6 Reasons to Use Custom Variables in Your Online Survey

I’m always telling people that QuestionPro is an enterprise quality software for small business.  And today, I’m going to describe just one of the features that you mainly expect in an enterprise software – but that QuestionPro has had for YEARS.  Unfortunately, very few people use this wonderful feature as well as they could.  And today, I’m going to show you just a few ways that you can use Custom Variables in your online survey.iStock_000009458297XSmall

What are custom variables

Custom variables are basically additional information that you can attach to the email list that you’re going to survey.  For example, First Name, Last Name, Product, Gender — any kind of demographic information that you have about the potential respondent to whom you are emailing a survey.

QuestionPro allows you 255 custom variables (that’s crazy!) so you can define your respondent to your heart’s content.

Why use custom variables

  1. Faster surveys: Fewer questions make online surveys faster and increase your response rate.  So ANY demographic information that you already have and might need for analysis and grouping – stick it in your email list upload!
  2. See cool stuff in your data:  Lots of people know that they can segment their responses by the way people answer the questions you ask – but not too many users realize that you can segment based on the custom variables that you’ve defined and uploaded!  This is key to creating online surveys with actionable results.  When I first discovered the power of custom variables, I wanted to see if customers who ran frequent transactions perceived my client differently than those customers who ran fewer transactions.  We simply created custom variables for number of transactions and created a couple of categories Frequent and Rare and then we were able to create cross tabs with that information.  It was eye opening!
  3. Personalize: Our next step was to personalize the email invitations and so we were able to add First Name to the emails.  Just doing this increased our response rates by a couple percentage points.
  4. Define specific transactions: Another way that custom variables came in handy was to specify the transaction we were surveying.  For example, if someone contacted the organization 3 times within a 6 month period, it was likely that they might receive multiple surveys OR that they would have forgotten WHAT we were surveying them for.  We simply created descriptions for the transactions such as “Address change” or “Deposit” and added a custom variable called “Transaction” to our data.  This way when the respondent received an email invitation for the survey, they were able to see exactly WHICH transaction we were talking about.
  5. Grab their Income level:  I don’t know what it is about the “income level” question that has so many people not answer it (well, I do know, but it drives me crazy) anyway.  If you already have a respondent’s income level or any other personal information from another survey – you can upload it as a custom variable.  This gives you the information while NOT having the respondent have to answer it.
  6. Customize the survey experience:  Another super-cool thing you can do with custom variables is use them inside of branching and logic questions.  This allows you to customize the survey experience for specific respondents based on the custom variable that you define.  Another way to say this is that you can literally create a single survey and run it with a diverse email list instead of segmenting your list and creating multiple surveys based on specific respondent criteria.

How have YOU used custom variables?  Take a moment and share your experiences and strategic tips for using custom variables in your online survey.