6 Survey Mistakes And How to Avoid Them

Have you ever noticed that technology makes a lot of tasks easier — but it doesn’t make them fool-proof? Online surveys are like that as well. Learn how to avoid survey mistakes ahead of time.Twenty or thirty years ago, you had to hire a research company to do surveys. When surveys went online, you could cut a lot of the “cost” out; but while being able to conduct your own surveys online is certainly cheaper than hiring a market research firm on the surface — it can also be like having someone give you building materials and a crew [but without passing along expertise, best practices or a blueprint], and having YOU build your own house.

Technology is awesome, but it doesn’t take the place of crafting surveys that return information that will help you make good business decisions. By identifying what the most common survey mistakes, you can most easily overcome the challenges to avoid survey mistakes so that your business can enjoy the benefits they provide.

Are you making these online survey mistakes?

1. The Questions Are Confusing or Misleading
Survey questions generally must clearly ask a specific and pointed question if you want them to yield effective results. When an individual taking a survey is confused by the question, he or she will typically not answer the question in a way that is useful to you. After all, if the respondent believes that the question means one thing and you believe that it means another, the response will not yield any information that is reliable or trustworthy for your needs.

2. The Questions Are Too Long
Another common issue with surveys is having questions that are too lengthy or wordy. It is easy to lose meaning when the questions are too long. More than that, the respondent may feel overwhelmed or may even lose focus when the questions are too long. The best questions are those that are short, direct, and to the point. They have a specific purpose, and they generally have short answer options that are easy to understand.

Respondents are busy and may easily become distracted. They typically want to spend a few minutes at most answering questions, so they should have short, direct questions and answer options that help them to feel as though they are progressing through the survey with speed. After all, a survey will reveal limited or meaningless information if the respondent fails to answer all of the questions.

3. The Questions Do Not Identify Specific Issues or Problems
When your survey relates to the pros and cons of a feature or a product, you want to obtain specific information about it. Some questions may simply ask for broad or undefined information about the problems a consumer may have or why a consumer chose one product over another one. However, the information that is provided by the respondents through the survey may not adequately define what the problem specifically is or how a consumer may prefer the company to address the issue.

4. The Questions Use Ambiguous Rating Systems
Many surveys that companies use today ask consumers to rate their experiences on a scale of one to five or one to 10. This may give a general indication about whether a consumer feels neutral, positive or negative about a certain area that is being questioned in the survey, but the response is rather arbitrary. For example, a consumer that rates an area positively on a scale of one to 10 may offer an 8 when they are completely satisfied with the experience, but he or she may not give a 10 as a response because of the belief that a company can always do better. On the other hand, a customer may give a 10 when they were not completely satisfied but because they do not want store staff or management to get fired or in trouble. These are purely arbitrary opinions that are based on a person’s value system or beliefs. They may indicate a positive or negative experience, but they do not provide any useful or real information for a company to improve upon.

5. Surveys Do Not Provide the Customer With the Ability to Clarify Answers
Many surveys ask customers questions with a multiple choice response option (multiple choice questions), but they do not provide the respondent the opportunity to clarify his or her answers.

For example, it may ask a consumer which feature was most important in the buying decision, but it may not ask the consumer why that feature was important. This are examples of common survey mistakes.

There may be multiple reasons why a specific feature may be important in a buying decision, and obtaining better feedback from respondents is important for companies that want to improve products or improve their marketing message.

6. Freely Written Responses Can Be Difficult to Quantify Through Analysis
While it may be important for companies to obtain freely written or open-ended responses from their target audience through surveys, it can be difficult to quantify or analyze these responses. For example, one question may be an open-ended response option that asks the customer to state why they selected one product over another or to describe their experience.

Software programs can be used to analyze the responses by picking up commonly used words in the answers, but when you have hundreds or thousands of unique responses, it can be difficult to fully quantify them in a manner that is beneficial to the company in any real way.

This is a contradiction to the fact that customers should be provided with space to clarify their responses freely, and it generally means that businesses may need to read through each of the responses carefully to get a better idea about what the customers actually believe or think.

Overcoming These Challenges
As you can see, there are multiple challenges that companies may face when using surveys, but surveys are nonetheless beneficial and important. They can guide you in facilitating marketing decisions, product development or refinement, customer service and more.

Generally, the feedback that you receive through these surveys can be used to give your customers a better overall experience, and they can be used to give your efforts focus and clarity. However, in order to accomplish the goals that you have, you must find a way to overcome the challenges that are common with poorly planned and crafted surveys.

As you research and select a survey software platform, consider not only how they help you create, distribute and analyze surveys but also how they help you make it effective. Best practice articles, how-to guides, in-depth help, blog articles, and training are all things to look for and utilize.

Happy surveying!