SurveyMonkey is the online survey tool I use most.
Does owning pots and pans make you a Top Chef contender? Does having a piano in your house get you a recording contract? If you buy a paint brush, will you become Picasso or Van Gogh?
Unfortunately some people confuse the availability of a tool with the skills to use the tool well.
Online survey tools like SurveyMonkey, SurveyGizmo and many others make it quick and easy to solicit feedback then analyze the results.
But if you don’t put thought into what you’re asking and how you’re asking it, as well as what the answers mean, you might have the best of intentions for listening to your customers but accidentally get led astray.
Here are five tips for improving your do-it-yourself market research via online surveys:
1. Carefully consider who you will ask and how.
Let’s say you want to ask your customers how you can improve your service. You’ll put together a survey and email it to your customers. Easy.
But do you value all your customers equally? Are some of them far more profitable than others? Are some huge time wasters who complain about everything? Maybe you only want to survey a segment of your customers.
Do you have valid email addresses for all your customers? Are some of your customers tech phobic or do you do business with them only by phone or in person? Maybe you’ll need to mail a postcard with the survey link or call some customers to ask for their feedback verbally.
If some of your customers are big organizations, which of your numerous contacts there do you survey?
What about reaching potential customers — those people you’d love to sell to but haven’t yet?
Thinking through whose opinion you want and how you’ll reach those people can shape the kinds of questions you ask.
2. Choose your words wisely.
Have you ever asked a sullen teenage girl across the dinner table, “How was your day?” Did you get any useful information? Did you maybe have to ask a more specific question? Or get persistent?
How you ask a question influences whether you get a useful answer.
Constant Contact offers best practices in writing questions including asking just one thing per question, limiting the number of questions so the survey takes only five or 10 minutes and asking mostly multiple choice questions.
Usability.com suggests, among other things, watching out for overlapping answer choices (do you offer “three or four times a month” and “weekly” as frequency choices, for example?) and making sure you proofread your survey.
I think ratings are easier and faster to answer than rankings, and ratings choices (1-5 or 1-7, for example) should have an odd number so you can choose dead center if you’re neither positive or negative about something. I always include a “don’t know/ unsure” choice, and “does not apply” is helpful in giving people a chance to opt out of giving you an unhelpful answer. Read more