Saturday, July 04, 2009

Snap Polls

Snap Polls are a convenient way to quickly pose a question to your audience in situations where a full survey is not practical or not required.

Snap Polls can be used to check the mood on an important issue and/or as a quick preliminary research ahead of a more comprehensive survey. They can be related to serious topics or equally used as a bit of fun and in that capacity they are commonly used on the home page of websites as a way of engaging with website visitors.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Writing Effective Surveys and Questionnaires Top Tips

Writing surveys is easy; or is it? The reality is that writing surveys is easy but writing effective surveys is more difficult. The following are twenty tips that if followed will help you with your survey questionnaire design and help you write effective surveys.

1. What is the purpose of the survey?

There are many reasons for conducting surveys. By phrasing the questions and structuring the answers surveys can be used in a multitude of ways and for a variety of reasons. When designing a survey do not lose sight of its purpose.

2. Title the survey

The title of the survey is an opportunity to instantly summarise a survey's objective and encourage respondents to participate. Respondents need to invest time in completing the survey so encourage them that the investment they make will be worthwhile.

3. Ensure that you do not make the survey any longer than it needs to be

Every question asked should be asked for a reason. Minimize asking questions that will provide you with 'nice to know' information and concentrate instead on 'need to know' questions.

4. Use plain English, maintain consistency, avoid jargon and acronyms and don't ask questions that may result in ambiguous answers

Care must be taken in wording a question. If a question can be interpreted in more ways than one then there is a risk that any analysis of the survey results will be worthless or at the very least suspect.

5. Don't have long questions

Use concise sentences wherever possible. Long questions can cause a respondent discomfort and lead to them abandoning the survey.

6. Ask only one question at a time

Avoid confusing the respondent with a question like 'Do you like athletics and tennis?'

7. Don't influence the answer

It is important not to load the question. 'Should irresponsible shop keepers who sell cigarettes to minors be prosecuted?' is likely to have no value.

8. Make sure that the answer format used allows the respondent to answer the question being asked

Ensure that the respondent is able to answer how they really feel or they may abandon the survey. As a last resort consider the benefit of including a "No comment", "Can't say", "Don't know" or similar response option.

9. While you are compiling your survey consider how the survey results are going to be analysed when the survey is complete

When asking questions that allow for a free text open ended response, such as when asking the respondent for their comments, appreciate that such information is likely to be difficult to score and/or summarised. Consider how the answers could be grouped. For example "Indicate your length of service?" - 'less than 1 year', 'between 1 and 4 years' and 'more than 4'.

10. Ensure that the questionnaire flows

Group the questions into clear categories as this makes the task of completing the survey easier for the participants.

11. Target your respondents carefully

Sometimes you will want to target a specific group, in others a cross section. If you can't easily control the respondents consider including questions/answers that will allow you to filter out respondents that don't match your target profile.

12. Allow the respondent to expand on their answer or make comments

Allowing respondents to make additional comments will increase their satisfaction level and the comments will also give valuable feedback on the specific questions and/or the survey as a whole. Remember though for a large sample collection it may be difficult to analyze free text open ended responses.

13. If you are conducting a confidential survey ensure that your pledge for confidentiality is honoured

If you have assured respondents that the survey is to be confidential you need to ensure that the collated data is not shared with anyone or used for any other purpose. Confidentiality must be maintained and any contact information deleted after the survey is complete.

14. Consider the benefits and disadvantages of allowing respondents to be anonymous or identifiable

If your respondents are to be anonymous then you will be unable to follow up specific complaints or match "pre" or "post" surveys. However in some cases allowing respondents to remain anonymous will allow respondents to respond without possible peer pressure.

15. Carefully consider the best response format

Maintaining a consistency in the format used for responses is good practice. When creating your survey keep in mind that when analyzing the data radio buttons are easier to analyze than check boxes that offer the respondent multiple responses. Do not use a check box if a radio response would do.

16. Give the respondent an estimate as to how much time the survey will take to complete

If the survey appears to be a stream of never ending questions then respondent drop out can occur. It is good practice to give an indication as to how long the survey is likely to take so that the participants can choose the best time to complete the survey.

17. Provide respondents with the survey end date

Encourage respondents to complete the survey as soon as possible but advise respondents as to the survey’s end date so that they have the opportunity to schedule the necessary time.

18. Trial the survey

Before publishing a live survey publish the survey as a trial to check for questions that are ambiguous or confusing and to ensure that the survey is aesthetically pleasing.

19. Before publishing the survey proof read the survey carefully

Check and check again that the survey is grammatically correct and makes sense. If practical get a colleague to check the survey before you publish, if no one else is available then take a break before checking again.

20. Thank the respondents

To complete surveys respondents need to invest their time and they should be thanked at the end of completing the survey or in a follow up letter. You may even want to consider incentives such as a reward of some sort.

Getting started is easy and there are many survey software websites to choose from.

b2b Customer Satisfaction Survey

Companies that are part of the supply chain such as manufacturers and wholesalers can often benefit enormously by conducting their own b2b customer satisfaction survey.

Improving the relationship between wholesalers and their suppliers and also between wholesalers and retailers brings potential benefits that will help improve the product in terms of:

  • Quality, range and design
  • Delivery method, speed
  • Communication, method and level of service
  • Payment, quality of documentation and settlement time
  • Prices, wholesale and retail price

A manufacturer can improve the relationship that they have with their wholesalers to the extent that the wholesalers would need to think long and hard before they switched to a rival supplier. For example by improving the communication and being proactive in automating much of the paperwork a manufacturer can add value to the entire product range and that may be just enough to encourage a wholesaler to invest time in resolving any potential problem as opposed to making it easy for them to dictate terms by threatening to switch to a rival supplier. By improving a business to business relationship the products that are supplied will become less of a commodity item and judged along with the whole fulfilment service, a service that may not be available with any Tom, Dick or Harry.

Wholesalers are often doing themselves a disservice if they only focus on price and do not adequately value the many benefits of working with a professional and well organised supplier, a supplier that will deliver on time, will supply products that meet strict the agreed quality and that have invoice and delivery documentation that is clear and accurate.

By conducting customer satisfaction surveys aimed not at the end user but at those involved in the supply chain there are many rewards to be had. It takes a degree of understanding and consideration as to the requirement of the other to establish good and streamlined business processes between any two organizations. With the introduction of more efficient order fulfilment programmes the manufacturer and wholesaler can both benefit.

It is in the interest of manufacturers to establish long term contracts as that will provide them with the security that is necessary for them to plan and reinvest, confident that their customers value the benefits that long term relationships can bring. By manufacturers and wholesalers working together the whole fulfilment process can be streamlined and companies can work towards a just in time model where the need to hold large volumes of stock is reduced and along with all the associated costs.

The starting point for such an exercise is an exchange of information that can be obtained easily by utilising online customer satisfaction survey software that is now widely available and that makes the whole intelligence gathering process quick, easy and cost effective.

Why Employee Satisfaction and Exit Surveys are Important

In a competitive world with the need for businesses to be more streamlined and productive a company can often find itself with a workforce working under pressure resulting in low moral and high staff turnover. Organizations that have a highly motivated workforce can benefit enormously and having a workforce that is both motivated and productive should not be regarded as being mutually exclusive to one another.

Left unresolved employers run the risk of alienating their employees and events can then cause employee frustrations to explode resulting in employers finding themselves on the back foot, faced with problems that cannot be ignored.

Ideally employers would allocate the time to fully understand the needs of their employees and learn from their experiences of working on the front line, but employers are too often themselves tied up with the day to day task of fighting their own fires.

With the intelligence gathering process being automated and the survey results being made available in a format that can be readily analyzed online surveys provide employers with a cost effective and efficient method to help towards the goals of staff satisfaction and high productivity.

Dissatisfied & unproductive

There are a plethora of reasons why employees may become dissatisfied with their job that can result in them channelling their frustrations into demands for higher salaries and reduced hours. Employers who tackle these issues head on, making it all about salary and hours, will often find themselves dealing with the symptoms and not the root cause.

It's not about money

The following is a list of common barriers that will prevent an organization from achieving an increase in productivity, none of which are likely to be resolved by increasing salaries or reducing hours:-

  • Insufficient training
  • Out of touch management
  • Dated working methods
  • Lack of proper tools and equipment

There have been many studies that have consistently revealed that financial reward is not the most important motivator for employees, providing an employee is being paid the market rate the employer would be wrong to think that the solution to all employee problems is through paying higher salaries.

Take the case of a single mother who is juggling a full time job with the need to look after three children. Out of frustration she may demand more money so that she feels that she is able to cope where a better solution, for both her and the company, may be more flexible working hours.

Communication is what it is all about

It is important for any company to encourage communication. A company where the management does not communicate well with their employees, or will wait for any problems to be raised, can often be deceived into thinking that they have a content workforce when they don’t. It only takes one small problem and one disgruntled employee to feel aggrieved for an entire workforce to develop a destructive 'them and us' attitude.

Improving communication

For very small organizations it may be manageable to have regular meetings between the employer and individual employees but for larger companies this would probably prove impractical.

Regular meetings between management and worker representatives are good in theory but they often become talking shops and can begin to lose their edge as the participants become familiar with one another and the forum runs the risk of being hijacked by the more extrovert personalities.

Having suggestion boxes are useful but can be viewed as token efforts by management as they wait for personnel to highlight a problem.

Newsletters can provide a positive contribution, but their primary function is to inform and not discuss employee issues.

Maintaining the initiative

Conducting employee satisfaction surveys on a regular basis can be used to ask each employee specific questions and demonstrates a pro-active management initiative where the whole workforce can be consulted on various issues. Surveys are able to provide a level playing field between the quieter and more vocal employees.

Being prepared to consulate with employees should not be seen as a sign of weakness, a confident manager will take counsel from all quarters before making a decision. By issuing a survey the employer is able to keep the initiative and tackle problems from a position of strength as opposed to waiting for problems to manifest and then possibly develop out of proportion.

Leave a small problem unresolved and it can lead to a situation where a minor problem might just break the camel’s back and the mood of the employees change from positive to negative over night.

It's quick and easy

For most organizations online surveys represent a proactive and low cost solution. They can be created very quickly and for the majority of organizations, where most of the personnel have desktop computers, they are also quick to deploy direct to the individual.

Where not all of the personal have access to a computer there are various options available that will allow you to accommodate their responses such as providing a shared computer, conducting telephone surveys or as a last resort, a hardcopy survey where the hard-copy responses can be added to those who competed the survey online.

Job satisfaction

There are a number of elements that combined will provide an employee with job satisfaction, from company ethics, working environment, methodology and ethos to having good and effective management. Job satisfaction brings benefits through improved motivation and productivity from a workforce that feels that they are treated as individuals and not a commodity item.

Educate and inform

An often overlooked benefit of online surveys is that they can be used to educate and pass on important information to the workforce, ensuring that the 'message' does not become corrupted as it is handed down by the phenomenon of Chinese whispers.

An online survey can explain a difficult situation to the employees and get valuable feedback as to the best solution. It is rare in this situation that the workforce would appear negative; it is more likely they will feel informed and empowered and that might be enough to turn a potentially negative problem into a positive challenge that unites the workforce.

Exit surveys

Exit surveys are an ideal method for management to make sure that when people leave the organisation they are not leaving because of problems that could have been addressed and possibly resolved if they had been appreciated earlier. Identifying a problem may not be enough to prevent a person from leaving but it could lead to an unappreciated issue being resolved that may be all that is required to stop other key personnel from also deciding to leave.

Analysing the results

Having consulted with the workforce using an online survey the results are available for instant analysis. Common and specific problems can be easily identified and brought to the attention of senior management who will then have the opportunity to address the issues that have been raised.


Used regularly online surveys represent a simple and productive method of taking the pulse of an organisation and an easy way to establish a two way communication channel between employer and employee with the results providing management with vital, accurate and significant information.

For a Sample Employee Satisfaction Survey:- Employee Satisfaction Survey Template

For a sample Employee Exit survey:- Employee Exit Survey Template

Making Customer Satisfaction Surveys Work

Why bother?

Good customer service is the life blood of any business. Although you should try and attract new customers good customer service will help generate customer loyalty and encourage repeat business. With each satisfied customer your business will secure many more customers through word of mouth and you should always keep in mind that if you are not taking proper care of your customers there is always a competitor that will.

Online customer satisfaction surveys will help by not only identifying problem areas but show that you care and are proactive in looking for ways to improve the service that you provide.

Where to start?

Objective - Before you start compiling your survey consider what the objectives of the survey are, in that way you will remain focused and find it easier to decide what questions to ask.

Analysis - In addition to the objectives consider how you will analyze the answers having completed the survey.

Bare in mind that 'closed' questions (where the respondents are asked to choose from a limited number of responses) are easier to analyse than questions that are ‘open’ (where the respondent can reply in anyway they want).

Much will depend on the predicted volume of respondents, the higher the volume the more important it is to have an easy method of analyzing the results.

Opportunity – Keep in mind that as well as obtaining valuable market research data customer surveys are also a good way to advertise aspects of your service that your customers may not be aware of.

After you have drafted your survey read through the survey from a market research view point and check that you are asking the right questions in the right way and that with the feedback information you will be able to properly analyze the data allowing you to make informed decisions.

Next, read through the survey from a marketing view point, check that you have phrased each question so that every opportunity has been taken to promote your business?

The ideal question will perform the following three functions:-

  • Market research - provide valuable feedback to help you improve your customer satisfaction levels and in turn your business
  • Marketing - promote aspects of your business
  • Information/Education - advertise a service that you provide that your customers may not have been unaware of

For example:- Do you find the in-store baby changing facilities useful?

In asking this question the store will hopefully not only receive useful feedback on the baby changing facility but they will also promote the store as being a child-friendly and caring store even to those the customers who do not actually require the facility.

Warts and all – to benefit most from a customer survey you need to be prepared to dig deep and accept the worst.

A customer satisfaction survey should be designed to identify any problem areas so that they can be fixed; conducting regular customer satisfaction will help prevent complacency and will also give early warning on where you may be losing business to your competitors initiatives.

What to ask?

Depending on their own particular size and makeup each business is likely to have unique factors in relation to providing good customer services however there are common areas relevant to all businesses be they a physical store, online store or a service industry. The following are some key areas to providing good customer service.

Communication - What do you do to help your customers communicate with you?

When customers telephone are their calls answered quickly; are their enquiries about products or services handled properly? Good businesses will make every effort to ensure that whatever the customers query it is resolved by the right person, quickly, politely and fairly.

If a problem cannot be resolvable immediately do you promise to respond in a given time period and do you deliver on your promise?

Use a customer satisfaction survey to confirm that all your staff are perceived by your customers as being helpful, courteous and knowledgeable.

Location – Are you doing everything you can to ensure that your customers find it easy to visit you, if a physical store, does it have good access and is it conveniently located?

Making it pleasant, making it easy - For an internet business it is important to ensure that your website is aesthetically pleasing and easy to use.

Regardless of the store being a bricks and mortar or purely an online internet store, is the store properly laid out, can your customers find what they need and is there sufficient information and help on hand to explain how a particular product works?

The right quality products – You should not only measure the quality of the service that you provide but you should also monitor that the products and services that you market are what the customer wants and closely match their expectations.

Value for money – Cheap or expensive is hardly ever a good measure, value for money is.

Do your current customers consider your services as value for money, if not, why not?

Speed and attention – No matter what the business, the majority of customers will want to be dealt with quickly but attentively.

Are you doing everything you can to avoid any delay?

Customers like to be treated as individuals, how do you treat your customers? Attention is one thing but this has to be hand- in-hand with a quick and satisfactory resolution of the query.

Demographics and Specific issues – Take the opportunity to profile your customers, for example where do they live and what is their age group?

The more you try to understand your customers the better you will be able to target your business.

As part of the survey allow your customers the opportunity to highlight any problems that they may have and provide you with contact details so that their problems might be later addressed and their concerns followed up.

What is next?

Analyze the results once the survey has been completed.

Trends – Identify specific and common areas where the service is found wanting.

Ask yourself if any criticism is valid, be honest to yourself, is there anything that can be done to properly resolve, or at the very least, minimise the problem?

Training – Are all employees properly trained and do they have sufficient knowledge?

Where employee training programmes have been implemented have they made a positive contribution to the business and improved the customer service?

Follow-up – If a customer has raised a specific issue through completing a survey ensure that they are contacted and that their complaint is properly addressed.

Do not lose the opportunity to resolve a problem and keep a customer.

Continuously Monitor - Make changes and then measure by issuing further surveys.

If you are interested in tracking customer satisfaction and would like to see a sample survey for a store that demonstrates some of the above advice please view the following example that can be used as a customer satisfaction survey template.