, or other demographic data. Where you have pre-existing data, either pre-populate those fields or pull them in when analysing your data.

When was the last time you surveyed your audience?

Contact the author for more information about help with designing your survey.


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