How to Ask the Right Survey Questions

How to Ask the Right Survey Questions and Unlock the Power of Surveys

Surveys have become an indispensable tool for gathering data and insights from various audiences. Whether you’re a researcher, marketer, leader, human resources manager, or business owner, asking the right survey questions is crucial for collecting accurate and meaningful information. Surveys are a powerful tool that can provide valuable insights into customer, employee and stakeholder needs, preferences, and behaviors.

Creating effective surveys requires more than just asking a few questions. To truly unlock the power of surveys, you need to know how to ask the right questions. This means understanding your audience, knowing what information you want to gather, and crafting questions that are clear, concise, and relevant. In this article, we’ll explore the art of survey design and provide tips and tricks for creating engaging and effective surveys that get results. Whether you’re looking to improve customer satisfaction, gather feedback on a new product, gather employee opinions and ideas, or conduct market research, asking the right questions will get the answers you need to succeed.

The Importance of Asking the Right Questions

Surveys are only as effective as the questions that are asked. Asking the wrong questions or phrasing questions in a confusing way can lead to inaccurate data and flawed results. The importance of asking the right questions cannot be overstated. Surveys can help you gain insights into your customers’ needs, preferences, and behaviors, but only if you ask the right questions.

Asking the right questions can help you make informed decisions, improve customer satisfaction, and develop new products and services that meet your customers’ needs. By asking the right questions, you can gain a deep understanding of your customers’ wants and needs, and develop strategies to meet those needs.

So, what makes a good survey question? A good survey question is clear, concise, and relevant. It should be easy to understand and answer, and it should provide the information you need to make informed decisions.

Types of Survey Questions

When designing a survey, you have several types of questions to choose from. Each type of question has its own strengths and weaknesses, and the type of question you choose will depend on the information you want to gather.

Open-Ended Questions vs. Closed-Ended Questions

Open-ended questions allow respondents to answer in their own words and provide more detailed information. Closed-ended questions, on the other hand, provide respondents with pre-defined answer options.

Open-ended questions are useful for gathering detailed feedback and opinions, while closed-ended questions are useful for gathering quantitative data. Both types of questions have their place in survey design, and the type of question you choose will depend on the information you want to gather.

Likert Scale Questions

A Likert scale survey question is a type of rating scale question commonly used in surveys to measure attitudes, opinions, perceptions, or agreement levels. It was developed by psychologist Rensis Likert and is named after him.

In a Likert scale question, respondents are presented with a statement and asked to indicate their level of agreement or disagreement with that statement. The Likert scale typically consists of multiple response options, ranging from strongly agree to strongly disagree, with a neutral midpoint. The response options are typically presented as a series of statements with corresponding scale points.

Here’s an example of a Likert scale question:

“Please indicate your level of agreement with the following statement: I am satisfied with the overall quality of the product. Strongly Agree / Agree / Neutral / Disagree / Strongly Disagree”

Respondents select the option that best represents their opinion or agreement level regarding the statement.

Likert scales can also be used to assess other constructs such as frequency, importance, or likelihood. In these cases, the response options are adapted accordingly. For example:

“Please indicate how frequently you use the following features of our app: Never / Rarely / Sometimes / Often / Always”

Likert scale questions provide a structured and standardized way to collect data on subjective opinions and attitudes. The scale allows for the quantification and comparison of responses, making it easier to analyze and interpret the results. However, it’s important to design Likert scale questions carefully, ensuring the statements are clear and unbiased and that the response options accurately capture the range of opinions or agreement levels being assessed.

Rating Scale Questions

A rating scale question is a type of survey question that asks respondents to provide a rating or evaluation on a specific scale. It is commonly used to measure opinions, attitudes, perceptions, satisfaction levels, or other subjective factors.

Rating scale questions typically present a statement or item that the respondent is asked to evaluate. The respondent then selects or indicates their rating based on a predefined scale. The scale can be numerical (e.g., 1 to 5), verbal (e.g., Very satisfied, satisfied, neutral, dissatisfied, very dissatisfied), or even visual (e.g., using icons or symbols).

Here are a few examples of rating scale questions:

  1. How satisfied are you with our customer service? Please rate on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being “Very dissatisfied” and 5 being “Very satisfied.”
  2. Please rate the quality of our website navigation using the following scale: Poor, Fair, Good, Very good, Excellent.
  3. How would you rate your agreement with the statement: “The company’s communication is clear and effective”? Please select one of the following: Strongly disagree, Disagree, Neutral, Agree, Strongly agree.

Rating scale questions provide a structured way to collect quantitative data and allow for easy comparison and analysis of responses. They provide a range of options for respondents to express their opinion or evaluation, allowing for differentiation and granularity in the collected data. It’s important to carefully design the rating scale and response options to ensure they accurately capture the desired information and avoid bias or confusion in interpretation.

Multiple choice questions

In a  multiple-choice survey question, respondents are presented with a list of predefined answer choices and are asked to select one or more options that best correspond to their opinion or experience. These questions are often used to gather quantitative data and make it easier to analyze and compare responses.

Here’s an example of a multiple-choice survey question:

Q: Which of the following social media platforms do you use? (Select all that apply)

a) Facebook

b) Twitter

c) Instagram

d) LinkedIn

e) Snapchat

In this question, respondents can select one or more options from the provided answer choices based on their actual social media usage.

Free text questions

A free text survey question, also known as an open-ended or open-text question, is a type of question in a survey that allows respondents to provide their answers in their own words without any predefined options or response categories. It gives participants the freedom to express their thoughts, opinions, or experiences without being limited by predetermined choices.

Unlike closed-ended questions (such as multiple-choice or rating scale questions), free text survey questions do not provide predefined answer options. Instead, respondents can write their responses in a text box or a blank space provided by the survey. This format allows for more detailed and nuanced responses, providing researchers with rich qualitative data.

Examples of free text survey questions:

  1. “Please describe your experience with our customer service department.”
  2. “What improvements would you suggest for our product?”
  3. “In your own words, how would you define sustainability?”
  4. “Tell us about a memorable vacation you’ve had and why it was special.”
  5. “What are your thoughts on the current state of the economy?”

When analyzing responses to free text survey questions, researchers often use techniques like content analysis to identify themes, patterns, and insights from the qualitative data provided by the respondents.

Emoji questions

An emoji survey question is a type of survey question that incorporates emojis, which are small digital icons or symbols used to express emotions, ideas, or concepts. These icons are often used in text messages, social media posts, and other forms of digital communication to convey emotions visually.

In an emoji survey question, respondents are typically asked to select or rate their response using emojis instead of traditional text-based options. This can add a visual and interactive element to the survey, making it more engaging for participants and potentially providing additional context to their responses.

Emoji survey questions can be effective in capturing respondents’ emotions and attitudes in a more expressive and intuitive way. However, it’s important to ensure that the emojis used in the survey are widely understood and have clear interpretations to avoid ambiguity or misinterpretation of responses. Additionally, it’s helpful to provide a text-based description or scale along with the emojis to ensure the data collected can be easily analyzed and interpreted.

Net Promoter Score® (NPS) questions

A Net Promoter Score (NPS) survey question is a specific type of survey question used to measure customer loyalty and gauge customer satisfaction with a product, service, or brand. The Net Promoter Score is a widely used metric in the business world to assess customer loyalty and predict business growth.

The typical format of a Net Promoter Score survey question is as follows:

“On a scale of 0 to 10, how likely are you to recommend [product/service/brand] to a friend or colleague?”

The respondents are then asked to choose a number on a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 representing “Not at all likely” and 10 representing “Extremely likely.” The scale usually includes three categories for respondents to classify their answers:

  1. Promoters: These are respondents who choose a score of 9 or 10. Promoters are highly satisfied customers who are likely to recommend the product or service to others.
  2. Passives: These are respondents who choose a score of 7 or 8. Passives are somewhat satisfied customers who may or may not actively promote the product or service.
  3. Detractors: These are respondents who choose a score between 0 and 6. Detractors are dissatisfied customers who are less likely to recommend the product or service and may even share negative feedback.

To calculate the Net Promoter Score, the percentage of respondents who are Promoters is subtracted from the percentage of respondents who are Detractors. The resulting score can range from -100 to +100. A higher NPS indicates a higher level of customer loyalty and satisfaction, while a negative NPS indicates room for improvement.

Organizations use the Net Promoter Score survey question and associated calculations to track customer loyalty over time, compare their performance against industry benchmarks, identify areas for improvement, and measure the effectiveness of their customer experience initiatives.

Demographic Questions

Demographic questions ask respondents to provide information about themselves, such as age, gender, income, and education level. Demographic questions are useful for segmenting respondents and analyzing data based on different demographics. Demographic questions can be sensitive, so it’s important to be careful when asking these types of questions. It’s also important to ensure that the demographic questions you ask are relevant to the information you want to gather.

These questions aim to provide a snapshot of the demographic composition of the survey sample and help analyze how different demographic groups might respond differently to the survey or the topic under investigation. They can also assist in segmenting and analyzing data based on specific demographic variables.

Here are some examples of demographic survey questions:

  1. What is your age?
  2. What is your gender?
  3. What is your highest level of education completed?
  4. What is your annual household income?
  5. What is your occupation?
  6. What is your marital status?
  7. What is your ethnicity?
  8. In which country do you reside?
  9. What is the size of the company you work for?
  10. What is your preferred language?

Including demographic questions in a survey allows researchers to explore relationships and patterns within different demographic groups and draw insights based on these characteristics. It can help identify potential variations in opinions, behaviors, or preferences across different segments of the population. However, it’s important to balance the number of demographic questions with the overall length and focus of the survey to avoid respondent fatigue and ensure the inclusion of questions relevant to the survey’s objectives. Additionally, it’s crucial to handle demographic data in a privacy-sensitive manner and in compliance with relevant data protection regulations.

Tips for Asking the Right Survey Questions

Now that you understand the different types of survey questions, let’s take a look at some tips for creating effective survey questions.

Define your objectives

Before diving into creating survey questions, it’s essential to clearly define your objectives. Ask yourself what specific information you want to gather and what decisions or actions you intend to take based on the survey results. Defining your objectives will help you focus on the most relevant questions and avoid unnecessary inquiries that could confuse respondents or dilute your data

Keep the survey questions concise and clear

One of the most common pitfalls in survey design is crafting questions that are too long or complicated. Respondents may lose interest or misinterpret the question, leading to inaccurate data. Keep your questions concise, straightforward, and jargon-free. Use simple language that is easily understandable by your target audience.

Use the right mix of survey question types

To capture a comprehensive range of data, it’s important to use a mix of question types in your survey. Here are some commonly used question types:a. Multiple-choice: Offer a set of predefined options for respondents to choose from. This format works well for gathering quantitative data and providing structured responses.b. Rating scales: Use Likert scales or numeric scales to gauge opinions, satisfaction levels, or preferences. These scales allow for measuring sentiment or intensity of response. c. Open-ended questions: Provide an opportunity for respondents to share their thoughts and provide detailed answers. Open-ended questions are useful for capturing qualitative data and uncovering insights that may not be captured through closed-ended questions.

Avoid leading or biased survey questions

Bias in survey questions can significantly influence the responses and lead to skewed data. Be mindful of any language that might suggest a preferred answer or influence respondents’ opinions. Use neutral and unbiased phrasing to ensure that you receive authentic and unbiased feedback.

Consider the order and flow

The order and flow of survey questions can impact respondents’ engagement and willingness to provide thoughtful responses. Start with easy, non-sensitive questions to warm up respondents and gradually move towards more complex or personal inquiries. Group related questions together to maintain a logical flow and avoid jumping between topics.

Include demographic and background questions selectively

Demographic and background questions provide contextual information about respondents, but they should be included selectively. Avoid including too many demographic questions as they can be time-consuming and may lead to survey fatigue. Include only those demographic questions that are directly relevant to your research objectives or target audience profiling.

Pilot and test your survey

Before launching your survey, it’s crucial to test it with a group of individuals who represent your target audience. Testing helps identify any ambiguities, confusion, or potential issues with the survey questions. Based on the feedback received during testing, refine and revise your questions to improve clarity and accuracy.

So, make sure you ask the right survey questions

Creating effective surveys requires more than just asking a few questions. To truly unlock the power of surveys, you need to know how to ask the right questions. By understanding your audience, knowing what information you want to gather, and crafting questions that are clear, concise, and relevant, you can create engaging and effective surveys that get results.

By following the tips and tricks outlined in this article, you can create surveys that provide valuable insights into your customers’ needs, preferences, and behaviors. So, start asking the right questions and unlock the power of surveys today!